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January 23, 2008

A Beginner’s Guide To Online Selling

Many people join affiliate marketing programs with the dreams of making a fortune but then are left wondering what to do because the sales just aren’t arriving as they had thought. It’s easy to add a banner to your website, but what do you have to do to make that first sale? A lot of people don’t realize that affiliate marketing can take time and work. Remember, you’re not buying a lottery ticket hoping to win a golden jackpot.

We encounter many people with these ambitions, however they are left shaking their head in confusion – they’ve tried everything, but are still unable to generate any sales. With a little bit of patience and a better understanding, the goal of this guide is to help you move in the right direction by earning that first sale then building up to greater achievements. Here are a few questions to ask yourself as you work to earn your hard-earned dollars.

What Goals Are You Trying to Achieve?
First thing to ask yourself is what is it that you are trying to achieve? Of course the main goal is to make money. But is your goal set too high (and most likely impossible)? Are you thinking “I want to make a quick million dollars” or maybe you are thinking “As I start I’m just looking to make enough for gas money.” It’s always good to keep a realistic vision– one that won’t disappoint you if your goal is not met at the end of your timeline, or won’t frustrate you forcing you to give up way too soon. Although it would be nice to make a quick payday, most successful affiliate marketers will tell you it takes time and patience to understand this craft.

The best thing to do is to set believable goals and build them up over time as you conquer each one. You wouldn’t expect to join the NASCAR circuit right after getting your driver’s permit, you would work up to that goal after a series of achievements over time.

What Do You Want To Sell?
What is it that you plan on selling? Think about how you would answer this question. “Well, X10 products” you might be thinking. Now think about this, what do you know about X10 products?” If you’re not able to answer this question, then you have some homework to do.

It’s always good to have an understanding of the products you are looking to sell. This will help in your ability to describe to your potential customers about the products, their advantages, and other selling points. Your goal is to sell the concept of a product or service, but if you don’t know much about what you are selling, then your job as a marketer becomes a lot more difficult.

As an X10 affiliate, you have resources at your fingertips. Take a look at the X10 Knowledgebase at http://kbase.x10.com or X10 Community at http://www.x10community.com to learn about the products and to find ideas as to how they can be used. You can even get in touch with the X10 Affiliates Desk via email at Affiliates@x10.com as they are more than willing to assist and can provide additional resources.

How Do You Plan On Selling?
There are a lot of methods that affiliates can use to generate their sales. Traditionally, most affiliates use a personal website to advertise their products and direct the customers to the company’s online store. Others offer a drop ship service by setting up their own stores or by using a third party website such as eBay or Craig’s List.

If your intent is to advertise through your own website, be sure to set up your site to conform to the standards of the top search engines. This helps to ensure better placement from a search, increasing the chance of attracting more visitors. After all, more visitors mean a higher potential for sales. If you need advice on optimizing your website, review our past article entitled IMPROVING YOUR SITE’S PERFORMANCE, posted at the X10 Community Affiliates blog at http://www.x10community.com/michaelm/2008/01/improving_your_sites_performan.html which goes over ways to improve your rankings on the Google search engine.

If you would like to use a third party website such as eBay to sell, be sure to create listings that will grab people’s attention. Use colors that are vibrant and pictures that are clear. But most importantly write descriptive copy that is easy to read, full of information, and explains the benefits of the product.

Is Your Website Up To Par?
Let’s face it; people are always proud of their abilities. This also includes their first time designing websites. As much as you may be proud of your new site, keep in mind that your viewer’s are more impartial and critical of your work. If this was someone else’s site, how would you critique it? Ask yourself if this is a website you would buy from and why? Is the site disorganized? Does it make sense? Or does it not look reliable enough to make a purchase from? Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and unfortunately most people (especially online buyers) are sharper critics of other people’s work and if the site is not up to par, will quickly move on to the next one. You may think you have a masterpiece on your hand, but in reality, is it really just a mess? Continue to develop your site so that it reaches its fullest potential.

How Do You Plan On Marketing?
The nice thing about X10 products are that they sell themselves. Generally there are two types of buyers when it comes to X10 products.

NEED – The first group of buyers purchase because of a need. These products tend to be security related, such as security systems, wireless cameras, and personal assistance devices. Buyers with a need are looking for preventative measures to avoid a negative experience that may have occurred in the past or are finding ways to prevent from ever happening at all. The best way to reach out to customers of need is to design your website with a serious tone explaining how the products can help. Be a consultant, and sell the benefits of the product.

