Seasonality in Affiliate Marketing

The issue of Seasonality in Affiliate Marketing…

…was brought up in an affiliate marketing forum. I began typing a response there but soon realized it might do more good here. (Why give content to another company, eh?)

A long time ago when I first started in affiliate marketing (circa 1999) I built two “destination” websites, specifically in Baltimore and Ocean City, MD. I sold a few guide books through Barnes & Noble that first year and added hotel reservations in 2000. Those sites grew in interest so I then built a couple of “national” sites and brought a few more city “destinations” online. Hotel reservations, especially in summer-tourism areas are, by nature, very seasonal. That’s when the AOV (Average Order Value)is highest because of higher summer rates and more multiple-night bookings. Over the years I have worked with most of the larger online hotels merchants but today find that Expedia.com, Hotels.com and Priceline.com fill the needs of site visitors quite well.

I made some serious cash back in the day but mostly in the summer – and wanted something to carry weight in the fall, winter and spring. I joined the ShareASale Network and picked up a couple of merchants – for some very niche domains I had acquired in those early years. However, being a one-man shop, I knew I didn’t want to take the time to focus on the fourth-quarter crush of holiday sales. I wanted something that might work on a year-’round basis.

Personal Checks at Girly ChecksThe folks good folks at ShareASale suggested I get involved at ABestWeb, which I did – rather extensively. ABW was, at the time, the best place to interact with real folks in the Affiliate Marketing Industry. I attended my first Affiliate Summit in Miami in July of 2007 to further expand my horizons. I found it was very rewarding, personally and professionally, to meet – face to face – many of the people whom I first met on ABW (most of whom, unfortunately, no longer interact there). I also made some new “friends” in the business – some of whom have become personal friends. One of those was Kim (Rogers) Salvino – who introduced me to checks. I told her, “I have a beach site, I can’t sell checks.” She said they have beach checks. In fact, “We have a check for everyone!” was one of her responses. She also offered to have  one of her graphics people create a page for my main beach site. (How’s that for service from a company recruiting affiliates?)

Business ChecksWhen I got home from ASE’07 I did explore the viability of selling checks. I installed the two pages of beach checks provided by Kim and the good folks at 4Checks.com – and never looked back. Today I still do hospitality (hotels) and checks – a LOT of checks. The “seasonality” with checks is that the strongest quarter is, by far, the first quarter. So, between hotels and checks, I had good sales during the summer and winter seasons. The other, focused niche domain, sites are sporadic but do help fill in the rest of the year. For example, I have a strong education domain, from which I sell school supplies. There is a surge for school supplies in the late spring and early fall.

But now I plan to – semi-retire. So I am refocusing and trimming out the “slow stuff” – to focus mainly on checks and my two original hotel/city destinations. I still interact with a several of the folks I met over the years, at ABW and at Affiliate Summits. Today, however, we mostly interact via email, social media (closed groups on Facebook) and phone. That way we don’t have to put up with all the newbie/spammer/scammer “noise” of a forum that is more concerned about post count and ad sales than developing (or RE-developing) a real community of affiliate marketers.

That early start with 4Checks.com got us a great foothold into the checks vertical but they are no longer on our “best merchants” list. We do promote for nearly all of the larger online checks merchants but find Checks-Superstore.com and CheckAdvantage.com to be the most responsive in meeting the needs of affiliates.

Retirement, or semi-retirement, will bring about additional seasonality issues. I can foresee having to deal with  summers at the beach in Delaware and winters cruising the Caribbean. 🙂

The Penguin Turns Three Years Old

April 24th, 2012 saw the birth of “The Penguin.”

A colleague just posted on Facebook that today (4/24/15) is the third anniversary of Google’s “Penguin” Algorithm update. That update began to change the scope of search results – weeding out poor quality and/or redundant sites – to make the results better for people looking for content on the internet. It was meant to level the playing field among people and companies marketing on the Internet.Penguin Udate

Many affiliate marketers complained because “Penguin” negatively affected traffic to their websites. But maybe there were problems with their websites – such as poor content, copied content, a rehash of products offered by an actual merchant in hopes of gaining affiliate commissions, or whatever.  Overall it was a good thing – good for the consumer/end user – and good for us. It was good for us because we never tried to duplicate someone else’s efforts and our websites offer unique content and/or merchants’ products with an “added value” component.

The next major step will be to clean up the myriad ads that blur the real content/results whenever someone searches. Some people/merchants are “cheating” by masquerading and duplicating sites from the same company – to get around the Search Engine Terms of Service which (supposedly) allow only one company per search result. For true variety and relevance to the end user that needs to be enforced. I believe it will – eventually. Google and Bing/Yahoo need to produce truly relevant results for the public or they will lose market share to “other” entities. Can anyone say “Facebook search?”

Continue to photograph against white backgrounds.

The tile of an article over at the The American Genius (entrpreneurs’ news beat) website has created a stir on (at least) one professional marketing forum and on several Facebook Walls. It reads, “Amazon wins patent for taking photos against a white background. What!?” (That’s just the first of many articles I saw – because this is causing quite a “stir” among photographers and photography blogs.)

Outrageous as that seems – it’s not all that outrageous. The “patent” (March 18, 2014) is for the specific studio setup they use to produce those pictures. Unless one copies that “Studio Arrangement” precisely I doubt there can be a claim of patent infringement. Don’t believe me, though. Read it for yourself: United States Patent: 8676045 cookie photographed on white background.

Here’s a chocolate cookie with a white background. Is this an example of infringing on that patent? Can you tell (or even guess) the “studio arrangement” I used in photographing that cookie? Can you tell how many lights I used? Or, how about the f-stop, shutter speed and/or ISO sensitivity?***

Said patent acknowledges that photography against a white background is prior art: “Prior art solutions for achieving such a result…” It then goes on to state that nearly all of those techniques also require some amount post-processing. The specifically patented “Amazon” technique allows photos to be used directly in product illustration without any need for (the expense of) post-processing.

The author of that piece used her Masters Degree in English to create an effective “Link Bait” title for an article where the facts are inherently flawed. Another example of “sensational” journalism is basically what I see.  The title of the article is not accurate! It is inept and misleading journalism – whether intentional (link bait) or not, I cannot judge. There are many more examples of “sensationalistic” journalism around the interwebs. For example:

  •  – Taking a photo against a white background? Amazon owns the patent on that (qz.com)
  •  – You Can Close The Studio, Amazon Patents Photographing On Seamless White  (DIY Photography)

One thing these articles all have in common is an outrage against this (seeming) injustice of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). What they do not express is outrage against distorted journalism – which is sad. While there are many (far too many) claims of stupid (for want of a better term) trademarks and patents being granted, this was a poor example to use in the “cause” of enacting reform.

If the need arises, I will continue to photograph against a white background, as in the example above. My personal preference, however it to photograph against black, as in this example of a Christmas Cactus in bloom.Christmas cactus bloom on black background

***Ask in the comments and I’ll explain exactly how I shot that cookie to anyone interested.