Product Specific Hot Markets

If you have been around the Fanatics.com affiliate program for any length of time you are no doubt familiar with the concept of “hot markets”. A hot market is basically an event that can drive a big bump in sales in a short period of time. Some of the obvious hot markets are the Super Bowl, the Stanley Cup playoffs, March Madness, the World Series, etc. There are events like the Olympics, holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, wins by a popular NASCAR driver, and others that can provide a big spike in sales as well.

But have you ever thought about product specific hot markets? These are specific products that when released are very, very popular and get snapped up by consumers very quickly. In many cases the quantities are very limited so they require even quicker action and more planning than a standard hot market but the results can be great for you.

Here is a quick example: Thursday, Feb 13th Mitchell & Ness released a Michael Jordan 1988-1989 All-Star Hardwood Classics Authentic Vintage Jersey. When it comes to throwback jerseys and recreations of old jerseys Mitchell & Ness is the best in the business. Add in the fact that Michael Jordan is the best to ever play the game and the design of the jersey is a great, clean design and you had all the makings of a very popular item. To up the ante even more this was an item that was only available for sale by a couple merchants including NBAStore.com which we run. There was only a limited number of these jerseys available so you had the scarcity factor playing into everything. All in all this was a great opportunity for some affiliates to capitalize and make some good commissions. The price on the jersey was $249.95 so you are looking at a $25 commission per jersey which can add up very quickly.

Mitchell & Ness Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls 1988-89 All-Star Hardwood Classics Authentic Vintage Jersey

Mitchell & Ness Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls 1988-89 All-Star Hardwood Classics Authentic Vintage Jersey

Some other examples are the All Star collection shoes that were for sale on NBAStore.com which sold out within a few hours. We also had a Jordan Retro shoe which had very, very limited quantities and those sold out in a matter of minutes. After the Super Bowl we had some Pro-Line Authentic helmets autographed by Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson that sell for $750 which have been great sellers.

So how can you, as an affiliate, capitalize on these product specific hot markets?

1. Stay in touch with us – Sometimes we don’t have a lot of lead time on products like this so drop us an email every so often and see if we have any info we can pass on.

2. Find opportunities that are relevant – Not all these products will be good fits for your site. If you have a blog about hockey players from Finland and you see a new Jordan jersey hit the market it probably won’t be a good seller. But some autographed pucks from the victory over Russia? Those would do very well for you. And no, I don’t expect us to get any pucks like that. It was just an example.

3. Act quickly. Very quickly – For some of these products we have a very limited quantity. With some of those shoes I mentioned earlier we only had about 48 pairs to sell. There were a limited number of the Jordan jerseys. If you want to capitalize on these you need to be ready to act when they go live. Honestly you should have most of the work done ahead of time so all you have to do is publish a post or drop some links into existing content.

4. Push it HARD – Using a shoe launch for an example, if you have a sneaker site and the shoes go live blast it out to your Facebook page, drop a tweet, and send an email to your list. Let your readers know they need to act quickly as well. Many times there will only be a window of an hour or less to make sales for these products so don’t wait.

5. Prep your audience – If you know a specific product will be released at a specific time prep your audience ahead of time and let them know they need to come back to your site at 9:00 AM on March 10th or whatever to buy it. Tell them they need to act quickly because quantities are limited and if they wait they could miss out.

Take a look at your audience and traffic and come up with some ideas of hot market products that might resonate well with them. Each target audience will be different, each league and team will be different. There is no one-size fits all approach but if you take the time to plan there are some great opportunities to make some good commissions focusing on hot market products. If you have any questions please drop us an email or give us a call. We will do our best to pass on as much information as we can and help you plan to make the most out of these opportunities.

Affiliate Domain Selection – Think Twice Before Registering Player Name Domains

The path to easy affiliate money seems so clear.  Just watch the college and prep sports rankings to identify future stars, jump into GoDaddy (or your domain registrar of choice) and lock up that “PlayerName.com” domain.  Once that player gets drafted into their  professional league , you throw up a quick data feed powered site featuring their gear and you are on your way to affiliate earnings right?  Not so fast.   Do you have permission from the player to use their name for your own profit seeking ventures?  If so, is it in writing?  If not, you really don’t have permission.  Have you licensed it’s use?

Just like using a trademarked team name, league name, team mascot name, or event name (think The Super Bowl, the Final 4, March Madness, etc) using the name of a player in a domain for your own profit without their permission is risky at best and illegal at worst.    Take a look at what happened to the owner of AdrianPetersonOnline.com -

Independant Abitrator rules against owner of AdrianPetersonOnline.com and seizes domain

Avoid having your name on one of these with some research and planning.

