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Thread: The Ethics Around Affiliate Marketing

  1. #1

    The Ethics Around Affiliate Marketing

    In September 2005 I was offered a stake in an Internet business due to my experience in the IT industry. My partner would lay out the capital and I would make my contribution by designing the website and handling all the technical issues. My partner got the idea from a program he signed up for, called the Business Partnership Program. This program consisted of a huge list of affiliate programs that we could promote through our own website. Like most of these "Make Easy Money" schemes they promised we could make up to R50000 (round about $7000) in the first few months, but we all know that good returns only comes through hard work.

    So we started our own website (www.liafin.co.za) publishing a wide range of these products on our site, most of them being e-books. We later found that the shotgun approach is not working and we started to theme the site around health care, fitness, weight-loss and sport. The problem is that neither me nor my partner are experts in any of these fields, so it is quite hard to produce good quality and unique content on our own, meaning that we publish a lot of articles available for syndication (rest assured that this post is not about duplicate content ). This comes down to the fact that our site is mainly affiliate orientated, simply put, we do not actually provide any unique useful information apart from listing e-books and products related to the categories I previously mentioned. It is more like a directory than anything else if you can call it that way.

    My question is, is it ethical to run a website like that, knowing very little about the products we promote apart from the fact that they were recommended by respectable sources and that some of them are best-sellers in their field.

    We all know how frustrating it is to run across spammy sites like Made For Adsense sites or sites consisting of a couple of pages, listing only affiliate links and nothing else. I feel that our site is very close to the latter and would like to know if anyone have good advice for moving away from this and making the site more useful, more acceptable in terms of good Internet etiquette and honest business.

    I know that it is much easier to make a success from being an expert in a specific field and knowing a lot about the thing you do. This allows you to produce unique, useful, related and fresh content for your website, a never ending source of content and ideas. Are we wasting our time with this project? Should we consider a field where we have more experience and knowledge about? What about sites like Amazon, it is impossible for Amazon to be an expert on every product they sell, but people do not necessarily see them as spammy.

    Bottom line is, is it possible to transform a site like this into a useful site, relying mainly on affiliate and advertising revenue? If so, can anyone please provide a couple of pointers to get us in the right direction. If not, be blunt about it, your honest opinions will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks
    Coenraad

  2. #2
    WebProWorld MVP incrediblehelp's Avatar
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    Re: The Ethics Around Affiliate Marketing

    This is a good question. I would have to say you don't have to be an expert in the products/services, but you should have some sort of experience in what your promoting. I cant see how you can have any substantial success in affiliate marketing a product you know absolutely nothing about.

  3. #3
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    Re: The Ethics Around Affiliate Marketing

    I don't think there is anything wrong with it, but if you are wanting to give more to your visitors how about starting a membership part of the site that lets people keep track of their exercise/caloric intake/B.M.I. info/Goals/ etc.

  4. #4

    Re: The Ethics Around Affiliate Marketing

    Thanks for the replies, I appreciate the advice. I've discussed the issue with my partner and mentioned your remarks to him. We both agree that we should start to get a better understanding of the products we promote on our site by doing a little more homework, reading up on the products and staying up to date with any changes.

    We know that the Internet is filled with millions of e-books, many of them not worth buying, so we decided to move our focus towards doing the filtering for the e-book buyers by doing the necessary product research for them and listing only worthy products on our site, thus making it easier to choose the right product and not confusing buyers with too many choices.

    We think this approach will add more value to the visitors and through that we move away from the uselessness of only listing the products on our site. The product research we do can then be added as extra unique content to move away from duplicate content issue.

    What do you think of this approach, do you agree that it will be much better than our current approach? I personally think so.

  5. #5
    WebProWorld MVP incrediblehelp's Avatar
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    Re: The Ethics Around Affiliate Marketing

    Well since the goal here is to offer the visitor the best possible product/service through your website, understanding your products/services better than your competitors only makes sense doesn't it?

  6. #6
    WebProWorld MVP kgun's Avatar
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    Re: The Ethics Around Affiliate Marketing

    Divide an internet site in the following.
    • Ad / Brochure site for a company selling real goods and services.
    • Site selling digital goods and services.
    • Ad driven info site.
    Traffic is important for all three and definitely for the last two chategories. Without traffice, the last will not succee. The Norwegian site W3Schools with 30 million visitors / month is offering their services for free. It is driven by ad. About two years ago they made about USD 1 mill / year in Ad income. So to succeed in the last chategory above, you may need a lot of traffic. In my view, the easiest way to succedd is if you already have a local business selling goods in your home market. Then getting traffic is much about SEO, SEM and other types of Web marketing and traditional media marketing.