WANT – The next group of buyers purchase out of want, where there’s not really a need, more a desire to have them. These products tend to be home automation products, wireless cameras can also be classified here depending on the buyer, along with video senders and other “fun” devices. Customers with a want should be marketed with a “fun” approach, shown ways that the products can benefit their lifestyle or simplify their daily lives.

Depending on the types of products you are looking to advertise, determine a marketing strategy that works, and continue to build upon it.

How Do You Plan On Advertising?
“So if I set up a website, web surfers just find it and flock to it?” is a question we deal with on a multiple basis by many people new to Internet selling. Our reply is one that is meant to make the affiliate think about the answer: “So if you sign up for a cell phone service, do people automatically know your phone number? The answer is no. You have to tell them about it otherwise they won’t know how to call you”

Of course what we are getting at is advertising. Unfortunately, if you don’t advertise or broadcast your site, then your website will not be found. Just setting up a site doesn’t guarantee that people will find it. You have to reach out to your customers to let them know about it.

Some means of advertising require a budget, such as keyword bidding on search engines, or radios or television commercials, however there are ways of providing exposure to your page that are relatively inexpensive, or better yet free!

One such method is a link share with another site. A link share is where you advertise someone else’s site by adding a link, and they reciprocate by advertising yours.

Another way is becoming a member of online communities or forums and directing readers from those sites to your own. Be careful when doing this though! As this may violate the rules of conduct on some sites, which considers this spamming. Make sure you understand the rules before you start advertising your page.

Lastly, as mentioned earlier in this section under How Do You Plan On Selling?, set up your website to be properly crawled by a search engine, that way your website will show up during an organic search query.

For those of you with a more flexible budget, the strongest form for generating sales is pay-per-click advertising on the most used Internet search engines. Search engines draw millions of search queries everyday of people looking for specific things. If you have the ability to advertise this way, you stand a better chance of attracting the right customers to your website.

How Do You Plan On Retaining Your Customers?
There’s a saying in business that repeat customers are the backbone of every business. If you are loyal to your customers, they in return will be loyal to you. Not only will they purchase repeatedly, they will also advertise your site via word of mouth to their friends, colleagues, and family. This helps to build a stronger business base and a stronger reputation for your site.

So what are some techniques for capitalizing on this? Give your viewers the option to Bookmark your site. This allows them to save the address of your site so they can re-visit at a later time. This also can help in saving on your advertising budget if you use this method, for your customers will not have to re-trace their steps by re-clicking on your ads to relocate your site.

Next, provide a feature allowing your customers to Tell A Friend. This is a link that allows your customers to automatically email whoever they choose to inform about your website, after all, word of mouth is a positive form of advertisement!

Have customers post their experience on a rating site such as resellerratings.com. If they had a positive experience, why not have them share it with others? This promotes your website in a positive light and helps build credibility about your page.

As you can see, there is quite a lot to think about when it comes to selling online. If there is anything that can not be over stressed is to be realistic with your goals and to be patient. Success doesn’t come overnight, however with hard work and determination the sky is certainly the limit.

Earning your first sale is definitely an exciting thing, however, the excitement only grows larger as you continue to develop your technique and surpass each of your goals one step at a time.

January 16, 2008


This blog post focuses on how Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tips and increasing page ranking of your website. Due to Google’s popularity as the top search engine, this article focuses on tips to improve SEO and page rank via this venue.

‘Content Of Value’ is Key:
When setting up your website, generate content of value for your site by authoring your own original information. Avoid using the same content from other websites (such as directly copying and pasting from another site to yours) as this is a negative indicator to Google, which frowns upon this practice. Aside from charges of plagiarism and copyright infringement that this can bring from the owners of the original works, duplicate copy will cause your page rankings to drop in their search engine rating system for lack of originality. This can affect your site traffic because according to Google, the value of your website is not as important as the value of other websites similar to yours. This leads to poor organic search traffic and makes it more difficult for people to find your site. A “poor” site in Google can also affect your ability to use their pay-per-click (Google AdWords) program, so it is essential that your content be of value – original, insightful, and resourceful.

