Monthly Archives: August 2009

How to make criticism work for you

So, out of the blue, this guy contacts me, saying he would help me out getting one of my sites in better shape. My initial reaction? WTF. Are you trying to tell me that my site isn’t good the way it is now? Are you saying I did a shit job at it? Its making me over $3000 per month on semi auto-pilot. I don’t see anything wrong with it.

Aaah, but then I started thinking. If someone is offering you a helping hand, you shouldn’t think that way. Instead, you should think of the fact that they are looking at your site from a different angle. They have a fresh set of eyes, and they don’t expect the same from your site as you do.

Customer Visitor is king.

So, going forward, one of the suggestions he made was that I should transfer a lot of the static stuff, like images, plugins, and CSS to an external service (Amazon cloudfront). Basically I had been toying with the idea for some time now, since my server kept getting hammered by huge (1.4 million pageviews!) amounts of traffic (It’s quite a popular video site I’m talking about), and I really didn’t want to fork out yet another $100 for a new upgrade. I have already gone through 4 upgrades in the last 4 months. Currently the server is running on a 2.4Ghz Quadcore CPU, 8GB RAM and a 100Mbps line. Even with the WP-super-cache plugin, the server was still slowing down to the point where I was losing visitors.

So now Amazon is hosting all of the site’s heavy files, and basically all the server is running is PHP, Apache, and MySQL. In theory this should take a huge strain off the server, and my visitors will experience faster loading times.

Don’t get offended and start attacking right off the bat when someone criticizes you or your product – it is much better to hear them out and take any suggestions they have on-board. In the end it all comes down to giving people what they want if you want to make money online. Basically you’re getting free feedback which allows you to improve and become better.

*If you want to know a little more about Cloud Front, Paul Stamatiou has written a review and how-to about it.

Why RSS really is only good for two things.

A friend of mine just asked me how many RSS subscribers I had on this blog. Instead of answering him right away, I told him I couldn’t care less, and why he shouldn’t either…

An RSS feed is a great tool to help you spread your content online. You can have your latest posts linked all over the place since there are tons of sites that allow you to add your feed address. (Someone already went to the trouble to compile a list for you – Blog Directories & RSS Feed Directories).

So that was the first good thing about RSS.

Reading RSS feeds through an RSS-reader saves me so much time. I wake up, log in, scan post titles, and select a few posts to read. All in all I don’t spend more than 30 minutes a day on this. So much better than having to go to each and every blog that is in my bookmarks.

That was the second great thing about RSS

So here’s why I don’t care about how many RSS readers my blog has:

  • People that read a blog in their RSS readers don’t actually read my stuff half of the time. They scan and skip.
  • People that read a blog in their RSS readers don’t see any ads I have on my site. Advertisers don’t get enough ROI and stop advertising.
  • People that read a blog in their RSS readers hardly ever feel the need to engage in the comments. They read your post and move on. WFC about commentators, right?
  • People that read a blog in their RSS reader do not contribute to your pageview statistics, making it harder for you to sell space to advertisers at a good price.
  • Some people canwill steal and copy your content. They are called scrapers, and we all hate them. They don’t care.

So, having said that, there is one huge advantage having a large number of subscribers – Social Proof. It will definitely give you an established and authoritative image. If new visitors see that you’ve got the attention of thousands of other people, chances are that they will come back again. This is excellent, until they too start reading you in a RSS reader.

Yes, you could argue with me and tell me that an RSS subscriber is great if they read you through an email subscription instead of a reader. I agree, but list building is an entirely different topic.

To end this post on a more positive note; Don’t worry too much about all of this. I found this graph on mashable.com (Google Images actually). It looks like there aren’t a lot of ‘normal‘* people that use RSS. Most RSS users are Internet savvy people. Most likely yourselves, affiliate marketers, designers, programmers and developers.