    To succeed in selling digital goods and services, you need to offer good solutions. Your nick indicate that you are a C++ expert. May be you can use this expertice to buy Borland's C++ Builder 2007 platform and develope some web 2.0 applications. That platform is the best I know of for developing desktop applications. I made a simple web browser with it some years ago in a few hours. Now the 2007 version is out with the following functionality:

    "Rapid Windows C++ development with seamless support for Windows Vista including VCL support for Aero user interface, Vista Desktop, and API support
    Develop applications on Windows 2000, XP, or Vista and deploy to all
    VCL for the Web lets you quickly and visually build interactive and responsive data-driven corporate Web applications that support Ajax techniques
    Increased ANSI C++ conformance including new Dinkumware library support
    Time Saving Debugging Enhancements with a new user interface enhanced for easier and faster use

    C++Builder 2007
    "C++Builder® 2007 the leading RAD C++ IDE, revolutionizes C++ development with full API support for Windows Vista™ including themed applications and seamless VCL support for Aero™ and Vista Desktop™. With VCL for the Web you can quickly and visually build interactive and responsive dynamic data-driven corporate web applications that support AJAX techniques. We've also increased our ANSI C++ conformance including new Dinkumware library support. With the new build flexibility that supports MSBuild and custom build options you can radically boost your performance with up to 5x faster in-IDE build performance - as fast or faster than command line builds. The new DBX4 database architecture streamlines database connectivity and simplifies writing of data drivers. Plus, you'll save additional time by developing once on your choice of Windows® 2000, XP, or Vista and deploy to all".

    If you are a C++ expert, you have a definite comparative advantage that you should be able to use to start a successful web 2.0 company".

    Is there a need for IT-education in your local market? If you kow C++, XML Tagging, JavaScripting, PHP Scripting, etc should be very easy for you. The largest problem may be to find customers in your local market.

    Some days ago I noted thay Africa is one of the regions in the world with the fastest economic growth. So I am sure there are even urgent need for your expertice, in your region of the world. To succeed globally is much more difficult.

    Why do you think Europe has about as much virus attacks as the rest of the world together according to Trend Micro statistics, that I read about some days ago.

    Sit down with your partner:
    1. Take a sheet of paper and decide on which of the above three chategories you will be involved in.
    2. Then find your niche in that category and may be start locally and expand from there.

    Quote Originally Posted by incrediblehelp View Post
    Well since the goal here is to offer the visitor the best possible product/service through your website, understanding your products/services better than your competitors only makes sense doesn't it?
    Fully agree to that.
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  7. #7

    Re: The Ethics Around Affiliate Marketing

    I read the following blog entry today and found it very interesting and relevant to my problem.

    http://www.webpronews.com/blogtalk/2...ustomer#resume

    I wish I can get my partner to understand this concept. Because of his narrow-minded approach to this site, it remains a site about a couple of "great" books referred by some "wonderful" Internet business partnership program he found.

    I soon started to realise that many of these books are not that great after all. I also discovered that the Internet is littered with eBook affiliate sites promoting this kind of junk, without giving an honest opinion or any other information about the eBook, apart from the information can anyway be found on the author's website. (some are so basic they simply list the affiliate link and that's about it).

    I made the proposition of doing unprejudiced reviews about all kinds of eBooks to give the eBook buyer an informative opinion about what's hot and what's not. All these reviews will rely heavily on the experience of people who actually used the eBooks, in other words, real customer experience. Publishing insider info like this on your website is priceless information to the customer, making a visit to your website a pleasant one, a pleasant customer experience.

    Lets be honest, there are many good eBooks out there, but the Internet is boiling over from all the crap people compile these days, junk they like to call eBooks. There are just as many junk eBooks as there are viruses and spam circulating the Web each day.

    Guess what my partner told me when I suggested we added some kind of rating system to our site to let the good e-books stand out from the rest (for instance a simple concept of Gold, Silver and Bronze badges):

    "Look our website is about making money. If someone comes across a eBook that we rated as a Bronze book, or a book we did not rate at all, then they will go to another website to buy the same book, or another book and then you lost a possible customer. We should only list the good books and forget about the bad books.

    In any case what is the use of listing product on our site if we do not even rate it high ourselves. What some people view as negative about a specific eBook, might not be regarded as negative by all people."


