March 23, 2015

Traffic, Sales, and Conversions

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Selling at an art showWe, in the online writing community, often talk about driving traffic to our websites and blogs, however when I was checking my stats this morning, I had an epiphany, which led me to write this post.

I have talked before about the fact that traffic alone is not the only thing you need to get sales.  I have also talked about the fact that numbers of visitors are a factor, and that you will get a percentage of your visitors to buy from you if you target them correctly.  However, I have not talked too much about sales conversions.

A sales conversion is when a customer goes through the complete process that ends up with them actually buying something.  In other words, you convert a visitor into a customer.  My Amazon affiliates account generally has about a 4% sales conversion all year long until the holiday shopping season.  It goes up and down, but averages out to 4%.  That means that if you take all the people who visit my various sites, and then click through to Amazon through an affiliate link, only 4% of the people who click through to Amazon buy something.  That conversion rate is pretty average, but it can give me some idea of how much I will sell in a given month.

What made me think about this topic, is that today I noticed that it is up to 6% for the month of July.  That is significantly higher than normal for me, and it is not November or December. (I do want to make a note that this conversion rate does not include any sales from Squidoo sales modules because they go through Squidoo’s affiliate link.)

Conversion rates are something important to be considered when you look at your sales figures.  For instance, if I can improve my sales conversion rate over a long period of time from 4% to 6%, that will mean that I get a lot more sales per visitor numbers.  With a site like Amazon, that also means that I reach the next tier payout % level sooner.  Part of this consideration goes back to driving the right traffic to your sites.  If the right people land on your pages, then more of them will be ready to buy.

Whether you realize it or not, sales of products and services is what drives the economy no matter where you live.  The taxes from sales pays our government civil service workers, and the profits from our sales pay the salaries of just about everyone else.  The more you understand how to get a higher conversion rate on your own pages, the easier it will be to get sales, which will then create profits not only for you but also for the companies that you are affiliated with.  It truly is a business food chain.

You can believe that I will spending some valuable time over the next few weeks figuring out why I am doing so much better.  Hopefully, I can continue to improve my conversion rate, and keep it higher.  I will be looking at what is selling, where it is selling, and who is buying it, and then try to repeat that pattern elsewhere.  I suggest that you also look at your conversion rates, and figure out what is working, and what is not as a prelude to trying to improve.  You might just be surprised at what you find.

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Making the Sale: How to Increase Sales to My Affiliate Vendors

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Making the SaleI often hear comments about how impossible it is to earn money with affiliate vendors.  Those comments are usually from people who have tried to earn money through affiliates, and have not put in much effort, or people who do not understand that both quantity and quality are needed to earn.

First off, it is completely possible for just about anyone to earn money from affiliate vendors.  However, it does take work.  So if you are adverse to work, then this is not the job for you.  And yes, it is a job at the very least, or even a career for some of us.

So what does it take to earn money from affiliate vendors?

It helps if you are referring people to products that you are familiar with and understand.  Then you can write a much better referral page that will encourage a real person to buy a product or service.  You do not have to be an expert, but if you can give advice with feeling, then people are more likely to follow your referrals.

It takes quantity of referrals.  You will never do well with just one page linking to an affiliate vendor unless that page is so supremely amazing, and at the top of all charts, AND you have a dedicated buying audience.  Even Gwen Stephani has to pay for advertising to sell her children’s clothing line.  When you take into consideration all the competition you are up against, you need to have a large quantity of links going back to this specific vendor.

Link to individual products, instead of to the site homepage.  People are interested in the specifics.  They do not want to have to search for themselves.  That is a service you can offer them.

The more articles, pages, and sites you have linking to an affiliate, the better chances are that you will get more sales.  It takes a lot of work, but if you continue to follow this path, it will pay off in career level income.


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Making the Sale: Building on Your Existing Success

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Making the SaleOnce you have found success selling an item, category of items, or a service, then the best way to solidify that success is to broaden the scope.