*Disclaimer – By normal people I mean Joe the plumber. People that will actually buy your stuff. Trying to sell something to an affiliate marketer is like…well like selling something to an affiliate marketer! Oh, and I would just like to say hi to my 16 RSS subscribers. Hi guys!

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Hiding Affiliate Links? You’re Doing It Wrong.

Here’s a joke for you. Affiliate marketer X is browsing the Internet and finds a product review on your site. X loves it and wants to go and buy it. You, being the cunning affiliate marketer that you are, have very cleverly disguised you affiliate link, so that there is no other way for X but to click on your link to find the affiliate product page. Of course, X too is a cunning affiliate marketer, and figures that he’d rather get a nice discount on the product by copy and pasting his own affiliate link, instead of bringing referral money into your pocket. That’s right, X can easily do this and in the end, the joke’s on you!

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Lets go over this scenario, and this time we’ll take it a little slower, so we can see where we can prevent the affiliate link hijacking.

You have signed up with an affiliate network, and are actively promoting their products. Every one of these networks provides you with your very own affiliate link. These can come in various shapes and sizes, but the general idea is that they stick a little more link after the main URL. (example – http://diythemes.com/?a_aid=mmm) As easy this is for you to copy and paste, as easy it is for X to copy, edit the part after the main URL, paste, and profit.

You affiliate link has just been hi-jacked, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Was this naughty? Yes. Does anyone besides you care? No.

Ok, so you’ve done a bit of research, and you’ve figured out how to ‘trick’ people, by cleverly disguising your affiliate link. The most common methods used today are:

Option 1. You’re so lazy that you figure a URL redirect service will fix your problem. You hit up tinyurl.com or bit.ly, create a nice short URL, and use this. Too bad we can all smell this affiliate link from a mile away.

Option 2. You create a php, or html, redirect file. Your affiliate link now looks like this: http://www.yourblog.com/go/affiliateproduct.php or http://www.yourblog.com/affiliateproductname/. Clever! I bet nobody has you figured out yet! Oh wait, they click the link, find the real URL, either open up a different browser, clear cookies, or just create their own affiliate link to overwrite your cookie, and that’s that. You just missed out on another sale, and X got a discount.

Option 3. Ok, so you’re a bit smarter by now, and you know how to work your .htaccess file and you insert a rewrite rule. You’re so leet! Too bad X will still do the same thing to you like he did in option 2. You’re just not making any sales are you?

Right, I think those three will apply to the majority of you guys. Raise your hand and leave a comment if you do it differently.

Now, here’s how I like to do it.

Let’s take DIYthemes as an example again. Those guys sell the Thesis WordPress theme, developed by Chris Pearson and Brian Clark. It is by far one of the most popular WP themes out there, and because of it’s fantastic quality, a lot of people will buy this. Lucky for us affiliate marketers – They do an affiliate program.

I bought the theme and am using it on my personal blog. I love it, its awesome, and it just works. So when I saw the affiliate program, I was more than happy to promote Thesis, knowing that 99.9% of the buyers would be satisfied with the theme (I believe that you should never promote a product you don’t like, or believe in). Now because I have been through options 1-3 myself, I knew there had to be a different way of doing this. There are certain wordpress plugins that help you cloak your affiliate links, but they usually cost a fair bit, and they essentially still do the same as options 1-3.

If I want to promote a good affiliate product, I go looking for a suitable domain. Something that has the product name in it, and whatever keywords you think would help. All I do then is create an index.php file for the root folder, and add this little bit of code:

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All this does is bring up the original affiliate product website in a frame. The beauty of this method is –
A: You can be sure that the affiliate product owner has put in a lot of effort in order to optimize their page for sales. They will make the sale for you.
B: In the browser address bar, the domain you bought will show up. There won’t be any added bits and pieces after the link, it just shows up as an absolute URL.

Because it looks like there is no affiliate link whatsoever, your odds of actually getting the sale have just increased drastically. Obviously X could still figure out this is an affiliate link by looking at the page source, but since there’s nothing to flag him, he won’t even think about checking it.