Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Internet Marketing Mindset, and Using Skimlinks...with Examples!

John Abert

I am currently working with a few students right now who are having problems with getting into the mindset required to market on the internet. So before we get into other subjects, I want to show by example exactly what it takes to think like a marketer, and I’m going to use Skimlinks as a good example of how to implement the strategies to make money.

What do I sell on the web?

Usually, one of the first questions people have in their mind is what to sell on the web. And the answer is “anything and everything”. The next question is usually “where do I get it”. And the answer to that is “anywhere and everywhere!”
Many people think of places like Amazon, or Walmart, but the truth is, those are already retailers. They will not sell to you at a price point low enough for you to make a profit. There are hundreds of thousands of places to get products to sell at price that you can afford to resell them. Some places will sell physical products to you directly if you show that you have a business license and are serious about how you run your business, but that usually involves buying in larger quantities and getting into a warehousing operation. As I have said before… been there, done that… never again! That kind of an operation is too restrictive to travel to suit my tastes. But that doesn’t mean YOU shouldn’t do it.
If going more than 25 miles from home is a scary adventure for you, then chances are good that managing a warehouse would work well for you. We all have different ideas on what “having a life” means.
Many online suppliers will ask for a business license before they will sell to you, so it always pays to be prepared, but one of the easiest ways to sell things online is to be an affiliate. That simply means that you will drive traffic to their online store, where they will process the order and then pay you a commission for referring the customer to them! It doesn't cost the customer any more than they would pay otherwise. It's just that the commission paid to the affiliate is already included in the vendors advertising cost. It's no different than using a billboard or a newspaper ad. If the customer didn't see the ad, they wouldn't be at the store!

But instead of the vendor paying a fixed cost for results that are hard to measure, he is only paying for results, and therefore can pay a little more for the referral that leads to a sale. He can measure his return on advertising dollars much more accurately, and the person doing the advertising for him gets a better percentage of his profits. It's a win/win situation for both! I should actually include a third win, because the customer normally pays less at online stores than at brick and mortar stores, and often gets free shipping. And even if they pay shipping costs, it's always less cost for them than using their own time and money by getting in their car and driving somewhere to get the product!  
The question now is “how do they know that it was me that sent the customer?” They simply use tracking cookies, which usually have your affiliate ID with that vendor imbedded in them. There are special computer programs designed for that type of marketing, so that a store can tell what affiliate sent the customer to them. You don’t need to have that software. Only the vendor needs to have it. The cookie that is placed may remain good for as little as ten days to 30 days, to 60 or 90 days, or even for a lifetime, depending on the vendor’s rules. That way, even if your reader doesn’t buy today (which many don’t) you will still get the commission if they come back to that vendor any time within the life of the tracking cookie!
It is a statistically proven fact that people do not generally buy the first time they visit a site…especially something that is not a sales like, like a blog. Statistics say that it takes seven times (on the average) of contact with that seller, before they feel comfortable enough to buy from/through him, even if they are just using a link to a well-known vendor like Amazon.

If you want to make a sale within 7 days then go to eBay. You can control the amount of the sale and even what is sold. With affiliate links, particularly on blogs, you may never know exactly what link was clicked on without having special software. Nor can you control how much is made from that link. It might pay a small commission for just clicking on it, or it may lead to a sale of something very expensive. The reader may not even know what he wants until he enters the vendors site and sees something he likes.
Still, there is money to be made with affiliate links, and people are doing it every day. If you don’t believe me, go to http://rvsueandcrew.net and click on the “Money” menu link at the top of the page. That will take you to a page where she has laid out her income and expenses for her traveling as well as how much she makes from her Amazon store link on her site! She isn’t even a professional marketer and is making up to $800 a month in "non-holiday" months, in commissions from Amazon! At their typical 6% commission rate, that means she is making more than $10,000 worth of retail sales every month! And that’s from one site! What would be possible if she duplicated her efforts on more than one site? What would be possible if she actually studied professional marketing techniques?
But also, what if you live in one of those “sales tax nexus” states in which Amazon refuses to allow Associates, because they don’t want to deal with the sales tax issues? That’s where having other vendors available can be the saving grace.
In a later post, we’ll discuss some of the different ways you can sell for some of these other vendors, but for now, we’re going to discuss the simplest and easiest way to make money online, and that is through Skimlinks.