For instance, if you have found success in the niche of selling vintage dining room chairs, then you can broaden the scope in a few ways.  You can sell as many brands, styles, and types of vintage dining room chairs as you can find, or you can start to sell matching dining room tables.  This is the best way to incrementally increase your sales in a category, add new keywords to your sales pages, and broaden your customer base.

When your initial niche or category is consistent and well established, but before you have exhausted the opportunity, it is time to search for a brand new category of items to sell, and start the process all over again.  This keeps your income growing and diverse, while you have confidence in the regular earnings that you have already established.

Any successful sales person knows that no niche is inexhaustible, nor will your luck continue forever no matter how successful you are without careful guarding and preparation, so you would be wise to always have another niche, or plan B ready waiting in the wings, and frankly, I usually have plans further down the alphabet.

There are other ways to build on your existing success.  One of the most common is by using a technique called an add on sale.  As consumers we see the add on sale in operation on a daily basis in shops.  The add on sale is the dessert with your sandwich, the key cover with your key.  It is the item the clerk will ask you at the register if you need.  These are usually small sales which will add just a few dollars to your main sale, but will add up over time.  Sometimes a company actually makes more money on the add on, then the original item.  For instance, the drink with your hamburger is mostly profit, while the hamburger is not.

Add on sales are simple to implement, in person or online.  For anything you buy, there is almost always something that can be added on.  What items can you add on to your existing sales pages?

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Making the Sale: Obstacles to Success

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Making the SaleMost successful business people can tell you that there are many obstacles to success.  This is true for all aspects of business, but since sales are what generate the income for most businesses, obstacles that get in the way of making sales are extremely frustrating and disheartening.

What you need to understand is that to make the sale, you need to expect obstacles to crop up, and create plans of action to work around those obstacles.

Typical obstacles to success are:

  • Lack of time
  • Lack of money
  • Lack of personnel
  • Mechanical failures
  • Electronic failures
  • Family issues
  • Co-worker family issues
  • Personal health
  • Lack of motivation

Just as a perfect example, I am dealing with the phone company today, who turned off my internet service without any warning, told me it would be back on yesterday, and it still isn’t on.  This type of obstacle to success is typical, and happens all the time.  However, it is taking up my valuable time, not to mention that it is keeping me from getting online.

This is one of the basic things that separates the truly professional from the non-professional.  The professional knows that obstacles will occur, and they plan for them.  If an obstacle gets in the way of plan A, then they turn around and work on plan B.  They may be upset for a few minutes, and vent their wrath, but then they just move on.

In order to make the sale time and time again, you need to deal with people.  Some of those people are you, your family, and your friends.  You, yourself, can potentially be the obstacle in your way, by not feeling like working today, or by coming down with a cold.  That is way persistence often beats intelligence, and diligence beats speed.  The moral of the story from the Tortoise and the Hare is true, consistent forward motion will win in the end.

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Making the Sale: Setting Goals

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Making the SaleI am just going to state it baldly.  There is no way you are going to be successful at selling if you do not set goals.  Bottom line, no way, no how.

Goals are essential to growing any kind of business or organization, anything that is meant to draw people to you.  If you are working to increase your traffic and sales from your online writing, then you will need to set goals.

The best way to go about this is to set long term goals, and then extrapolate short term goals from your long term goals.

Long term means something different for each of us.  I tend to set goals on a yearly and six month basis.  I am primarily a retailer, and the greatest part of my business takes place in the second half of the year.  I am trying to spread it out more, and one of my goals for next year is to find ways to get more business in the first half of the year.  To do this, I have already determined a niche that I will focus on in the first half of 2012.  Since the first half of 2012 starts right up in January, I can’t wait until the holiday shopping season is over before I work on this new niche.  If I do that, I will have missed out on an opportunity to sell during January, and possibly February.  So I am already working on the niche, and am working to position myself to be high in the search engines for the terms that I have selected.

So how to set long and short term goals?

Long term goals should be something that takes at least six months to accomplish.  Think of your long term goals as a building process.  Maybe this year you want to build your income from a specific source, or build it to a specific amount.  Think of where you would like it to be 6 to 12 months from now.  Other possibilities are to have a specific number of websites or pages by a certain date.  There are numerous long term goals that you can strive towards.  They can be non business related, but you need to do a certain amount of business to get there.

