7 Ways to Add Real Value as an Affiliate
Posted by Charles on March 5th, 2013
Around 6 months ago at the beginning of December 2009 Google began banning AdWords advertisers – 30,000 of them - many of which had poor quality bridge pages, adding no value to the user.
It’s clearer than ever before that Google wants affiliates to add real value. Not simply a rehash of a merchant’s site or a basic mini-site with general ezine-style articles and numerous links out to the products you’re promoting.
These days you have to build real value into your affiliate sites, and whilst it does take effort the end result is that you have a sustainable business on AdWords and a site that’s far more capable of attracting incoming links and succeeding in the organic listings.
Here are 7 ways of adding real value to your affiliate sites:
1) Online Tools – developing a set of useful tools.
There’s no doubt that certain niches are more suited to this approach than others. The field of online marketing is ideal for this strategy – take Aaron Wall’s SEO Tools or a site such as Mike’s Marketing Tools - an affiliate site which is exclusively about tools, many developed in-house.
However, there are still many opportunities in other niches to design innovative tools which will attract links and add real value as an affiliate. Mint has an excellent tool for selecting credit cards. Real Estate affiliates could develop a real-time house price guide tool or one for rental prices. Or if you have a business start-up site you could develop a questionnaire to evaluate if people are ready to start a business.
2) Price Comparison – providing users with the lowest price.
I hesitated before putting in price comparison as one of the value-add techniques as sometimes these days it isn’t enough. Consider ways to add extra value beyond a simple price comparison table, features such as:
- Email alerts when price drops
- Graph showing the price trend over the past month
- Delivery information
- Display coupons and voucher codes
3) Searching – presenting new ways of searching for products.
One of the real advantages that affiliate sites have over retailers is the range of products that they can feature. One way to take advantage of this is by creating a new way of searching for products:
- Gift Finder – this is actually one of my sites. It’s a gift finder site, designed to help you find gifts based on occasion, recipient, theme, age or a combination of those. All the gifts have been categorized individually – quite a bit of work – but the outcome is a site which offers real value over the usual price comparison and review gift sites.
- PC Finder – this is a fairly simple example but the conceptis illustrated - allowing people to search for computers/laptops based on different criteria.This could easily be adjusted and built on for different niches.
- Premier Inn Hotel Finder – Premier Inn never used to display their hotels on a map, so this site offered real value over the merchant’s site, despite only featuring one merchant. Why not develop a similar site featuring all the discount hotel operators in the UK – Premier Inn, Holiday Inn and Travelodge? Or a backpacking hotel site in the US could work well… displaying all the hotels along specified routes.
4) Reviews – compiling reviews from customers.
Most review sites aren’t really review sites. They’re simply a collection of basic articles about a product with the option of allowing users to add comments or their own review. It doesn’t help an undecided buyer make up their mind and more often than not these kind of sites won’t pass a manual Google review.
To build a real review site you need to get your visitors involved. Consider offering incentives or competitions to generate reviews and purchase the product yourself so you can put together an in-depth ‘expert’ review, complete with pictures and reviews. Also accept photos and videos from customers.
Once you have quite a few reviews allow for them to be sorted – enabling sorting is estimated to have increased Amazon’s revenue by at least $2.7 billion a year. Once sorting is in place on an individual product level you can then introduce a site-wide search system, offering something that very few other sites will have.
In addition to reviews, you could always introduce a series of polls, asking your visitors which is their favourite brand based on reliability, performance, value and so on. It’s a way of developing real credibility as a site, something that Google is always looking out for.
5) News – being on the pulse or having insider knowledge.
Whatever you’re into you’ll know what site to visit to get the breaking news or the inside scoop on a latest story or product.
One of the oldest and best ways to add real value to your affiliate site is by having a source of information which no one else has, or simply being more passionate about a topic than others. It’s not an easy way to stand out though – I always prefer to avoid trying to use news updates as a way of differentiating my sites.
6) Community – building a community around your site.
This isn’t an easy route to go down to add real value. There are numerous examples on the web of abandoned forums, forums that simply never got going. I’d recommend developing an affiliate site which stands out using one of the other six methods, before developing a community once you have the traffic and recognition within your niche.
Take SEOBook.com – it was several years before the SEO Training Course was launched and had it been launched after 6 months or a year it may have never taken off in a big way.
Having said that I’ve heard very good things about Teaching Sells. It may well be worth signing up there (when the membership reopens) if you’re thinking of starting a community-focused or membership site.
7) Learning Centre – offering real support and advice.
Most affiliate sites focus exclusively on the products that they’re promoting. They’ll offer reviews, price comparison and maybe a useful tool to help you make a decision but more often than not that’s it. However, there’s a huge demand for after-sales support for many products, whether it’s installation instructions, troubleshooting guides, or information on how to upgrade your purchase.
Consider putting together detailed Tutorial and Learning Centre sections so that people have a reason to return after purchasing a product.
Find out more about how to add real value as an affiliate with this excellent article about AdWords & Affiliates in 2010.