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Free Giveaway: 2 ThirstyAffiliates WordPress Plugins

It is time to fulfill my commitment.  I am giving away 2 Free Installations of the best affiliate link manager tool I have come across – Thirsty Affiliates.

If you missed my review of the Thirsty Affiliates plugin, I suggest you go back and read it to understand how powerful this tool is and what it can do for your internet business.

So today I am announcing 2 free installations that I will give away to two lucky readers.  All you have to do is:

  • Share my review of the Thirsty Affiliates plugin on Facebook
  • Like the review on Facebook
  • Tweet or retweet the review
  • Google plus the review

Each activity will earn you one entry to the raffle drawing. The more of the above you do, the more entries you will get into the contest.

Simply execute the actions above and then leave me a comment below telling me what you did. I will enter all entries in excel and use a random program to generate the two lucky winners.

To make it fair, all winners will be audited. If you told me you “Liked” the review, I will check to see if you did if you are selected as one of the winners.

I will keep this giveaway contest up for a full week and then enter all those who responded below in the contest drawing.

IMPORTANT: I will announce the winners through my newsletter so it is important that you are signed up to receive them.

I promise to host more contests and giveaways in the future, where I will announce all winners through my email newsletter. Stay signed on and stay tuned!

Let the games begin . . .

Sunil
Giving Away

Thirsty Affiliates Review – An Affiliate Link Manager System

Some type of Superpower must have been listening when I was most recently complaining about a way to manage my affiliate links better. Few weeks back I was introduced to Thirsty Affiliates, an affiliate link manager system that in my opinion performs better than any other link management that I have tried.

I will tell you why. But before I do that, it’s important to discuss why an affiliate link manager program is important to appreciate what Thirsty Affiliates enables you to do.

Affiliate Marketing: Changing / Updating Your Affiliate Links

As your website or blog grows over time, so do your affiliate links presuming affiliate marketing is one of your revenue generation strategies.  As the number of your links grow and are scattered across several blog posts, pages and even websites, it becomes difficult to track what you have and make timely changes.

I own a successful paid survey referral website that generates income through lead generation.  Many times in the past vendors that I promote have changed their affiliate links.  A vendor may decide to do this when they move affiliate platforms, say from Commission Junction to ShareASale for example.

As an affiliate marketer, how do you know where all your links are?  Not only that, now you have to edit each and every link manually. Think about the amount of time that will take? Not to mention demoralization and de-motivation.

Managing the NoFollow Attribute Tag

When you link to an external web property, you are leaking some of your page rank (PR) away to the site you are linking to. The way to prevent that is to add a nofollow attribute to your link structure.

There may be some links which you want to be dofollow links, such as paid advertisers while others that you want to be nofollow, such as affiliate links.  Many times bloggers blog away building dofollow links overtime. When they realize what this does to their blog, it’s often too late and they have to go back and make changes to each and every link in previously published posts and pages. Not fun at all.

A robust affiliate link manager allows you to switch from dofollow to nofollow within seconds. You can do this on a link by link basis, or as a mass edit as I will share with you below.  Read my post on NoFollow DoFollow Links to learn more about this topic and its significance to your success online.

Opening Affiliate Links in Existing vs. New Windows

Similar to nofollow dofollow, as a website owner you need to decide whether you want your links to open in a new or existing window.  This often comes down to your objective (what you want the reader to do) as well as how you want the overall reader experience to be. i.e. do you want them to remain on your website or go to the affiliate link landing page?

A robust affiliate link manager should also enable you to make these switches within seconds, either on a link by link basis, or as a mass change across the website like I will show you below.  Because our strategies often change with time, it is important that we possess a tool that enables us to make changes easily when needed.

Commission Theft – Link Cloaking

A common problem in the internet marketing industry is commission theft that is perpetrated by tech savvy companies and individuals who set up malware of some sort on people’s browsers so that your unique affiliate ID or code is replaced with theirs. This happens with Google Adsense as well.

So while you work hard on building your business and getting all that traffic to your website, it is them who are benefiting from all the commissions earned.  Not fair! But guess what, it happens all the time everywhere.

Link cloaking is one way web property owners prevent such theft by disguising an affiliate link and “removing the unique code or ID” and incorporating a redirect instead to protect their commissions.  Too technical, messy and confusing if one was to do this manually.  Thirsty Affiliates enables you to protect your affiliate commissions from theft by cloaking your links automatically.

The Thirsty Affiliate Link Manager

Thirsty Affiliates is an impressive affiliate link management system that addresses all these concerns with ease.  Have a look at one of the options where you can apply mass changes to your links:

making mass changes

Here is what the plugin looks like when integrated with WordPress:

thirsty affiliates integrated

Simply click the link to insert links in one of three different ways, image, auto link or CSS link which allows you to style and specify any type of underlying text you want.  This plugin is a one and done operation.

