June 1st, 2015 by Karen
Occasionally, I receive products for review or include advertising in my posts, but no one impacts the honesty of my opinion.
Through the 16 (holy crap) years that I’ve been involved with online marketing, I’ve seen a lot of changes. From the dot com bubble, the crash, the recovery, FTC guidelines, tax changes, you name it. The biggest thing though that I’ve seen affect affiliates and bloggers most recently is all the changes in search. You get everything somewhat dialed in and then BAM! You’re hit by whatever Google’s favorite black and white animal du jour happens to be. Yes, it gets rid of a lot of the riff raff, but all too often I see the baby thrown out with the bathwater.
While the only good defense I’ve seen against search algorithm updates is to write good, solid content and keep your nose clean, it’s never a bad idea to keep a steady eye on what your competition is doing as well. There have been many tools for this over the years, but many have fallen by the wayside and the good ol’ Google sandbox is just not what it used to be.
In talking with some other long-time industry friends, one mentioned SEMRush. Now, I’m always skeptical of new tools (The best! The greatest! Better than the competition! Seriously, get new copy.) but this one had me intrigued, mostly because of the data available. Those of you that know me well, know that I’m a data kinda girl and prefer cold, hard numbers to ‘gut feelings’.
You simply enter a domain (yours or a competitor’s) and the search returns a plethora of data points from organic keyword positions, advertising spend, and PLA research to display advertising information, but the best part in my opinion is the keyword research and backlinks sections. What to know what the going rate is for a keyword? No problem! How about who is showing up in organic results for a term? There’s a live updated, exportable list. You can even see backlinks, anchor text, keyword difficulty, indexed pages and so much more.
Best part is the tool has a free version as well as three levels of paid versions for those who need additional data points. The free version lets you do several searches before you have to register, but honestly the amount of data you can uncover is totally worth it. I was pleasantly surprised at just how much I was able to uncover in just a short amount of time and I’ll be looking to use it to improve several of my other sites. You should definitely check out the SEMRush tool and let me know what you think!
February 5th, 2015 by Karen
So I’ve started on a new business venture with a friend.
I’ve done this three times already and each time, not only was I personally disappointed, but it affected our family financially and broke my trust.
I’ve been understandably nervous about it, but this time, the pieces just seemed to fall into place. My strengths are their weakness and my weakness is their strength and of course neither of us can do any of what Joel does. It’s a good complimentary set of skills and I think it really helped that we eased into things over the past couple of months. It really set a lot of my fears to rest.
The entire new team attended a conference in January together and we received fantastic feedback and congratulations from friends and colleagues and I think that was the final shot in the arm. I’m super stoked about this upcoming year professionally and I’m actually excited about work every morning again.
Great way to start off the year!
May 7th, 2014 by Karen
Everyday, I work with a variety of website owners. Some are go getters, some are more laid back. Some know exactly what they want, some need a little hand holding. I do my best to work with them all equally. My job is to help when help is needed, offer support when necessary, and fuel enthusiasm always.
I do this by having a plan.
I have a Yearly plan. I have a Quarterly plan. I have a monthly plan. And every morning when I sit down at my desk, I make a daily plan.
Now, I’ve been doing my particular marketing job now for fifteen years, so I certainly wouldn’t expect someone who is just starting out to have the same level of planning that I require of myself. That being said, lack of planning is a major cause of critical failure of sites, businesses and entrepreneurs.
You cannot plan for your next market roll out if you don’t have credible numbers to back up your ‘gut feelings’.
You certainly can’t find where your customers are losing interest without taking a look at your analytics.
You will be hard pressed to make appropriate purchasing and pricing decisions if you haven’t made a cohesive budget plan.
You should not bitch out a qualified marketing person who’s efforts are actually driving you sales when you don’t even know how many sales you are making.
I know that anger is sometimes just the manifestation of fear, and in this particular case, fear of failure. I get that.
But screaming at me for an hour isn’t going make your business plan magically appear.
Only you can make your plan.
Thanks for helping me decide to update mine.
June 19th, 2013 by Karen
I’ve worked in the affiliate industry now for 14 years and it never ceases to amaze me when brands fail on the simplest of tasks: Affiliate Applications.
There is of course the litany of reasons of why a program should never be set to Auto-Approve, the chief of course being the Pandora’s Box of fraud you open up for yourself to deal with, but adding Auto-Declines to a program is also a negative move as well.
Excuse #1: We only sell in the US, so we decline international affiliates outright.
The sheer number of short sighted managers that take this tack is staggering and they are shooting themselves in the foot. I have a program that I manage that does accept international affiliates, however my top 8 international affiliates ALL have United States traffic. Their sites are in English, they target US audiences, and they abide by the merchant terms and conditions. Over the past year, they have driven $40,000 in sales. I’m thrilled to work with them.
Excuse #2: We only want to work with Super Affiliates and “insert useless network stat here” affiliates.
Just because an affiliate is an amazing producer for one program doesn’t necessarily translate to automatic success for a completely different niche. Also, while a mention by a big name affiliate is fantastic, it usually translates in a sales spike that peters out over a a couple of weeks. The small affiliates that send you consistent traffic every month and a dozen or two sales a year are your bread and butter. Also NEVER FORGET: every top affiliate was once a fledgling affiliate with no bars, stars, or commission checks. Be a mentor.