Why should I use Skimlinks?

The simple answer to that is ease of use. The normal process of applying to be an affiliate to any other place goes like this:
(1) you pick out a product
(2) you search out who carries that product
(3) you see if they have an affilliate program
then (a) they might or might not have one, (b) they might manage it themselves, or (c) they might have an aggregator manage it, then
(4) you either apply to the store itself, or
(5) you apply to the aggregator and then to the store
(6)  “IF” (and that’s a BIG “IF”) they approve you, then they will direct you to the affiliate resources pages to get your links and banners to use on your site, and
(7) then you have to copy and paste all that code into the html on your site everywhere that you want to use it.
(8) for the next product, you will have to go through that entire process again!
(9) AND… for every vendor you use, you have a different dashboard to monitor to see what’s happening with your sales!

(10) AND... if the vendor does away with the ad that is served from his hosting company's server, and the link becomes dead... you have to go in an find another ad to display!
Think about that! How much time is that going to take you to source all the products you are going to need, make applications to each aggregator, and then STILL have to make separate applications to the stores that they manage links for? And if they turn you down, all that time is wasted, and you have to try another vendor!
Also, if you are approved, you still have to go back to each vendor’s affiliate page, get the code that you need, and then implement it on every linked word or location on your site that you want to apply it! Let’s say you have a site (a blog) already built and have 150 posts on it already, with an average of five links per page. How long is it going to take you to go back through all those 150 pages and 750 links to monetize the site properly? The answer…. MONTHS!
The solution: Skimlinks… because they do it all for you in less than 30 minutes!
Skimlinks has two programs that are automatically connected. One is the original Skimlinks, and the other is Skimwords.

How does Skimlinks work?

First, you have only one vendor to deal with, and therefore only one place you have to go to see all of your sales reports and earnings. They already have over 18,000+ different vendors and more than forty aggregators (ex.: Commission Junction, Linkshare, Share a Sale, etc., that already may have hundreds of individual stores that they manage links for) that Skimlinks has made agreements with, so you don’t have to go through the process of applying again to each one! Once Skimlinks approves you, all those other 18,000+ vendors HAVE to! Think of the time that saves!
Have you been turned down by places like Amazon because of sales tax nexus laws in your state? No problem! Skimlinks has so many other vendors, including eBayWalmartKmart, and thousands more, that you simply direct your sales toward those other vendors! Still, Amazon has decided not to honor commissions on “sales” made through Skimlinks that are generated in states where there is nexus laws in effect, but they will still pay on clicks on the links where applicable. Clicks a re not considered sales, and therefore no taxes are due. So even if an Amazon ad shows up, you will still make money from the click on it, whether the customer buys or not.
Their bonus program, Skimwords, is automatically active with your account, There is nothing “in addition” to apply for, and nothing to set up. The one line of code, OR the WordPress plug-in does it all for you, on your entire site… even on old posts! And despite what you may have heard, it DOES work with Blogger, and is perfectly legal. You just install the script in a “text” side bar gadget, and it puts the links on the entire site, clear back to posts that may be years old!

What does it cost to use Skimlinks?

Absolutely NOTHING! And you lose nothing! As an example of how they work, let’s say that Amazon normally pays you 6% as what they like to call an “advertising fee” for displaying their products on your site. Because of the volume of business that Skimlinks does, they arrange for an 8% commission for themselves to let Amazon into their system. They keep 25% of those commissions (only 2% of the total purchase) for themselves, and you still get the original 6% that you would have gotten anyway!

How do I make better commissions?

Once you have an account with Skimlinks (VERY easy to get, by the way), you can search for a particular product and see a list of all the stores within their collection that carry that product. It will also show you each vendor’s commission rates. Many of them also pay on a per click basis, so that your reader doesn’t even have to buy to make you money! If you see that one store offers 5% and three cents per click, and another vendor offers 15% and five cents per click for the same product, YOU get to choose the link you want to use. All you have to do is install your own link on the keywords within your site, and Skimlinks won’t change them. If you don’t make enough money it will be your own fault for not managing your site propery!