Here is what the menu looks like when you click the button to add an affiliate link:

affiliate link manager

Simply highlight the text you want converted to an affiliate link and click on the affiliate link of your choice. This will turn the highlighted text into a pretty affiliate link.

affiliate link highlight

enabled affiliate link

Once you have set up your affiliate links in the affiliate link manager, you have unlimited flexibility in how you use them and make edits to them over time. What is nice about this layout is that you can categorize your affiliate links similar to how you’d categorize your blog posts.

This allows you to easily locate a link when you need to. This is particularly important as you grow over time. Here is how link categorization looks like in the affiliate link manager:

affiliate link categories

The affiliate link manager also has an import and export function, which allows you to transport all your links in masses.  Let’s say you find a better tool down the road, or you want to create multiple other blogs to form a blog network and use the same affiliate links, you can use the export function and migrate your links within seconds.

To summarize the features, Thirsty Affiliates allows you to perform several tasks in a matter of seconds. These tasks include link cloaking, management of follow and nofollow tags, opening links in existing or new windows, hierarchical link categorization, importing and exporting and link picking through a tool that easily inserts various types of links when authoring posts (including images).

In addition to the benefits discussed above, there are a couple other attributes in the Thirsty Affiliates plugin that I’d like to highlight.  As you saw in the image above, once installed, the plugin integrates with WordPress very nicely as if it’s a part of it.  With the import link function and automated scheduled backups, you can ensure you never lose your data. Moreover, if and when you set up other blogs and websites, you don’t have to re set up your affiliate links as you can simply import them over.

The best part of using Thirsty Affiliates is that it felt invisible to me as the focus is clearly on the ease of affiliate link management.  I personally spoke to Josh Kohlbach, founder of Thirsty Affiliates and was delighted to experience his enthusiasm about this plugin.

He and his team are and will continue to be active with the development efforts behind this product, so it will likely only continue to improve over time. He mentioned that they have been gathering people’s ideas and already have a healthy pipeline of features to add.

You can go through a full tour of this affiliate link manager system here.

Affiliate Link Traffic Tracking

I also like the affiliate link stats section, which allows you to track each successful click on your affiliate link that leads to the affiliate offer.  You can use this feature in conjunction with Google Analytics goal tracking or the stats software of the affiliate program you are promoting to measure conversion rates.

Link traffic tracking is important because without such data or intelligence, a marketer is simply shooting darts in the dark.  With the affiliate link stats section, you can eliminate al the guessing game and pinpoint which one of your affiliate ads is working better than the others.

Here is what the link stats section looks like under one of the new affiliate links I just created in Thirsty Affiliates:

Affiliate Link Stats

What Does This Mean for You?

As always, I like to relate each post to what it means for you.  This blog is all about expedited wealth building.  And if you are going to choose or have chosen to expedite your wealth creation by leveraging the internet, either as a blogger or internet marketer, you can’t afford to lose valuable hours, days and even weeks depending on how big your site is chasing around nonsense because someone who you have no control over did something to affect you (sigh).

As successful individuals, time is our limited commodity, not money. I recommend using some of that discretionary money to make your life better, easier and expedite the results you are attempting to achieve with your online endeavors.

Maximize your limited resource and focus on what’s important to help your business grow.  Can you do without this affiliate link management system? Yes, of course. Do I recommend using a tool like this to expedite results? Absolutely.

Conclusion

I am still in the process of testing this plugin, hoping it would break and clunk at some point so I can uninstall and return it (joking). So far the experience has been great. I think Josh and his team are onto something with this product.

Regarding price, I was expecting the plugin to be priced closer to other similar plugins, which are typically in the $79+ range. Compared to that however, Thirsty Affiliates is selling at a bargain.

The bottom line is that for non-technical bloggers and internet marketers, such that read this blog, the main reason to purchase this plugin is the sheer ease of affiliate link management so that you can make changes without going through each and every post or page of your website. Instead, you have one convenient place where you can make changes due to changes in law, changes in vendor affiliate company platforms, etc.

Affiliate Disclaimer

I am affiliate of this product and receive a modest commission for every sale made through my affiliate link.  This plugin comes with a 30 day money back guarantee that as of the time of this review had never been used (so I was told).  I can see that after having taken Thirsty Affiliates for a test drive.

