What sells, what doesn’t, and what pays
Books, Video and CDs are among the top sellers on the internet mainly because they are small items which can be mailed for less than the purchase cost. These items are also ‘information rich.’ Browsers want to know all the gory details before making a purchase. With a book for example, there is a huge amount of detailed information to give browsers about the book, the author, how to, other books by the same author, reviews, the list goes on and on. Browsers eat this up.
Be careful though, just because something sells, and you earn a commission, doesn’t mean you will make enough money for it to be worthwhile. Most online retailers for these products offer commissions below 10%, with quarterly payouts. With an average price of around $20.00, your cut will be $1.60 at 8% commission. To make $1000.00, you’ll have to sell over 600 products per month. If 1% of your visitors purchase, you will have to generate 60,000 unique visitors per month. Most browsers look at 2.5 pages at a site, so you will need 150,000 page views per month to generate $1000! So much for books, video and CDs! Unless you are Yahoo, HotBot or Altavista, they are a complete waste of time.
What does work
are a winner. The field is crowded, but still money can be made. See our article on Personals and Site Design. Personals have the added benefit of a revenue stream. When a browser becomes a ‘member,’ their credit card is billed every month automatically. A single customer will probably stay a member for 6 months or more.
is also a winner. The product is excellent, and in demand by webmasters. See our write up on
Services that can be delivered electronically work, especially if they are internet-related. Services to writers such as copy editing and freelance writing work online because writers are computer and internet literate.
Internet related services such as domain hosting, website design and e-commerce are naturals for the internet. Domain Hosting and e-commerce, which involve a monthly fee generate a revenue stream often years into the future.
The Adult industry works extremely well on the internet because it is anonymous. The Adult industry generates over 1 Billion dollars per month online. You don’t have to sell pornography to access this market. Many online retailers offer sex related products such as books, (i.e. The Joy of Sex) which are not generally seen as pornography. Adult retailers such as
offer similar products and pay 25%.
The high traffic myth
High traffic sounds great, but targetted traffic is even better. The number of pageviews isn’t as important as how targeted the traffic is. One of the best ways to target traffic is by region. An example is Domain Hosting. This is a huge field and the competition for these keywords is brutal. Targeting your market is to focus on ‘domain hosting seattle’ or ‘domain hosting washington.’ It is far, far better to have a small market mostly to yourself, than a huge market shared with a herd of elephants.
Focus Focus Focus
Even though the internet is called the ‘new’ economy, webmaster have a lot to learn from traditional bricks and mortar retailers. Successful boutique-type retailers create a mood and a theme for their stores, and everything in the store fits that theme or style down to the last detail. This creates a consistent image in the mind of the consumer which they remember because it is consistent and focussed. Inconsistency and a lack of focus scatter attention and create confusion. People don’t buy or remember when they are confused. Think about visiting a boutique retail store. Everything for sale in the store fits the overall style and theme. In other words, there is nothing in the store which doesn’t fit the theme of the store. Ditto for websites.
If I go to a site on Shakespeare, I expect to find things relating to Shakespeare. I do not expect to find advertisements for software, sex, or free offers and will not buy them. If, however, I see an advertisement for something relating to Shakespeare, I do not see this as annoying but helpful, and am likely to purchase whatever is offered.
Travelocity offers a great program and travel is very popular online. So I joined up and put up banners on one of our high traffic sites. After several months, there were very few click throughs, and no sales. Why? People coming to the site weren’t looking for a cheap airfare. If people want to buy a cheap airfare, and go on the internet specifically looking for airline tickets, they aren’t going to come to my site, they will go directly to Travelocity or a host of other travel sites.
People will come to your site because of the content, and then make a purchase of a content-related item. If I am going to sell something on my site, it must relate to the content of the site. Then browsers that come to the site are interested in what I have to offer.
Free isn’t always the best way to go
Most affiliate programs are free to join. A few charge an initial fee. Don’t reject a program because of a sign up fee. It may be worthwhile for a number of reasons. Several high-quality programs selling complicated and expensive services require a $100.00 fee up front, and a commission structure that refunds over time. You receive $25 for each sale you make up to 5. On the fifth sale, you have recovered your $100.00 and you receive a bonus of $500.00. This is a good deal.
If the set up fee is a free webpage, software package or product of some sort — stay clear. Watch who you are dealing with If the company website is amateurly programmed, stay away. Often they are run by overworked (or no) staff that don’t quite get around to issuing checks on time. Buyer beware.
Broken links, and third party tracking icons are warning signs. Another telling sign is the online credit card processing setup.
Virtually all programs are free and easy to join. So thousands of webmasters join up and put up links on their free homepages selling everything under the sun. Most webmasters who sign up never get around to putting up the linking code on their site, and most of those that do, (maybe 25%), only generate very small commissions (i.e. $20 per month). That leaves 5% who actually do quite well. And within that small percentage, some defect to other programs. From the perspective of companies printing and mailing $20 cheques to hundreds or thousands of webmasters, it must be expensive and time-consuming.
How long can companies rush headlong to expand at any price? How long are webmasters going to persist ‘promoting’ websites that lose money? Over time, things will consolidate. Webmasters with money losing sites will wither away, as will online retailers. Program owners will start cutting back and impose restrictions on new sign-ups. A certain amount of traffic will be required and minimum sales. This will improve the market overall and high quality sites will survive. Anticipate these trends and go for a few high quality programs. Stay informed of new programs, and check them out carefully.