Excuse #3: I don’t have time to deal with apps, so I’ve set it so it only lets in affiliates that meet my specific criteria.
Hate to break it to you, but if you’re an affiliate program manager…then your job is to manage the program and the biggest part of that is developing relationships with all of your affiliates. Not just your top 10, but all of them. This should be a time consuming process because it is the most important thing you do for the growth of your program.
Now the thing that prompted this post is that today, I was auto-declined by a merchant. It probably was because I don’t usually do a lot as an affiliate anyhow, so my account is rather quiet, but of course there is no real way to tell. The reason that I wanted into the program? I was writing a sight-seeing post for a large group of friends that are traveling to Chicago next month to attend an event. It has write ups on the Chicago Art Institute, Navy Pier, The Field Museum, the Museum of Science and Industry and many other great places to visit in Chicago. As a frequent traveler, I know that the best way to visit most of these places for the cheapest cost is to use a discount pass and there are two places that offer them: CityPASS and Go Card. I applied for both programs in CJ and was instantly declined by Go Card.
The event my friends are attending has over 30 people attending from all over the country as well as Canada, Australia, and Sweden. Many are also bringing their significant others which swells that number to around 50. They are actively planning on sight seeing and with a two day pass for either company hovering around $100, even if not everyone goes that is still a large order. Go Card will never ever see a dime.
Now, just to be clear…this site as well as a handful of other sites are listed in the CJ account I applied with and all of them are listed as content sites. I could, of course, take the time to email the affiliate manager and ask to be reconsidered, but I simply don’t want to spend any time on a program that didn’t give me a fair review in the first place. That holds even if I were to get approved after the fact.
If you’re an affiliate manager that uses auto-decline, I would seriously encourage you to re-think your policy and at a bare minimum, take a moment and pull the list of your declined affiliates. I’m certain that you’ll find that you’ve thrown some gold out with the sand.
P.S. If you’re Go Card and you’re reading this, I have plans to travel to Philadelphia in about 8 weeks and trips in the next year for conferences in Atlanta, Las Vegas, Portland, Seattle, Chicago, and San Francisco. I often write up my travels and I definitely talk them up on social media and in person to others and make travel recommendations all the time. How many other business professionals like me have you also declined?
August 2nd, 2012 by Karen
My services are not free. I have worth. I have been doing this for more than 13 years. I deserve to be compensated fairly for my time and knowledge.
My prices are fair, reasonable and competitive. They are not inflated, padded or dishonest.
I will work with you to the best of my ability to come to a middle ground on pricing and services. This does not mean that you will get everything in my proposal for 1/4th the price.
I enjoy doing work for charities and non-profits. Just because you have yet to generate a profit does not make you a non-profit. There is a very big difference. (In fact, as I was writing this, we received a personal thank you from the founder of charity we help. Because of the help we provide, they were able to assist a 7 year old girl with Chordoma which is a very rare cancer and her family. I live for these emails.)
I am a small business. My fees are my lifeblood. They go to feed my children, to put shoes on their ever growing feet and to cover their medical expenses out of pocket. Not to buy fancy cars or boats or trips. I don’t get a Christmas bonus from my boss.
If you can’t afford my services, then you can’t afford to hire me right now. There are lots of things that I have to go without too. Perhaps in time, we can talk again.
I will give you free advice to a point. If you choose to not take it, that is your decision. Advice is just that. Advice. It is not a mockup or an in-depth analysis.
If you tell me in one breath that you’re a Fortune 500 company and in the next that you don’t have an analytics package installed, oh and you want me to work on commission only, there is very little chance that we will be working together.
I will not work with you if you are dishonest to your customers or sell shabby products. Period.
My personal credo is to never do anything that I would be embarrassed to explain to my father.
September 21st, 2008 by Karen
This year, I’ve had the opportunity to attend the 2008 BlogWorldExpo in Las Vegas, NV. Also happenin at the same time is the GodBlogCon which my business partner spoke at this morning. Overall, the programing has been decent and solid. My main two complaints are no on-site lunch and the incredible amount of rude people I’ve seen in sessions. I’ve never seen so many people answer their cell phones in the middle of sessions and actually take the calls. It’s rude, it’s egotistical and just incredibly obnoxious.
Other than that though, the Blog World conference has been remarkably nice. I’ve mostly attended the monetization sessions and they’ve been really informative. I have noticed though that affiliate marketing is a completely new topic to many of these bloggers. I’m considering applying to speak at the next one with an affiliate marketing 101 topic. We’ll see….
March 18th, 2008 by Karen
Facebook announced today that Wednesday morning ( March 18 ), they will be rolling out new privacy controls. Essentially, this will allow Facebook users to create “walls” between their business and personal lives. It will utilize the “friends lists” feature that they launched in December. While I’m uncertain that I will really be using this as I consider a fair amount of my business associates to be friends and try to live my life so I have little I would be embarassed to have as public knowledge, I know there are a lot of folks out there that would prefer to keep things hidden from the spotlight social networking can create.