The website has a comprehensive FAQ page where you can find answers to some of the most common questions customers ask about the product. If you can’t find your answer, you can email the product’s founder Josh directly at josh (at) thirstyaffiliates.com

I hope you found this review helpful, and I am sure you will find the product simply the best at what it does.  If you are going to play in the internet marketing landscape for good, you cannot afford to keep going without a robust affiliate link manager like Thirsty Affiliates.

Readers: Any experience using this product or one of similar functionality?  What are your thoughts? Do you think a product like this is important and can assist you achieve your objectives? What are your pain points with affiliate marketing? What did you wish these plugins enabled you to do that you cannot today?

Note: I will be giving out 2 free versions of Thirsty Affiliates to two lucky readers. Stay tuned – but in the mean time let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

Sunil
Managing Effectively

Learn the Lead Generation Online Business Model

There are many ways to make money online. You can sell a product, get into publishing, build apps for smart phones, consult on your particular field. Or, like me, do lead generation. What’s so appealing about this type of monetisation is that, when done properly, it can deliver the ‘internet lifestyle’ many entrepreneurs dream of.

That is to say, you can be generating revenue while you sleep, on your (many) days off, and even while you travel the world. If the thought of a four hour work week, as espoused by Timothy Ferriss, makes you weak at the knees, then read on. Lead generation might just be your cup of tea!

What is Lead Generation?

Lead generation is a subset of affiliate marketing and although the two are based on the same referral fee model, there are subtle differences.

Unlike affiliate marketing, where you refer a prospect on to a merchant where they convert to a paying customer and you get a kick back, lead generation generally requires the user to do less.

This is a key difference between the two. It also means that your website’s traffic is more monetisable because, after all, it is easier to get someone to fill in a form than it is to get them to part with their money.

So if a lead is comprised of user details, who’s interested in them? Businesses, obviously. And they can’t get enough of them. For the sake of an example, let’s assume for a moment that your business operates in the finance space. You already use online and offline marketing to drive prospects to your website or store/s where you can sell them a product or service.

But, like any business, you want to grow. Fast. So what do you do to get more customers? You can’t put too much emphasis on any one single marketing channel. So you start to pay for leads gathered by third party websites – users who are pre-qualified and interested in what you have on offer. All the business needs to do is get on the phone and convert the prospect into a paying customer.

Selecting a Niche

If you haven’t already started your online business, then one of the first things you need to do is to consider what niche to get into. When it comes to monetising via lead generation, fortunately, there are many niches to choose from. One of the most obvious, and the one that I am most active in, is finance. In this particular niche it is commonplace for businesses to buy new customer leads.

In fact, some of the web’s biggest brands are involved in finance lead generation, not least Google, who fairly recently launched Google Advisor. Other finance lead generation businesses you may or may not have heard of include Bankrate (USA), Money Saving Expert (UK) and Credit Card Compare (Australia). As you can see, lead generation in finance may constitute mortgage, loan, insurance, or credit card leads. There are many more in the finance space, and it isn’t hard to find them.

Other niches outside finance where leads are in demand include distance learning, telecomms, real estate, and utilities. Start a website to cater to any of these markets and you could be generating good money, but the secret is choosing one that aligns well with modern marketing techniques. And it’s this that I’d like to talk a bit more about.

Driving Traffic Isn’t Easy

That there is money in lead generation is no secret, so you can expect practically any vertical to be competitive. Most likely there may even be one or two big brand incumbents to compete with for the top spot.

The real problem, however, is not that there are competitors to watch out for. No, the biggest obstacle is driving enough qualified traffic to your website. It can be very difficult to get any sort of traffic when you’re trying to market a website about something as boring as insurance or as complex (to the uninitiated) as exchange traded funds.

But there are ways and means to market even the most boring of products. CompareTheMarket.com’s integrated television and social marketing campaign is a case in point. What they’ve done, a play on their brand name, has been so successful that the campaign’s tagline has entered the vernacular in their native UK. Check out this video on YouTube to see what they’ve done.

It’s fair to say that most startups don’t have the budgets required for something as ambitious and risky as a national advertising campaign, but there is a valuable lesson you can learn from here. In a competitive market, where your competitors have a head start and are probably flush with cash to invest in their brand, you’ve got to think outside the box.

Do something different. Break the mould. I think that’s the only way to really succeed in generating substantial volumes of traffic from social and search (campaigns that go viral typically result in more links, which help your ranking in search engines).

Another example of a hugely successful campaign that transcends social and search channels is the series of “Will it blend?” videos from Blendtec. Had you ever heard of them before they started trying to blend iPhones and iPads in their food blenders? I know I hadn’t.