How do I implement Skimlinks/Skimwords?

First of all, Skimlinks refers to actual links or ads placed on the site from which you make money through purchases. The Skimwords part of the program is what automatically activates certain keywords into links, and from those, you may get paid for clicks as well as purchases.
After you get your account set up, you will have an entire affiliate section to refer to with all the help you need, including videos. They will also give you a snippet of code to use on your web site, so that it activates whatever page it appears on. If you use WordPress, they already have a plug-in for Skimlinks, so all you have to do is enter your affiliate ID number assigned to that site in the setup form, and it does the rest for you. If you have multiple sites, you will have a separate ID number for each site.
Any product words or vendor keywords (Usually nouns) that it sees on your activated pages or posts will automatically be turned into links to whichever store (in their collection of over 18,000+ vendors) that handles that product. And it’s “retro-active”, meaning if you put it into a sidebar, or widget on your site that shows up on all pages…. it will go back and monetize all those pages that may have been written months or years ago!
What if you want to select your own products to recommend, rather than let it go to their selection?  All you have to do is create the link first, and then Skimwords will send the link to YOUR recommendation rather than theirs. It doesn’t get any easier!
What if you already have affiliate agreements with other vendors? Skimlinks will know which ones you already have agreements with, and will send them straight through to that vendor without interference. You will still get your commission from that vendor. But if you don’t have an agreement set up, Skimlinks will process the click or the sale, and will pay you through their own company, Skimbits Ltd.
So even if you don’t know the first thing about html, there is no excuse for not using it! Pay someone else to set it up for you if you have to! It will be worth the fee!

Is there anything that I “don’t” get with Skimlinks?

The only thing you won’t have access to with Skimlinks are the “creatives” (the various banner ads and direct links) that are available with a direct connection to one of those vendors. But you may not need them. If you still feel a need to use a banner, you can still apply to the vendor or aggregator, and have access to them. Skimlinks will automatically detect if you have a relationship with the vendor outside of their scope, and if so, they will simply send your link on through, and it will be handled by the vendor. If Skimlinks detects that you have no relationship, then they will make one for you and run the link through their system. Either way… you get paid!
Also, they have a new program called a “Showcase”, but at the time of this writing, it only works with Amazon. You can set up your links so that when moused over, a full product picture, or even a scrolling catalog will show up, to give the customer a look at the product and more information, without having to go to the site. If they click on the pop-up ad and buy from it, you get the commission (if you aren’t in one of the nexus states). Unfortunately, if you are in a nexus state, it isn’t worthwhile to use it, as you would only get paid for clicks if they were applicable for that product.
What if I want to use a vendor that has no agreement with Skimlinks? In fact, I just ran into that situation this morning. I saw a vendor that I wanted a link for, and they were not in Skimlinks’ arsenal. So I looked up the vendor on the web and they happen to use PepperjamNetwork as their aggregator. I then double-checked Skimlinks and that aggregator was not in their arsenal either. So I had to make an application to Pepperjam to get an account. As soon I am approved by them (the aggregator), then I may have to also apply to the vendor. This is the way normal affiliate marketing works, and why we should ALL be thankful to Skimlinks by taking much of that work away!
If I had simply created a link to the vendor site I would have been referring traffic to someone that would have never paid me for it! Not that I don’t do that sometimes, anyway, but it’s like going off and leaving money on the table!
For some product creatives, you might simply use one of the vendor’s graphics that you can copy from the web and paste into your site, but you should always ask first, and if they allow it, use a little caption with it that says something like “logo use courtesy of (the vendor’s name)”.  Some logos and images have very tight rules associated with their use, right down to the color rendition, and you could be sued if you use them without proper permission.
Can I also sell my own products through my own payment buttons?
This is a good question, and is very important… you may also lose the ability to sell your own products on your site through your own payment buttons. Skimlinks doesn’t care if you have a “donation” payment button on your site, but they really want to see ALL affiliate links on a site. That’s probably due to some legal issue with their contracts with their vendors, and I can understand that trying to find common ground with that many vendors is a daunting task in itself!
If you have products that you are selling through your own payment buttons, then you can put those on a separate site and just use links to “cross-reference” the sites to each other. Actually, that’s good for SEO, too, as it lets you be more specific with your keywords on each site as well as giving another inbound link to your site to add to its importance in the search engine’s eyes.
Also, if you are selling your own products, having people click away to go buy something from someone else is counter-productive. You should keep direct sales away from affiliate sites!

