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Boosting Affiliate Sales On A High Traffic Site

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Dan,
Please go to www.thecrayonhouse.com – launched in November 1999. The site enjoys over 75000 visitors per month – as high as 95000 some months. We have won some awards and receive constant positive feed back from our visitors. We are unable to make any affiliate or click through program generate income for the site. It is a cash drain from our main business and we may have to consider closing. Obviously, this would be financially and emotionally disappointing. Any ideas?

Thanks a lot for your time.
Jim Johansen
http://www.thecrayonhouse.com

Jim:
The following are some observations about your site, and some suggestions on how to turn your excellent traffic flow into a revenue stream.

1. There are a large number of ads on the front page, presumably most of these are affiliate programs you are participating in.
2. The navigation scheme is not consistent throughout the site.
3. There is a “registration” form as well as a newsletter subscription form, neither of which describes precisely what the user will get.

Suggestion 1: Profile Your Audience
In order to determine which affiliate programs will generate the most revenue for you, you will need to uncover some information about your audience. While we can make some assumptions (they probably have children), more information will help you uncover new opportunities.

A good way to find out what your audience is interested in would be to ask them when they register or subscribe. Asking a question like “in order to help us deliver the information you value, please let us know which of the following subjects are of most interest to you,” followed by a list of topics like “math learning tips,” “teaching kids to read,” etc.

You may need to adjust your privacy policy statement when you do this. I would try to make it clear that you are only gathering general information on the site’s users overall, rather than associating responses with any individual. You probably don’t need to, or want to, build extensive individual profiles.

Suggestion 2: Focus On Affiliate Programs
That Fit The Context The coloring books are a great hook, but you need to build some content that will help you sell more products. A page with “printing tips” might be well associated with an affiliate program related to inkjet printing supplies. A section of content on “teaching your kids” could promote excellent affiliate programs such as “hooked on phonics,” etc.

Depending on what your visitors tell you is important, you can build content that meets their needs, and find quality products and services to match. Promoting these products through your website and newsletter will be much more effective than simply using banner ads. I suspect that you will find very few of them interested in clothing, shoes, and toys, and far more of them interested in educational products and books, but that’s just a hunch.

More content makes your site more sticky, and increases the chances that a given visitor will register, subscribe, return to visit again, and buy the products you are promoting.

Suggestion 3: Give The Site A Consistent Look and Feel
There are a number of websites that offer free or low-cost design templates, that would allow you to create a consistent look and feel with minimal effort. The main thing I would look for is a good “global” navigation system that will let users quickly find what they want.

WebProNews also offers “peer reviews” of websites, and you may want to submit your site for a peer review. There are also a number of excellent webmaster discussion forums where users can post requests for site reviews. Getting outside feedback on your site’s layout can be a rough experience, but it’s well worth it. It’s not so bad when the reviewers criticize a website, because they usually tell you how to fix it.

You can take a peek at my new site at www.insideoutmarketing.com for an example of a global navigation scheme that was generated after a “peer review” of the initial layout. Even though this site is under construction, it already generates a clear profit for me.

Final Suggestion: Analyze Your Traffic Patterns
Before beginning any actual redesign, I would strongly encourage you to use a log file analysis program to get a look at which pages your visitors are most interested in, which links they’re actually following, and that sort of thing.

I like “SurfStats” and “Mach5 FastStats” as a good “budget” solution, and they both offer free trial versions that can give you a great idea of how your site is really doing right now. For a site like yours, increasing the page views per visitor can make a big difference – it usually costs more to get them to your site than it does to keep them there.

Thanks!
Dan Thies
Author/Publisher, Search Engine Optimization Fast Start
http://www.cannedbooks.com

Dan,

Thanks a lot for your valuable input. We will try to put the information to good use this week! I truly appreciate your help.

Jim Johansen

Dan Thies is a well-known writer and teacher on search engine marketing. He offers consulting, training, and coaching for webmasters, business owners, SEO/SEM consultants, and other marketing professionals through his company, SEO Research Labs. His next online class will be a link building clinic beginning March 22

Boosting Affiliate Sales On A High Traffic Site
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