Ben Moskel: The Rebirth of Affiliate Marketing?
This outstanding guest editorial is from Ben Moskel. In December I spoke at Ben’s Affiliate Marketing Seminar in Chicago. He sent me an outstanding rebuttal to last week’s “Death of Affiliate Marketing” teleconference. Here’s Ben…
Amit stated that in some industries the number of advertisers has been slashed from 50 to 5 as the result of the Adwords bans.
There were other comments made that gave me the impression that Google is or will be banning any and all affiliate marketers from using its advertising service.
Frankly, I think it’s a bit premature to think that Google’s goal is to rid the World of Affiliate Marketers. My observations indicate that Affiliate Marketing still continues to thrive on Google.
I do know several advertisers who are now banned for life. However, all of the objective evidence indicates that Google is targeting a very narrow category of advertisers – not just people who are doing Affiliate Marketing.
Specifically, all the banned advertisers who I know personally had one thing in common:
They promoted (or were suspected of promoting) a business opportunity (biz-opp) product. Even more specifically, they promoted a biz-opp product which used Google’s brand in the product name, e.g. Google Money Tree, Google Profits, Google PayDay, etc.
Google Money Tree could be especially problematic and perhaps the catalyst of the recent activity. A close friend of mine was banned by Google because he used “Google Money Tree” as a keyword.
His training material had nothing to do with Google Money Tree. However, he could not convince Google of his innocence. In other words, a single offensive keyword led to his demise!
Perhaps it is not a coincidence that the owners of Google Money Tree were sued just a few months before Google went on its Adwords ban rampage?
My legal background reminds me of the mindset of plaintiff’s lawyers. When I worked as an attorney in a civil litigation law firm I quickly learned that plaintiff’s lawyers always look for the deepest pockets.
In other words, if there is any way to name the deep pocket as a defendant, a plaintiff’s lawyer will figure it out. If I am the plaintiff’s lawyer for the consumers who were wronged by the Google Money Tree product, and I know that they used Adwords as a vehicle to promote the product, then I’m going to do all I can to get the $153 Billion Dollar Gorilla on the other side of the table.
As a lawyer advising your client, the primarily mindset is cover-your-ass. I would be shocked if Google’s attorneys didn’t warn the Adwords department of a potential messy lawsuit if they continued to allow advertisers to promote Google type biz opp products.
I’m aware of other non-affiliate advertisers who were banned too. I can only guess that they were unfortunately caught in a wide over-zealous net to catch the real targets.
(This all goes without mentioning how Google probably does not want their brand equity to be used to promote a hyped up biz-opp program).
Otherwise, my own experience as well as conversations with affiliates and account managers tells me that Google still is happy to accept money from Affiliate Marketers in most industries outside of the business opportunity space.
You can see this for yourself. Do a search for just about any product outside of the business opportunity/work from home market and add the word “reviews”. You will see that Google is often selling most of this space to affiliate marketers.
For instance, take a look at “web hosting reviews.” Five of the top six spots are affiliates.
This isn’t to say that you need a product review website to use Adwords. It is just one of the many obvious examples where Affiliates continue to thrive with Adwords.
In fact, Google is actively building its own Affiliate Network – recruiting super-affiliates and new advertisers. (And no, all of this is not part of a big conspiracy to monopolize the Affiliate World.)
The bottom line is that it’s a little premature to announce of “Death” of Affiliate Marketing on Google because a narrow slice of affiliates are no longer allowed to use Adwords to promote business opportunity products.
I believe that people are quick to over generalize Affiliate Marketing and throw Affiliates into the same bucket with shoddy products and price gouging continuity programs.
In fact, I was at a marketing conference a few weeks back when a very well known Internet Marketer walked up to me and said that he would never do Affiliate Marketing because his conscience would not allow him to fool consumers into singing up for a crappy weight loss continuity program.
I wasn’t sure whether to be more shocked or angry at his ignorance.
Being an Affiliate isn’t about fooling consumers into signing up for the latest “flavor of the month” continuity product.
Put simply, Affiliate Marketing is selling without the face-to-face aspect of sales.
Remember too that Affiliates were originally called Publishers because they had already published tons of content on a topic before they became affiliates. In other words, there are many affiliates who own websites containing a mountain of content on a particular topic. These affiliates also use Adwords.
What reason would Google have in banning such websites from using Adwords?
On that same topic, there are literally thousands of legitimate well-established bricks and mortar businesses with robust affiliate programs. Dozens of affiliates make damn good livings selling reputable products and services.
Here are just a few examples of products I’ve promoted as an Affiliate:
- Zappos Shoes
- Turbo Tax
- Web hosting
- Norton Anti-virus
- 123 Inkjets
- Automobile parts
- Lawn and Garden products
- Weight Watchers
- Pet prescriptions and pet products
- Sporting goods and equipment
- Rosetta stone language learning
The list goes on and on and there are thousands more offers just like them.
Indeed, the Affiliate industry is very much alive and well on Google.
With that said, I did agree with Perry and Amit on how affiliates need to provide content in order to survive. I didn’t recall that any concrete examples on how to add value as an affiliate. So I decided to list the two most effective approaches that work for my affiliate sites:
- Product Review/Testimonial – what I mean here is a real testimonial. My best advice to new affiliates is to USE a product or service before you promote it.In fact, most of the products I promote I have bought for myself, my relatives, and my closest friends. I use their feedback in my sales message.As a consumer you get the inside perspective of how a product works, the sales process, etc. In other words, you get the exact EXPERIENCE that your website visitors are looking for. Plus, you will notice the downsides of the product or service which are actually a great addition to your sales copy.For instance, if I were to promote the Kindle as an affiliate I would write about how the battery life stinks if you accidentally leave the wifi enabled.These sorts of things give your sales letter authenticity and creates a stronger sales message to a potential buyer.
- Use the “Super-Sub-Niche Angle” – You’ll discover that many products and services solve a host of totally different problems. You can really differentiate yourself by segmenting your sales message and tailoring your sales page entirely towards just one of the problems.Let’s take the Weight Watchers example. Everybody knows that Weight Watchers is for people looking to lose weight. How about if you design your affiliate website around one of the many REASONS a person is trying to lose weight like:- They want to look good for an upcoming high school reunion
- They want to get in shape for an upcoming beach vacation
- They are recently divorced/separated and need to make themselves “marketable” for the dating scene
I guarantee that if you dedicate your website to one of these super-sub-niche categories, your visitors will be 100% more satisfied than if they went directly to the Weight Watchers website.
These are just a couple of ways to be an Affiliate who adds value.
In other words, this is a way to find your USP as an Affiliate Marketer.
In closing, I totally disagree with anybody who claims that Affiliate Marketing is now “dead” on Google or any other online advertising platform. My experience has proven just the opposite.
However, I do appreciate anyone who warns me against getting comfortable with relying upon any single advertising medium as a reliable traffic source. I believe you should constantly test out alternative traffic methods as well as alternative affiliate offers. (I’ve had $50K per year affiliate offers die overnight!)
The days of easy profits from affiliate offers are long gone. The only security in this business is to hone your craft and get really, really good at copywriting, buying traffic, negotiation/joint venturing, and any other direct marketing skill.
Ben Moskel is a former attorney and professional practitioner and teacher of affiliate marketing. He lives in New York.