How do I create my own links with Skimlinks?

First, always make sure it is a vendor that is under contract with Skiminks, otherwise you may not get a commission at all! Then, all you have to do is go to any vendor’s web page and copy the URL of the page from the address bar. In your site editor, you highlight the word (or words) you want to make into a link, and click on the “chain link icon” on your editor header, and paste the link into the form box! Be sure to click the check box that says to open the link in a new window, so it doesn't take them totally away from your site. That’s all there is to it! The link will automatically go through Skimlinks directly to whatever page you sent them to, and Skimlinks will take care of the rest.
If you are using a general term, with no specific product in mind, you might go the catalog page of the vendor, so that when your reader arrives there he can see all of the products of that type and make his own decision. If you are recommending a specific product, then go to the exact page that shows only that product, and copy the URL from that page to make your link. Skimlinks will send them to wherever you want them to go, but if you make no recommendation at all, they will still make links where they see product keywords, and you will still make money! If you don’t want to use a particular vendor for any reason, you can keep their ads from showing up!
You also have your choice of link density. You can set it light for only a few select words to turn into links, medium for picking up a few more words, or you can set it to the max for picking out “most” of the keywords it finds.

Do people read older posts?

You bet they do! Any new visitor who arrives on your site for the first time is VERY likely to go back and read from the beginning to catch up, or they may check out specific topics or specific posts or categories within your blog or site. If they searched specific keywords, the search engine will direct them to the appropriate post or page of your site, even if it was written years ago! That’s why it is important to monetize not only your new content, but all of your previous content as well!

What if I don’t want banner ads on my site?

Many people don’t want their sites cluttered up with gaudy banner ads, and the truth is that people are becoming somewhat immune to banners, and many won’t click on them because they know it is a blatant attempt to sell them something. Some banners are as bad as carnival barkers, with flashing logos and some even use video with the banner. Used in the right context, some of that may be OK, but can be annoying to many people. That’s what’s so great about Skimlinks/Skimwords… they are very “unobtrusive” in that they simply link words to products. People can read right past them and ignore them or they can click on them to see where they go.
You can also use one of your own photos, maybe of you demonstrating a product, or of the product itself, and you can make the photo a link to the product. Since you own the photo, you won't have any issues with copyright infringement. All you have to do is click on the photo to highlight it, and then go to your editing bar and click on that chain ink icon to open the link window, and then paste your link into it. There's nothing hard about it!
Even though the majority of people come to the internet for information, a lot of the purchases that are made are “spur of the moment” decisions. Many people don’t even know there is such a selection of products or that certain products exist. If you lead them into it by talking about the product honestly,providing both pros and cons without being “pushy”, and then offer a place for them to buy it, many will click on the link and say “Gee, I didn’t know anyone made that! I’m going to get one!”. Even if they don’t buy it today (maybe they simply have to wait until payday) the cookie will remember that you sent them and you will still earn a commission if they purchase later!

What happens if the product or vendor that I’m after doesn’t have an affiliation with Skimlinks?

If you don’t see your desired product or the vendor listed with Skimlinks, then look them up on the web and see if you can find any links on their site that say “affiliates”, “partners”, “resellers” or some other indication that might offer that service. For those that do, you may see that their program is handled by a third party, usually an aggregator, and if so, you may have to make an application to that aggregator and then also apply to the vendor through that program. Some vendors handle their own affiliate program, and if so, you can apply directly to them. You can use any other affiliate links in conjunction with Skimlinks.
There are many sites on the web that will let you buy from them at wholesale prices, but they don’t show any indication of it on their site. If that’s the case, it doesn’t hurt to send them an email (or through their contact form) and ask them! That’s all there is to it! But they may still ask for a business ID, so again… be prepared!

But, how do I “think” like a marketer?