Goals need to be specific.  You should state them in a positive manner, and they need to have an end date.  So for instance, I could say that I want to make $2000 from my new niche by the end of June 2012.  By making your goal specific, you have given yourself a target to drive towards.

The next step is to take your long term goal, and divide it up into shorter term goals.  How short is up to you.  I usually break down my goals into monthly goals, then each day check off what I have accomplished towards that monthly goal.  You can use lists, goal boards, or visualization to get you there.  Every person has a different method that will work for them.  But when you divide up your long term goals, make the short term goals very specific also.

To meet my niche goal for next year, I have set up two websites in that niche, and created several articles to help get those sites going.  I am also going to add a lot of backlinks to the articles and the sites to help them get established.  Right now, I am still getting the structure set up, but when I am done, it will be a unified system that will drive sales to specific vendors using these articles and sites.  I can see the structure of how this will work in my head, and once my reality meets the goals I have for setting up the structure, I will working to market and promote what I have built.  In this case, the long term income goals was broken up into creating the mechanism to reach the goal, and then marketing the mechanism to make it sell.  Each of those goals are divided further into tasks such as writing an article to support the mechanism each day.

Not every plan is this complex, but the concept is the same.  If you set goals, and stick to your goals, you will be successful at making the sale.

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Making the Sale: Why Should a Customer Buy from You?

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Making the SaleDo you ever consider the question of why should a customer buy from you (as opposed to someone else)?

This is actually quite a crucial question in sales.

For instance, there is almost no one in the world who sells something that no one else in the world sells.  Therefore, when you are selling, you always have competition.  So, why buy from you instead of your competition?

The answer is that there is no real reason why someone should buy from you instead of the competition, so you need to provide a reason.

Some of the reasons that people may want to buy from you are:

  1. They like you better.
  2. You make them laugh.
  3. You touch their heart.
  4. They feel a connection with you.
  5. You fulfill the needs that they have.

As you may notice, these are all emotional reasons.  Online, where it is harder to connect with people, being easy to find is another reason.  This comes back to search engines, which I have talked about in previous posts.

The point in this discussion is that it is up to you, the seller, to provide the reasons that people will want to buy from you, and not your competition.

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Making the Sale: Why Am I Not Getting Any Sales?

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Making the SaleOne of the questions that I hear the most from would be online marketers is “Why am I not getting any sales?”

The short answer to that question is that they are either not working hard enough to get the sale, or they are not following the proper steps to present and promote the sale.

Sales is a numbers game.  If you know that for every 100 people you approach, you will get 1 sale, then you need to approach several hundred people to get several sales.  So the first question you need to ask yourself if you are not getting the amount of sales you want is am I getting enough traffic to my page?

If you are getting enough traffic to your page, then you may not be getting the right traffic.  Then you need to look at how people are finding you to land on your page, and adjust your keywords until you get the right people.

If you are not getting enough traffic, then you need to get more traffic.  That can only come from more promotion, and more backlinks driving your page higher on the organic search engine list.

The other solution is to make more pages that link to the vendor that you are trying to sell, and get more traffic to all of those pages.

Now, I just made up the number of 100.  Real statistics are much more difficult.  It might mean getting 1000 people to get 1 sale, or for your niche, maybe you only need 10 people but it is harder to get traffic.  The more competitive a niche you are in, the more people need to get to your pages.  The best way to do that is to provide them with more opportunities to buy.

The average person needs to hear something 20 times before they act on it.  Are you giving each person that gets driven to your page 20 chances to click on something that will earn you money?

The bottom line is that you will get more sales if you match your keywords to the keywords people type in when searching for your topic, and you get enough traffic.

Incoming search terms:

  • not getting any sales

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Making the Sale: How to Turn Traffic into Sales Conversions

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Making the SaleOne of the concepts to learn in how to make the sale is the difference between traffic and conversions.  We can get all the traffic in the world, but if those people do not buy anything, then we will not make a commission.

