This article continues the discussion launched with the New Year concerning our new focus at CCB Buzz, monetization, and migration. Previously I had written about our transition from strictly a branding blog to the new focus of “Personal Development For Entrepreneurs” in my article entitled “Happy New Year!”. The discussion had continued with our decision to monetize our blog and the driving force behind that decision and the introduction of Google AdSense as one means of monetization in the “To Monetize Or Not To Monetize?” article. The series continued with “Monetize With Donations” which focused on the topic of donations and introduced the subject of affiliate marketing and affiliate programs. Today I will further elaborate on affiliate programs, which are a form of affiliate marketing, and our results with such programs.
The third stream of income that we are using for our blog are affiliate programs. Affiliate programs are a form of affiliate marketing which I find to be our most exciting stream of income as it is our chance to unofficially partner with companies who’s products or services that we use ourselves – it is in essence our opportunity to connect with our favorite brands and in turn showcase those brands to our readers. At CCB Buzz, our goal is to not only use affiliate programs for monetary gain, but as a means to promote our favorite businesses.
There are a couple of strict criteria that we use for our affiliate programs:
1. Brand Use. First and foremost both Amy and I must use the brand who’s affiliate program we are promoting. You will not see an affiliate program for a brand that we do not use ourselves.
2. Brand Consistency. The advertised brand must be consistent with our brand as both Cape Cod Branding and CCB Buzz.
Regardless of potential income we have made a firm commitment that if we do not use a brand and if it is not consistent with our overall brand we will not join and therefore advertise an affiliate program. So this sounds pretty simple – right? As long as we use a brand and it is consistent with our overall image, we should be all set – just request an affiliate, place them on our site, and we are ready to go. Not so much, there are some criteria set forth by the affiliates themselves that I will discuss.
Here at CCB our tastes tend to be picky and as a result our brands exclusive. As mentioned in our Consistency and Exclusivity article three of our favorite brands are Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Starbucks; that being said this is a logical starting point so we will begin there. We applied for affiliation with all three and had mixed results. Apple was fairly straightforward, we applied for affiliation and we were subsequently accepted in short order. At the time of the writing of this article you will notice the implemented advertisements in the sidebar. This was our first affiliate application with whom we hold in high esteem as a brand and company, which were accepted fairly quickly, so we had high hopes for the remainder of our affiliation applications.
The next application for affiliation was Barnes and Noble. Unfortunately at the time of this article we were declined for affiliation for one of the following reasons:
1. Inability to access web site
2. Web site not yet live
3. Traffic levels too low
4. Inappropriate material on site
This response is not particular to Barnes and Noble and is typical of a non-acceptance message from a potential affiliate vendor. Generally a particular reason is not given, just a number of reasons and it is really up to you to figure out the area you need to improve prior to resubmitting. Looking more closely we can rule out items one and two, “inability to access web site”, and “web site not yet live” as at the time of application our website was accessible and therefore live. We may also rule out the fourth option, or “inappropriate material on site” as we deem our material, as I am sure that most others would agree, as appropriate – however admittedly the term “inappropriate” is highly subjective and open to interpretation.
My assumption is that the third option is the overriding reason, “traffic levels too low”; which is in fact reasonable and that we are only at month two of our blog launching. Add to the situation that our stat counter reset with the migration to our personal server on January 1, 2009 and this becomes even more feasible. I actually find this aspect to be very exciting as it sets a bar to cross and denotes a certain level of exclusivity. In the past I have found that if something is all inclusive, it somehow loses it’s appeal – I find this the same for a brand, or in this case an affiliate program. The only real point of frustration is not knowing the actual number, or height of the bar I need to cross, which is really just going to take a bit of trial and error as we go along.
Being turned down for an affiliate program gives me something to work towards. My plan is to continually resubmit applications until we are accepted. The next milestone will be at 10,000 visitors, and subsequently at 100,000 if necessary – please note these are internally set by us here at CCB, mainly as a means of controlling the application process and achieving measurable results. I view this as being akin to climbing the social ladder in the online world. What you focus on expands, so if I focus enough energy on increasing web traffic, we will be accepted to the program; and because traffic = money, it is a win-win for all involved.
At the time of this writing, Starbucks does not have an affiliate program, or at least one we are aware of. We will continue to monitor this, and once it is available, apply for membership at that time. In the meantime we will have to be satisfied with the Facebook and Twitter presence maintained by Starbucks on these social networking tools. Next let’s discuss our overall results with affiliate programs.
As previously mentioned we are picky here at CCB. Of a potential list of 615 possible affiliate partners we only applied to five, two of which turned us down for membership, and another two are pending approval. At this point our next targeted partners are The New York Times and American Express as I have referenced the Times on a number of occasions and we are aspiring black card holders. It is expected that this list will change and evolve over time with our tastes and overall business strategy.
Rate of return for affiliate programs range from 5% to 50%, the brands we are chose to partner with range in the 5% to 6% bracket. Again, we are looking to balance profitability, taste, and content – only pass on to our readers what we would in fact endorse regardless of potential profit. As we change and evolve and our affiliate program progresses we will keep you posted on this blog on how things transpire.
To Be Continued…
The next article will conclude the launch of our new direction and discuss the rationale behind migrating to our private server and why you should consider doing the same.
Affiliate programs are exciting and a method of showcasing your style!