The best way to develop content of value is to know about the product(s) you are promoting. Research, by going to the manufacturer’s website and learning as much as you can. It is also important to view your competitor’s pages (both those who carry other brands and those who sell the same items you do) to find out how they are advertising their products. In fact, the best way to find your biggest competitors and match up to them is to go to Google and find similar sites that come up first and emulate what they do – after all, they must be doing something right if they are ranking high from a search. Know all you can about the product, your market, your competitors, and your demographics, then start writing down in your own words what you’ve learned. This keeps your content original and ensures that you will not be affected negatively by Google for plagiarism.

One helpful way to start writing is to jot down a bullet point list about what you have learned, then start forming complete and informative sentences from your list of points. If you need additional help, generate a list of questions about your product and start writing answers to those questions.

When a search engine goes over your site, it looks for certain keywords in your copy, matches them to your article, and catalogs the results and ranks them against other sites by order of value and importance. The more important your site or content, the higher your result will show in an organic search. Here’s an example of how to use keywords in your content: let’s say you are selling mini cameras, it’s always good to use the term mini-camera somewhere in your content because of the strength that term can provide to your ranking, after all, mini-cameras are what your site is about. If you are selling X10 products, use the word X10 in your copy because of the strength that the keyword can offer your search results because of how it relates to your page. The key is to find keywords that relate and to use them to your advantage.

Also, you can enhance the value of these keywords by bolding them or anchoring them with links or title tags. However, it is important to note that its only recommended to include these keywords in your copy where they would make sense – ie, if you are writing content about video senders, then reference the word video sender and avoid over using the word spycam, unless it fits the purpose of the copy or page. Your keywords should be strategically placed in a way that helps your page results, not hurt it.

It’s also good to find keywords to use in your copy that are not so broad. Be as specific as possible. For example, although you are selling spycams, it might be good to narrow down to a type or brand. You may get better results from using the keyword Xcam2 (X10’s signature camera) versus spycam, as chances are there are many more people using the term spycam on their site versus Xcam2, so there is more competition that you will have to go up against for better search results. You are also targeting those who are searching specifically for the Xcam2 so should get stronger rankings due to less competition. Your goal is to try and gain exposure through higher rankings on Google to increase your site’s traffic. Use it to your advantage.

Your links should always be relevant to your site. Links can help, but they can also hurt if used improperly. However, having GOOD LINKS is crucial to increasing your ranking. A website in which all of the links lead to outbound resources is not good because Google places so much emphasis on the content of your page to create its rankings. If you are “outsourcing” your readers to other websites instead of trying to keep them on your own page, this is a factor that Google considers a negative.

So what do I consider good links? Good links are links that stay within your site and also direct your readers to other links within your site. A menu that directs your readers to other pages within your site is a good link. It’s also a good thing (as mentioned earlier) to links your important keywords within your copy that can direct users around your website.

Link Exchanges:
Good links are also inbound links from other websites to yours. Especially links that lead directly to content, articles or products that you offer. This leads me to my next point about link exchanges, or adding outbound links to your page of other websites in exchange that they add your URL to theirs.

There is a current belief that link exchanges are always positive. However, as there are pluses to engaging in this practice, there are also minuses involved that you should look out for.

Google evaluates all of the links (both internal and external) that you include on your page. Your site can rank higher when others add your site to theirs, increasing the traffic of your page. The more traffic your page draws, the more important it will appear to Google.

However, it’s good to keep in mind that adding external links in reciprocation can also hurt your rankings. Sure it’s nice when others add you. But let’s say you have reciprocated and added their site in exchange. Now for example Google rates their site poorly. Google will take this into account your “link” with this other site, and as result can drop your rating just for being “affiliated” to this site. So it’s always best to be careful about the sites you link share with. Make sure that your affiliation can strengthen and improve your ratings and not cause them to drop instead.

Tags/Attributes that Help:
When designing your site, it’s crucial to have certain tag components in your page. Effective tags are important for search engine optimization and cataloging in Google. Proper tags will also assist in your page rank.

Meta Tags – Meta tags provide a wealth of information about your website. They essentially are instructions about your website directed to browsers, search engines, and more. To learn how to optimize your meta tags, sites such as Scrubtheweb.com, offer free meta tag builders and optimizer services for your page.

Title Tag– Title tags sum up a description of your site in one sentence. According to Searchengines.com, it is also the first thing a search engine’s spider sees on your page. When thinking up your title tag, use keywords that describe what your site is about. Consider having unique titles for every page of your site. Avoid using numerical or illogical file names and remember to plug in those important keywords.