So the first thing to do is make sure that you are getting the right traffic.  To get the right traffic or targeted traffic (traffic that is interested in your niche topic), you need to use keywords in your text that match those of the target searches.  To learn more about keyword research, read this post.

Once you are getting the right traffic, the next thing is to look at the structure of your page or site, and how well the items you are promoting match what people are searching for.

If you check the keywords that people are landing on your page for, you can get a better idea if the match is right.  You can do that using your site’s tracking system or Google Analytics.  So, for example, if people are landing on your page when searching for the “best coffee maker for college students, ” then your page needs to tell them why you are offering this specific coffee maker as the best for college students.  This is a perfect match.

I do not believe that banner ads have a place in the middle of your text on a page.  I find that they become more of a distraction, then an argument in favor of your product.   I find that text links, combined with pictures of the product you are selling, make the best and most convincing arguments in favor of clicking on your link.

It is also not a good idea to overwhelm readers with too many choices.  They want you to tell them why this is the best, that is why they came to your page.  They will read your reasons, then make a decision by comparing their observations with yours.

The layout of your page is also important.  Your audience knows that they are there because they are already interested in your topic, so the best way to turn traffic into sales conversions is to get right to the item you are trying to sell, and don’t beat around the bush.  The world is full of spammy, unethical, and smarmy commercial sales people.  We want to stand out and be the honest seller, offering our opinion.  It is okay to say that there are some things you don’t like about a product, as long as you tell them why you chose it anyway.  For instance, you may be talking about a piece of machinery that wouldn’t work well enough for a professional, but for a hobbyist, it is perfect.

In your page, talk about what the benefits are when someone buys this item, and why it is worth the cost.  Each buyer is weighing the cost vs. benefits on an invisible scale in their mind when they examine any item that they need to purchase.  This is especially true in a tough economy, and even more true as the cost of the item goes up.

As you layout your page, do not wait until the bottom of the item to sell the item.  Start at the top, either in the introduction or just under it.  One of the cardinal rules of selling is that you need to try to close the customer several times before they buy.  In a person to person sale, we use closing questions like “Why do you want to buy this item?” or “How do you see yourself using this in your home?”  In writing, we need to simulate that conversation, and insert clickthrough opportunities throughout the page.

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Making the Sale: How to Choose Vendors to Refer

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Making the SaleChoosing vendors or products to refer when you are an affiliate is not something that you should do on a whim.  This is a concept that I didn’t understand fully when I started affiliate marketing.

Depending on what kind of set up you are using there are essentially two ways to link to products that you refer.  You can use modules that a platform provides like Squidoo or Wizzley modules.  Or you can link directly to the company that you are referring to.

By using modules on a platform like Squidoo or Wizzley, you will automatically be losing some money on each sale.  However, the power of the platform may make up the difference by gaining you more traffic.  This is a decision that you have to make for yourself.

However, from my experience, I have found that if you have enough material to create a website about your topic, you will do just as well or better than you would in sales and traffic on a platform like Squidoo or Wizzley.

So where is the best place to refer people to purchase products?  Part of the calculation of how well products will sell is based on trust.  This is an intangible factor that you have to guess at when you are choosing a vendor.  If you yourself are new at referring products online, then your readers will not have built up trust in your referrals yet.  That means you need to use a vendor that they can trust.  Vendors that they can trust are companies that they are familiar with.  This is especially true if you are selling an item over $25.  $25 seems to be a threshold where you need more trust to sell an item.  Under $25 is not a lot of money to most people, so they are more willing to try something new.

For most products, price is an area where a small time person like yourself cannot compete.  Price competitions are for the big guys like Walmart and Amazon.  So you should be selling items because of other reasons.  For instance, in this article The Best Printer for College Students, I am selling a printer based on size and convenience for a college dorm room.

While it is often convenient to refer customers to Amazon, I recommend that you only do that for about 1/2 or less of your referrals.  One reason is that Amazon is one of the lowest paying affiliate vendors, and the other is that you are often competing with Amazon for placement in the search engines.  It is also always a good idea to spread out your income sources.