Adrian Peterson took the domain owner to binding arbitration and had the domain seized and cancelled for “bad faith” use of the domain to sell “unauthorized merchandise.”

Call me old fashioned, but to me it makes a lot more sense to have a domain strategy that is a little more vague and focused on the exact match when it comes to trademarked names.  If I’m going to invest money in a domain, hosting and building a site, I’d like to know that what I have built can’t be quickly and easily taken away because I didn’t do my homework and exercise some common sense.  It is 100% possible to choose a smart domain that doesn’t infringe on someone’s name or trademarks, and SEO that site using the content on the site.    It’s funny how people who get cracked for this are usually getting to a point where they are driving some interesting revenue from their project when the legal letter arrives.    The bottom line is this: the teams, leagues, the players and their representatives, and their unions are getting more savvy and more moves are being made by the players themselves to get online and make money using their names.    When they see someone else doing this without permission, they are going to take action, and when they do, they are likely to seize the offending site, and if any revenue has been generated through use of the name, they will ask for that as well.

The next time you have a “great” idea for a domain, do yourself a favor and at least consult with the TESS  or send some business to an attorney with experience in Internet Law and Trademarks for some good advice.   Some research and planning up front can save you a ton of wasted time, effort and lost revenue down the road.

Please note – as a policy moving forward the Fanatics affiliate program will not be accepting applications from domains using the full name or trademarked nickname of a player, team, league, mascot, or event.

Infographic – The Anatomy of Content Marketing

The anatomy of content marketing - the heart of online success

I’ve been talking a lot about content and the necessity of using providing real content to actual users to get your SEO rolling or get you out of the Panda dog-house with Google.  Turns out, there is way more impact to having a solid promotional strategy using compelling content than just SEO.  Compelling content and Social Proof can actually help drive purchasing decisions as well.  As an affiliate, this should be the business that you are in as well.   To give yourself the best chance of affiliate success, you need to dedicate yourself to providing content that wins you the trust of readers, convinces them to share your content with others, and persuades them to click your affiliate links.

 

Can Product Descriptions in Datafeeds Be Considered Duplicate Content? Ask Matt Cutts.

Over the last week or so I have been blogging quite a bit about the need to contribute your own unique content to make sure that you give yourself the best possible chance of getting free SEO based traffic from Google.  My contention was that since Fanatics already ranks for the content that we make available in the feed, simply building sites based 100% on our feed content was not a long term solution for affiliate success.   In this video Matt Cutts from the Google Spam Team addresses a question from a user on whether Google considers descriptions from datafeeds to be duplicate content.

The short answer is “yes.”   The bottom line is that if you are using the product descriptions in the feeds as is, there maybe hundreds of other affiliates who are already using this content.

The solution?  Write your own unique content to differentiate yourself and give yourself the chance to rank highly for the terms you consider important.

Build an affiliate business by adding value for your audience

I look at a bunch of affiliate sites every day, some great, some good, some “meh” and some terrible.  I also take a number of questions from affiliates daily looking for tips on how they can improve their performance.    Sometimes, I give some specific suggestions like what type of link to use, where to place it or how to identify a niche market.      When I really think about the affiliates who are successful regardless of the marketing technique they use to drive their traffic to their links, they have a common trait.  They provide value to the end user (customer) in some way to help drive them in the direction of the sale.   Some might ask why it matters – but I think that this piece is really the crux of affiliate marketing.

With a little bit of work, anyone can slap up a site with some banners, or figure out how to use Make A Page or PopShops to put up a storefront.   With all of the tools out there at your disposal, it’s become really easy to do.   I’m here to tell you that this is where the work BEGINS, not where it ends.   What will allow you to build a BUSINESS and not just an affiliate site is your willingness to add value for your site visitors.  What are their interests? What are the problems they are looking to solve? What could you provide that would bring them back to your marketing platform day after day and give you a trusted position with them to be able to make shopping suggestions.

Here’s what I like in terms of a “marketing platform”  – a wordpress blog (hosted on your own domain) a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and an aWeber (email marketing program) account is a good place to start.