The beauty of their campaign is its simplicity: will this incredibly popular new gadget blend in one of our blenders? It’s so good in many ways. It borrows brand recognition from the manufacturer of whatever device is being blended. It piggybacks on the buzz around often highly anticipated products. In my opinion, Blendtec’s viral marketing campaign is one of the best to date. Take note and learn.

Yes, it’s true that successfully marketing a lead generation website isn’t the easiest of objectives. However, I’m firmly of the belief that it can be done when you apply the same principles as illustrated above.

Building Trust

What makes your lead generation website stand out from the rest? Taking a cursory look around and I often see thin websites devoid of identity. Often they constitute little more than a few ramshackle pages with poor copy, a few stock images and an unwieldy form to gather the lead.

Do you really think that instills a user with trust? Do you realistically think that you can convert someone casually looking for information on a mortgage into a lead when your website looks like it is run by a bunch of identity thieves? These are real people you’re dealing with, not just IP addresses, and they tend to be suspicious of websites with poor design and aggressive marketing.

In my experience, the importance of standardised and user friendly design is easily overlooked. However, don’t be under any illusion as to how significant it is in building trust. Take care to design a website that is tactful, easy to use and above all, exudes trust. Banish flashing graphics.

Burn the reams of search engine optimised copy you thought nobody would take notice of, but do. Nuke unnecessary elements that slow down your site, clutter it and distract the user. Build trust with a superior design than that of your competitors. Let your users know who you are and what you stand for. And get passionate about what you’re doing. If you’re not, why would anyone else care?

Gathering Leads Online

It all boils down to this one simple truth. You can have as much traffic as your server can handle, but if your website is poorly designed in terms of how users can convert, your revenue will be nothing more than a shadow of what it could be.

My advice, based on personal experiences, would be to bake the principles of conversion into your website from the very beginning. Failure to do so will hinder your business’ growth until the problem is remedied.

Be aware that even one simple issue with usability, overlooked because you’re intimately familiar with your own website, can result in hundreds, thousands, even millions of dollars in lost revenue. Still in doubt about testing your site for usability and conversion?

Then I highly recommend you read this article about how one small design element, a button, lost one nationwide retailer $300,000,000 in sales. Yes, you read that correctly. $300,000,000. Conversion rate optimisation is something to take seriously.

Taking Advantage

By now you’re either intrigued by lead generation or not. If you want to start then you should be aware that it isn’t a bed of roses. As I’ve already touched on, lead generation is competitive – don’t be under any false impression that you can make an easy buck by setting up your website and doing little else.

It won’t happen that way. If you want to get anywhere you’ll have to put in a lot of hard graft before you get any real traction. Setting up a website is easy, but getting enough traffic to it that actually converts is a different matter altogether. You’ll have to create some ‘pillar’ content that is truly outstanding in its quality.

You’ll need to build high quality links to your website using your best content as leverage if you want to get any organic search traffic. Eventually you may also want to start a paid search campaign, which also requires ongoing management. You may be most interested in lead generation because of its somewhat passive nature, but don’t fool yourself.

It takes a lot of hard work to get it going, and because it’s generally competitive, you’ll have to keep investing time and effort in your business to maintain and/or grow it. You can do that work yourself, if you wanted, or outsource the work on an ongoing basis. I don’t think that it will ever be a 100% passive income, but it can be relatively hands off if you can find the right contractors for the job.

Conclusion

If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that lead generation isn’t just about throwing up a website and slapping on a form to capture leads. It’s much more nuanced than that. It’s competitive, it takes time to get anywhere, and given Google’s recent algorithmic changes, the outlook isn’t certain.

But this post was never intended to put you off lead generation, the opposite is true. I hope that you’ve learned about the value of leads and how to get them. Most of all, I hope it motivates you to start something!

Andy is the co-founder of Credit Card Compare, a comparison engine for Australian credit cards. He also helps edit their blog, the aptly named Credit Letter.

My Thoughts: Lead generation is one form of affiliate marketing, one which I too am involved in to a certain extent (certainly not exclusively).  As you read Andy write, traffic generation is one of the biggest paint points. This is no different than most online business models and a big reason why I stress on search engine optimization and internet marketing so much. (Lead generation, specifically within the financial services industry is an extremely competitive area with a ton of players both online and offline).

Another important point to note is that the lead generation business model is not passive by any means, at least not initially, with a decent amount of effort required on an ongoing basis.  Personally, I feel it is one of the more active business models online relative to most online business models due to the inherent dynamic nature of the business and the players involved (you are working with an ever changing environment such as vendors, terms, rules, etc).

Readers: How do you feel about the lead generation business model online? What do you see as the pros and cons involved? Given that time is our most precious yet limited commodity, are there easier, more lucrative and automated businesses to run online?

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