Ebay is a good vendor to use when you are referring something unique or obsolete.  The other reason to use Ebay is you are recommending buying from Ebay to get a bargain.  People have the idea that items on Ebay are cheaper, even though that is not always true.  I think it is because Ebay started out as a second hand seller.  You can apply to become a seller for the Ebay Partner Network as long as you have a website of your own.

Third party vendors, or vendors who sell through a partnership with an affiliate company like Linkshare or Shareasale, are actually the best choice when it comes to individual earnings per vendor.  You can often find vendors who give you 10% or more from each sale.  The best vendors on in these situations will still want to see that you have your own website.  Many will not accept you if you only write on Squidoo, Wizzley, Hubpages or similar sites.

For new affiliate marketers, I recommend starting out with companies like Target, Walmart, Macy’s that actually have a physical presence in most states in the U.S.  These are companies that will not change their affiliate policies if the law changes in the U.S. regarding affiliates.  This is because they are already paying sales tax in the states that they are in.  An advantage of these companies is that they have a broad spectrum of products and low prices.

The next tier of companies are specialty companies that sell items related to a niche you are writing in.  For instance if you are writing about bedding, look for companies that specialize in bedding and specific types of bedding.  Once you choose a niche, you can sign up for all the vendors in that category with the assumption that some will reject you until you can prove yourself.  Then you can refer as much as possible to the vendors you choose to send enough traffic to them to get regular sales.  Selling is completely a numbers game, so the more targeted traffic you send to a vendor, the more sales you will get.  If you figure you will get about 1% of sales from your traffic, that is a good place to start.  In other words, 1% of the people who visit your site will buy something.  Although during certain seasons, or highly effective articles, many writers get more sales, this is a good rule of thumb to start out with for beginners.

The bottom line is that you need a lot of links and a lot of traffic to make this work with any company.


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Making the Sale: How to Choose What to Sell

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Making the SaleIf you have never been in sales before, and you want to make money by writing online, then I strongly recommend that you follow the steps in this post until you get very comfortable with the process of selling.

New sales people do the best job selling something that they wholeheartedly believe in.  This is because they feel completely comfortable recommending an item that they know very well, and can describe easily.

Choosing to sell the right product or service is extremely important to your success in making money from selling online.

If you follow these steps, you will be able to find plenty of items to write about and sell online:

  1. Take one week for this project.  You can do this as you go about your daily routine.  The first thing you need is a pencil and paper, and the second is your thinking brain.
  2. Keep your paper and pencil with you as you go about your daily routine.  One an hour or so, look up from what you are doing and observe your surroundings.  Write down anything you see that you like, admire, or that impresses you.  Start with tangible items like your computer, your ballpoint pen, your skirt, the wallpaper in that room, then you can move on to intangible, your boss’s leadership, your child’s ingenuity.  This is just a note taking process.  Jot down these items for about 5 minutes, then go on with your day.
  3. By the end of the week, you should have a pretty comprehensive list.  The next step is to organize your list into categories.  Spend about an hour organizing your list at the end of the week.  Categories can be anything, from toys to leadership ideas.
  4. You have created a categorized list of items that you are extremely familiar with in your day to day routine.  This is where you should start to choose items to write about and sell.  From your categories, pick the category that brings a smile to your face, and that you would enjoy talking about to your friends.
  5. After you have chosen your category, you should pick 10 items from your category list that you can talk about.  Pick items that you can describe easily, you know what they look like, feel like, and how to use them.
  6. Start with item #1 on this new list, and for that item, write down a 10 sentence description, 5 things you love about this item, 5 things that could be improve, how you use the item in your life, and why you think someone else would like it. Now you have the basis for a review or product description.  This is something that you already know about, and have feelings about.
  7. Write a 5 paragraph page about your chosen item #1.  Take the information that you have written down, and put your voice into it.  Pretend you are talking to one of your friends in person, and talk about your product.  Do you think your friend would be interested in checking out this item from your recommendation?

As you begin to work on items that you can recommend, move through your categories from most familiar to least familiar.  As you get used to the process, it will become easier to recommend items that you are less comfortable with.  You may never feel comfortable writing about items that you don’t use, but think of all the items that you DO use.  You will not run out of things to write about.

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