Do you need to write the content yourself?  No, but your content needs to be unique and it needs to be good.  It can be informative, it can be funny, it can be controversial – but it needs to be unique and compelling.    Invite some quest bloggers, hire your sports junkie friends, hire a college writing / journalism student, but come up with some compelling content.    Content will translate into a couple of things: traffic if it indexes well with Google, and engagement when readers decide that you put good stuff out there and bookmark you, or better yet, use the sharing plugins you make available and share your post on Twitter, Facebook or Stumbleupon.  If you provide consistent high quality content, it’s also going to build trust and trust is key in affiliate marketing.   If your audience enjoys what you give them in terms of content, when you put an offer in front of them, they are more likely to support you by buying what you are selling.

Do you need a social media presence?  In a word – Yes.   It’s a connected world and connecting to your audience via a Facebook Page and Twitter will give you a couple of benefits.  It gives you another way to connect with them, it gives you a way to interact together, and it gives your audience an easy way to promote you.  Build yourself a Facebook page,  integrate Facebook Comments into your blog to allow for cross pollination, and set up a Twitter account.   Please remember – Social Media is about conversation – it’s give and take – not “beat them over the head with my marketing message until they buy. “  If all you do on your FB page is promote offers, you won’t get much out of it.  If you share content, ask questions, start conversations and connect with your audience, they’ll trust you and take you up on offers when you push them.   You should look to have a lot more legit content than offer pushing going on – at least 5-1.

I’ll get into more depth on Twitter later as it’s a post all it’s own.

On to aWeber – why email?  Because you want to build a database that you can share content with and market to in the future.   aWeber is cheap and they get the mail delivered and give you all the tools you need to build a nice newsletter and keep your lists current while handling all of your subscribes, double opt-ins, and unsubscribes for you.   Build a list by encouraging people to follow you special content, or access to special offers, run contents and promotions that can be entered via the newsletter.

You’re probably thinking to yourself “wait a minute, this isn’t easy or fast!”  You’re right.  It takes work.  The people who are successful in affiliate marketing long term are people who found a way to deliver value to shoppers and do it better than most.  They came up with the best writers, they started and encouraged the best conversations, they built the best platform for delivering the coupons everyone wanted, they developed a strategy for delivering traffic through paid search more affordably and efficiently than the other guy, they wrote better ad copy than the other guy.   They tried things and they failed over and over again, but they kept trying until they got a system dialed in, then they expanded and brought on more resources.   It’s not easy, but if you commit to the long haul, and focus on adding value to your shopper, you can be a success with affiliate marketing.

For some awesome resources on how to build an affiliate marketing business, please check out www.extramoneyanswer.com or www.affiliateabcs.com

More to come….

Fanatics Affiliate Podcast – Spotlight on Trademarks

Brian Benenhaley of the Internet Law Center shares advice on Trademarks and Sports Marketing

Attorney Brian Benenhaley of InternetLawCenter.net

The issue of trademarks and trademark infringement is a really big one when it comes to working with Fanatics as an affiliate. As an affiliate, everything you are taught tells you to go after exact match domains if you want to get top natural search positioning, but sticking to this rule can lead to some pitfalls. Here’s what I mean: you decide that a great market exists for Atlanta Braves merchandise, so you go out on GoDaddy and find that “AtlantaBravesTeamStore.com” is available so you register it and build out an affiliate site. You get quick pick up in Google and start seeing traffic and sales come in. Life is great right? You can just keep on printing money and maybe replicate the model to include some other teams. The one of two things happens that brings your strategy to a grinding halt.

In the best case scenario, I contact you and let you know that we’ll need to have you switch the domain on the site(s) you’ve built or we’ll be terminate your affiliate account.

In the worst case scenario, you get a letter from a lawyer for the team, league or vendor who owns the trademark that you have used in your domain. They’d like you to immediately cease and desist using their mark (shut down your site) and they’d like to collect damages from the unauthorized use of their trademark.

The best way to avoid issues like this is to avoid the trademarked terms. This includes avoiding using full team names (Los Angeles Dodgers, San Fransisco 49ers), league names ( NFL, NBA, MLB ) and trademarks (Super Bowl, March Madness, Final Four,) and conference names (SEC, PAC 12, etc) in your domains unless you have a license to use it.

We’re in a tough position as a licensed reseller of team and league merchandise as we are required by our agreements to protect the trademark, so if there is an issue pitting the licensor (league, team, etc) with a trademark vs an affiliate, we’re going to side with the licensor every time.

Enjoy the webinar that Brian and I recorded all of these issues.  For legal advice as it pertains to your business, please contact your attorney or get in touch with Brian or Bennet Kelley at InternetLawCenter.net

Do yourself a favor – build a site on your own domain.