Heading Tags – Heading tags (ex: <H1>) are given more weight by search engines than regular body copy according to the stephanspencer.com blog on SEO. Use your header tags to reinforce your page’s overall keyword theme.

NOFOLLOW Attribute –According to the Official Google Blog, “From now on, when Google sees the attribute (rel="nofollow") on hyperlinks, those links won't get any credit when we rank websites in our search results… It's just a way to make sure that spammers get no benefit from abusing public areas like blog comments, trackbacks, and referrer lists.”

The nofollow attribute can be added to any of your hyperlinks leading to any external page outside of your site, especially sites that you would like to link to because your readers can find some value from (but you do not have a link exchange agreement with). So when would you use the nofollow attribute? Let’s say you’ve written copy but need to link to an external site to reference your point, this would be a perfect time to us it.

But be forewarned, use this attribute wisely, and be careful when using on a link exchange, because you will be reciprocating unfairly. Although not illegal, it can be seen as unfair and unethical. If someone has added your site to theirs in a fair manner, they expect the same in return. The best way to avoid any issues is to stay clear of sharing to sites that pose no advantages for you.

Alt Attribute – The Alt attribute should be added to your image <IMG> tags. The alt attribute is used primarily to describe what an image is about when the reader places the mouse over it. It’s other purpose is to display this text in the event the image does not load correctly or can not be displayed. Its good to make sure that all of your image tags possess this alt attribute. Use effective keywords in your alt descriptions.

Pages That Help:
Your website should always include the following pages as they can have a positive effect on search engine optimization:

Sitemap - Effective websites always offer a sitemap. TopRankResults.com says that a site map is useful for SEO to make it easier for indexing spiders to find all content of a site.

Robots.txt - This is a file hosted on your server that helps direct search engine crawls where to go and how often to go there. For more information about using robots.txt files, visit SEOConsultants.com. You can even find a free online tool to help you generate your Robots.txt file at Globalpromoter.com.

Site Cleanup and Maintenance:
How many ads are you running on your pages? A lot of these ads lead to external links that can hurt your site’s performance. Reduce the number of units by finding which ones generate a low click-through-rate (CTR). For those with high CTR, take a look at your conversion to find out how successful the ads really are.

Do you host content or copy that is also on other sites? You’ve worked hard to create your own content. Has someone “borrowed” your work and is using it on their site? Look for duplicate copy using free sites such as copyscape.com, which scours the web looking for duplicate information.

Remove redundant links that aren’t necessary. Do all of your links lead somewhere? Maybe you have broken or outdated pages? Are those links duplicates? Clean up your page by removing or reducing these links. There’s no point in leaving them on your site.

Other things that can help:
Here are some other features that can help to retain a customer base or generate sales for your site.

Bookmark Site – A bookmark site link won’t necessarily increase your page rankings, but it will help to bring back returning customers, especially those who want to recall your page. This is also a good way to retain some of your customers. Make the Bookmark site visible and add it to an appropriate area of your page. Usually, the best spot for this link is on the top part of your website on all your pages.

Newsletters – Newsletters are a great way to keep in touch with your readers/customers. They provide the readers the latest updates and information for what is happening to your site and will even draw them back to your page. You can build a great and loyal readership/customer base with your newsletters.

Forum – A forum is recommended only if you are able to generate a fair amount of traffic and can capitalize on it. If your traffic is low, a forum is probably unnecessary. If you choose to operate a forum, be prepared to spend the time managing it by replying to questions, generating topic starters and maintaining Q&A sessions. Use the forum, as it’s a great opportunity to interact with your readers/customers.

Blog – Weblogs (blogs) are great for several reasons. One reason is that there are blog search engines and resources such as technorati.com or digg.com to help you draw traffic to your site. There are even blog submission sites that will send out your latest updates to blog engines everywhere for free such as pingoat.com. Here’s a world of free advertisement at your fingertips! If you are looking for a free blog to setup, take a look at blogger.com. Why blogger.com? Because they are owned and operated by Google. This means your blog will get immediate top-ranked exposure. Post to and update your blog often. Many affiliates are unsure of what to post about. If you need help, take a look at the products you are offering. How would you describe them to your buyers who may be interested? Let them know why they should buy your product, and don’t forget to encourage them to visit your site to learn more!