Jim was hosting the Blogger Room at Affiliate Summit. As has become the norm at conferences with a tech-savvy crowd, there is now a room with WiFi set up for bloggers who write posts from the events. It often serves as a congregating place for speakers, as well.
And since Jim is so well known in the affiliate marketing industry, the Blogger Room became a magnet for activity with movers and shakers roaming in and out.
Jim thinks the affiliate marketing industry is one of the most interesting industries today. According to Jim, “affiliate marketers tend to operate on the cutting-edge of marketing online. They include some very smart people. Often the most unassuming-looking marketers are the most successful. They do email marketing, they understand search engines, and they tend to be extra creative.”
Jim’s own background is an example of the diversity of affiliate marketers. He started working in the online world in 1995 as an HTML and Web designer. Gradually he diversified, moving first into online marketing. Later he moved into email marketing and search marketing.
In 2001 Jim started blogging. Around the same time he learned about affiliate marketing. Back then he was blogging and building a series of websites, and promoting others’ products on his sites. At one time he was up to 60 mini-affiliate sites. Each one was on a specific topic. For instance, one was to drive leads from prospective students to colleges. Since then he has whittled his sites down to five that he focuses on. That way he can give them more attention and drive more robust traffic.
I asked him how the industry has changed since 2001. He notes that in the mid-2000s, Google introduced Google AdSense. That meant bloggers and other site owners no longer had to rely on affiliate programs, but could monetize their sites with Google ads. Google ads are a godsend for site owners who want a low-maintenance return.
Still, a lot of site owners continue to use affiliate marketing. Affiliate marketing is bigger than ever, because the rewards can be greater for those who are willing to put the effort into promoting affiliate products to their communities.
What does Jim see in the future for affiliate marketing? For one thing, Web 2.0 sites with user-generated content are now places you can tap into for your affiliate programs. Set up a page using a site like Magnify.net, where you can add your own affiliate links. The affiliates of today and tomorrow are those who either create content or else aggregate content created by other users, often on a narrow niche topic. Video content in particular is a hot area.
Jim has some tips for entrepreneurs thinking of becoming Internet marketers:
- eBay is still a great opportunity. You still have to find a source of great products to sell, but the opportunity is there.
- To make money online as an affiliate marketer, you have to become an online publisher or else aggregate content of others. Video is the new frontier of content. “It’s the wild wild West” when it comes to video, Jim says. Everybody is experimenting today, so “there are no mistakes.” Also, think about micro-chunking of content. The hot applications today, he notes, “allow you to create short blasts of content — a paragraph, a few sentences, even a phrase (as in Twitter). Readers want short bits of content.”
- People come to the Internet to a) solve problems, and b) have fun. You have to create sites that do one or the other.
- Build a community. The most successful affiliate marketers build communities and promote products to their communities.
- If someone says all the good ideas are gone, “That’s absolutely incorrect,” Jim observes. “At the very least you can do it better. Check out your competitors to see which affiliate programs they are promoting. Then figure out how to do it better.”
Jim’s final thoughts are: “The barriers to entry for affiliate marketing are low, and the costs of mistakes are also low. So do it today.”