I’m a little disconcerted at a lot of the affiliate applications we’ve been seeing over the last few weeks and I wanted to weigh in on what I am seeing in hopes that it will steer some people in the right direction.    A log of the sites listed have been coming from addresses like name.cheapbadsitehost.com or have been pre-fabricated sites sold by scam artists promising awesome results using their system which includes a cheap looking and horribly branded site.   Let me break something to you:  If you want to be successful both in the short and long term in this business, you need to be able to put together your own site (or blog) on your own domain.

It’s really not as hard as you think to do this thanks to the advent of WordPress and single click install that is being offered by many, if not most webhosts now.   I hear the objections already- “That costs money,” “I don’t know any HTML – I don’t know how to build a website,”  or “I’m not sure if this will work, so I don’t want to invest any money.”  If any of these responses are coming from you,  please give some thought to whether this path is one you really want to pursue.  Being successful is not quick or easy most of the time.

What does it cost to set up a hosting account and buy a domain?   I’ve seen hosting accounts that offer all you need ranging from $3.75 -$14.00 per month for site hosting and domains should only run you about $10

Why do you need a domain of your own?  Without a domain of your own, two important groups of people will find it hard to take you seriously; affiliate managers and customers.   I run with a group of very experienced affiliate managers and we have discussed this issue quite a bit amongst ourselves.   When we get applications from affiliates without a site of their own, it gets rejected almost 100% of the time.

Why?  Because a key to getting a potential customer to click your link to come to our merchant site is earning the trust of the shopper so they will do what you recommend.   If you are relying on a cookie cutter site that you picked up from some huckster, or if you are using a site like wadet.earnbigcommissions.com , you are dead in the water at earning the trust of anyone other than friends or family.  If you own your domain, and pick a solid, professional domain that appeals to your audience, you are on your way to building trust with the audience and building a brand.

Why WordPress ? – because WordPress is a really effective and flexible Content Management System that pretty much anyone can figure out.  If you have mastered Microsoft Word – you are pretty much going to be able to rock a WordPress powered site or blog.    Using a tool like WordPress makes it possible for you to set up and update your own marketing sites, without having to pay a webmaster to do it for you.  Here’s the coolest part:   you don’t need to be a designer to come up with a cool looking site using WordPress.  By using Themes that other people have built and published to the WordPress Community – you can easily find and apply a great look that will look professional and inspire trust in your audience in no time at all.   You can also change these at will if you find something you like better.

WordPress also offers another cool feature that will help you out in building your affiliate business.  Got something special that you’d like your site to offer your visitors?  Chances are someone has built a “Plugin” that does it and you can install and offer these to your audience instantly.  Plugins can be used to do everything from making it possible for visitors to promote your site via Social Media, display banners and even build storefronts using products from merchants like Fanatics – all with little or no programming ability required.

Will it take you some time?  Yes

Does it require some commitment? Yes

Is it for everyone? No

I will tell you though – there is no feeling like building something on your own that is YOURS, then seeing your first sale made and first commission check roll in.  If you follow my advice and take advantage of some of the resources I mention below, you’ll be on your way to making some extra money as an affiliate – who knows with some dedication and hard work, you may be able to support your family on affiliate revenue like some of my friends do.  They all started in your place.

Good Luck!

Resources:

Weblog Tools Collection

Blogging ABC’s

Affiliate ABC’s

Extra Money Answer by Shawn Collins

Fanatics Affiliates on Facebook

Affiliate Summit Forum

Teaching Moment – Banner Farms

There are a ton of different ways to use your site to promote affiliate offers. I’d like to quickly touch on a type of site that I’d love to see abandoned because they don’t generate results for affiliates or merchants. Meet the “banner farm:”

How not to promote affiliate offers - snapshot of a "banner farm site"

A "Banner Farm" - not your ticket to success

 

There are a ton of reasons not to set up banner farm – first and foremost – they don’t work.  Why not?  Here’s a few reasons.

  • They have no content – just images.  No content = no chance for search traffic
  • They are visually confusing to the shopper – if you post 100 banners on a page on your site, assuming a user gets there, do you expect them to have the patience to scan your stack of pictures to find the right offer for them?
  • Building banners farms virtually assures that any well managed program that manually reviews it’s affiliate applications will decline your application
  • The deliver NO VALUE to anyone.

What to do instead?

Find a way to deliver some useful content to your end user and include in line text links and appropriate ads arranged around your content.

I’ll go into this more in future posts.