    How narrow-minded can you get? I mean, it is about providing useful information to the consumer about which products should be avoided and providing a better solution at the same time. What part of consumer related reviews does he not understand. I was not born yesterday, I know it is silly to list a product on your site if you do not approve of it yourself, but we are talking about a review here, not a sales pitch. Did he think I am going to put an affiliate link on a review page about a bad product, forget it, that is a clear sign to the visitor that the review is not completely unbiased.

    It is extra content for the site, which brings in targeted traffic. I discovered through our stats reports that people actually look for negative reviews at times and we got some visitors because of similar queries, but only accidentally because of a combination of certain words used in another context on a specific page.

    A good honest, objective review, backed by facts is in the first place unique content and secondly high quality and useful content, creating a good customer experience. And even if you don't get a sale through the visitor, at least he will remember your site because of your honest opinion and will be more likely to buy from you because of the trust you created through a previous positive customer experience.

    Kgun, thanks for the advice, at the moment my creative juices are heavily restricted with this site. There may be something useful to do with my C++ and PHP knowledge with this site, but I still have to find a good application of these skills that will provide a unique solution to our visitors. I think the general theme of the website is the restrictive cause. There is only so much you can do with an eBook and Adobe currently dominates the market, so designing another PDF reader for instance is not a good idea. However your remarks sparked an idea for developing something useful for eBook writers instead of focussing on the readers only. Again I wanted to achieve something similar with the rating system, encouraging good, respectable and honest eBook writers to promote their eBooks through our website.

    I think I might be wasting my time with my involvement in this website. If he does not want to take good advice then he should find another web designer who will eat up all this crap.

  8. #8
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    Re: The Ethics Around Affiliate Marketing

    Quote Originally Posted by cppgenius View Post
    In September 2005 I was offered a stake in an Internet business due to my experience in the IT industry. My partner would lay out the capital and I would make my contribution by designing the website and handling all the technical issues. My partner got the idea from a program he signed up for, called the Business Partnership Program. This program consisted of a huge list of affiliate programs that we could promote through our own website. Like most of these "Make Easy Money" schemes they promised we could make up to R50000 (round about $7000) in the first few months, but we all know that good returns only comes through hard work.

    So we started our own website (eBook Store, eBook Popularity Analysts and collectors of objective eBook reader reviews, eBook reader comments and eBook testimonials) publishing a wide range of these products on our site, most of them being e-books. We later found that the shotgun approach is not working and we started to theme the site around health care, fitness, weight-loss and sport. The problem is that neither me nor my partner are experts in any of these fields, so it is quite hard to produce good quality and unique content on our own, meaning that we publish a lot of articles available for syndication (rest assured that this post is not about duplicate content ). This comes down to the fact that our site is mainly affiliate orientated, simply put, we do not actually provide any unique useful information apart from listing e-books and products related to the categories I previously mentioned. It is more like a directory than anything else if you can call it that way.

    My question is, is it ethical to run a website like that, knowing very little about the products we promote apart from the fact that they were recommended by respectable sources and that some of them are best-sellers in their field.

    We all know how frustrating it is to run across spammy sites like Made For Adsense sites or sites consisting of a couple of pages, listing only affiliate links and nothing else. I feel that our site is very close to the latter and would like to know if anyone have good advice for moving away from this and making the site more useful, more acceptable in terms of good Internet etiquette and honest business.

    I know that it is much easier to make a success from being an expert in a specific field and knowing a lot about the thing you do. This allows you to produce unique, useful, related and fresh content for your website, a never ending source of content and ideas. Are we wasting our time with this project? Should we consider a field where we have more experience and knowledge about? What about sites like Amazon, it is impossible for Amazon to be an expert on every product they sell, but people do not necessarily see them as spammy.

    Bottom line is, is it possible to transform a site like this into a useful site, relying mainly on affiliate and advertising revenue? If so, can anyone please provide a couple of pointers to get us in the right direction. If not, be blunt about it, your honest opinions will be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks
    Coenraad
    There are many firms and organisations round the world who have either something to sell or something to say. And there are many of them who send out press releases yelling you of their new products or new services, or just to remind people that they are still in business.

    There are people willing to offer you content free of charge (sometimes exclusive interviews) so long as you mention their services or products. And many university lecturers offer insight and comments relevant to their field.

    Check out press release websites. Eventually, you could find that you will get more relevant content than you can use. And to make a story unique you can re-write the press releases so that they fit your house style.
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