I just went back through some of my previous posts this morning and started looking for words that I saw. The Skimwords won’t show as links in your editing mode, only the ones YOU create yourself will show, but it doesn’t matter. The Skimlinks will show when you preview your site or it goes live. You can overwrite any of their links with your own if you see the need to.
In my post about seeing a (possible but not likely) cougar in the yard, I mentioned the street light. Amazon has security lights, so I linked “street light” to a catalog page showng their choices.  I also mentioned a 6-volt lantern, a game camera, and even threw in a little quip at the end about “lions and snakes and bears! Oh My!” with a reference to the tin man in the Wizard of Oz (think collectibles). So I made “tin man” a link to Wizard of Oz collectibles. There was a total of at least four new opportunities to link to vendors sites to offer up products for the reader to buy, just in that one post about “maybe” seeing a cougar! And I can guarantee you that even set at “max”, Skimwords may not detect all of those referrences on their own! It is up to YOU as a marketer to THINK, and to monetize everything you can. The more opportunities you present to people, the more money you are going to make!
A marketer has to look at everything he does with the thought of “how can I make money from that?” And what can be easier than simply converting text words to unobtrusive links to give people the opportunity to act upon them, without the seller being “pushy” about it? Regardless of how you feel about sales, remember… there isn’t anything that is within your field of vision (other than what was created by nature) that isn’t there because a sale was made first! You would be “naked in nature” without someone making a sale at some time in the past! Sales are a natural part of society and sooner or later, EVERYONE makes a sale, even if it’s only selling themselves to an employer (perish the thought)!
Many of my blog readers are fellow travelers. If you write about travel, then think about what you can connect people to for travel products, such as air packages, camping, hotels or rental cars. If you talk about attractions or entertainment, then check out the possibility of offering tickets to your readers, or hotels that are in the area, or even a nice restaurant that they can go to afterwards. If you talk about improvements to your home or your RV, then offer them those products. If you talk about food or beverages, then offer them coupons, recipes, beer-making kits, or wine club memberships. What better time to sell than when offering products that you have already used and liked? You already have your readers’ attention, and they probably trust you if they have been reading your blog, and subscribed to it, so why wouldn’t they buy from you?
How can I maximize my commissions?
Be wise about it. The reason most people don’t make any money is because they depend on things like Adsense to monetize their sites and then they never study how to choose keywords that will attract the higher paying clicks. The result is they get paid pennies for clicks and never reach the $100 minimum payout that Adsense imposes! You have to get past worrying about making pennies and learn how to pick both the methods and the products that will get you the most profits! That means choosing a good mix of higher priced products as well as a few lower priced, and paying attention to the commission rates paid by different vendors for the sale of those products. You can’t just set things up at random and hope to make money, any more than you can just show up for an employer and hope to make money!  You have to WORK at making money. In marketing, that means simply learning to think like a marketer, pay attention to what is happening, and think outside the box to figure out how to make it better!
With Skimlinks, you can go into the “Merchant” section and search for specific products or vendors. You will get a list of the vendors who carry the product, as well as the commission rate they pay, and if they use pay-per-click, it will also tell what they pay for each click on the ad or word. You have complete control over choosing vendors that pay the highest commissions, but if you don’t, Skimlinks will choose whatever matches with the keyword. It’s up to YOU to maximize your profits…not Skimlinks!
Why sell ad space on your site for a piddly, fixed amount, when you should be getting paid on commission for the sales volume that ad produces? Why settle for click rates on generic products when you could be offering to sell the same products at 50% commission or more? THINK!!!
It takes just as much time and effort to market a $5 product as it does a $5,000 product, but if you have to settle for a 10% commission, then which one are you going to put the effort into? DUH!
In thinking like a marketer, remember that your own time is money. As an example, think about selling something on eBay…say, from your own inventory. Sure, you may sell MORE of the lower priced items, but can you sell a hundred of them? Not if you only have one to sell! A hundred low priced items may justify writing a listing once, and then pushing a button to relist over and over. A one-shot sale very seldom justifies the time spent unless it is something worth more than $50.
You have to learn that some things are better off donated than to mess around with selling them online! Think about the time it takes you to research them, the photography time, the uploading time, the sales pitch writing time, and then the processing of the order afterward. If you can’t make what your time is worth, then you are better off to give the product away as a bonus with a more expensive product! Don’t waste time on unproductive efforts!
On the other hand, if you think that spending 4 hours on a site that might make $30 a month on autopilot…indefinitely… is unproductive…. think again! If that site stays out there on its own and can generate $30 a month for the next 15 years or more…. that’s a minimum of $5400 that you will have made for that 4 hours of work that you did ONE time!
THAT is what I mean when I say you need to get your head on straight and think like a marketer! Now… if you could build two sites like that a day, how long would it take you to reach your immediate income goals, and never have to work again? And how much income will you have made for that effort over the next 15 years? Think about it! YOU do the math!
This is a form of what Einstein called the “most powerful force on earth”… the power of compound interest. This is the power to do 4 hours worth of work to generate the same income that would take an average worker 180 hours to earn at $30 an hour! That’s leveraging your income by over 45 times!  But yet 95% of people will never understand that and never do what is necessary to get there!
It is a statistical fact that only about 2% of first-time visitors will buy from you. Like real life, they may want to get to know you better, so they can feel assured that you are who you say you are and that they aren’t going to get ripped off.
Regular readers on blogs feel like they know the site owner after they have followed his writings for awhile. They learn to trust him, and in turn the sales conversions go up! Referrals from blogs to regular readers often result in 7% or higher conversions. If the blog also has a subscription to new post notifications going out, so that the reader has agreed to being sent special offers by email, those offers, many times, result in as much as a 40% increase in sales volume! Now you know why most web sites want you to opt-in for special offers! They want to stay in touch with you, just like any other friend would want to stay in touch with you. And regular contact with those visitors, either through email or blog posts will keep you in their minds and they will learn to trust you, and buy from you!
This is how a marketer MUST think if he expects to be successful. Online sales isn’t about sending out a bunch of spam to anybody and everybody and pestering them like some bad used car saleman, only to get a paltry 1/10th of one percent conversions! It’s about using the right keywords to attract people to your site that already have an interest in what you are offering… first in information… and later in products you recommend to them. That’s how long term sales relationships are built, and why you have to get your heads on straight if you expect to be successful at it.
There’s no sense in pestering people that have no interest in what you are offering. You don’t have time to worry about them and neither should any other salesman!  You need to find out…
(1) what it is that people are searching for in huge numbers and not finding answers for,
(2) find or create a product to fill that need,
(3) and then learn how to put it in front of as many of them as you can at the least cost!
If you can do that, you won’t have to “sell” to them… the majority will automatically buy what you offer them!

Summary and expectations

Now you have everything that you need to “start” making money with a site or blog, so there is no excuse not to go sign up for Skimlinks, get approval (may take 24 hours), and then put that little line of code into a widget or sidebar of your site (or let WordPress do it for you) and start making money within 24 hours of setting it up! Every page or post of your site should become a salesman that sells for you 24/7, whether you do anything further or not!
But we have only scratched the surface as far as all the different methods and how to promote the site or blog. What we have done so far is only generic SEO (search engine optimization). There is still a lot to learn about “off site” promoting, through social channels, and video! What you are going to make in the next month off your sites will be only a drop in the bucket compared to what you will make once we really get serious about implementing all the other strategies!
We will try to present things with a good balance of both monetization as well as promotion, so that you can begin to make money as you go, using mostly free products. Don’t expect overnight miracles. It will start slow, and keep building, but that’s the way it should be. If anyone tells you in this business that you can make a bundle overnight with no work, you need to run like Hell, because the times that it actually happens are few and far between, and often times are built on “flash-in-the-pan” methods or products that have a short life.
My method is to show you how to build your business with products with long life spans that will remain as viable AND valuable five years or more down the road as they are today. That cuts back on “site maintenance” so that you can enjoy more time to do the things you really want to do.
As we progress into more depth within these posts regarding other products and promotional methods, your sales volume will increase as you learn new techniques and make your site more visible to the public. You need to start NOW, so that you will have the income when you need it. If you wait until you “really” need it before you start, it will be a long time coming!
Until then, go start making some money with what I have already shown you!  And if you run into problems, let me know in the comments so that I can help you! Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your business be! There’s a lot of growth ahead, so stick with it, be patient, and it will come!

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