Today, Google is releasing +1 buttons to the whole web. As a result, you might start seeing +1 appear on sites large and small across the Internet.
Everyone hates blog spam no matter if it’s comment or trackback spam but I thought I would look into it and see if there is any common elements and yes
Cristian is the first speaker interviewed leading upto Affiliate Management Days London 2014, he lives and breathes affiliate marketing working at Avangate as the Senior Affiliate Marketing Manager. He is a positive and engaged member of the affiliate marketing community and is active on social media.
Cristian is speaking on Day 1 at 5:00-5:45pm on “Affiliate Retention Campaigns: Don’t Let Affiliates Leave Your Program“.
Do you mind telling us a little bit about your background and your current role at Avangate?
CM>> When looking back I can say I got a taste of several activities. I studied piano for 6 years (yes, I can still play), I did intensive programming during high-school, I got my bachelor’s diploma on Engineering for Telecommunications and my master’s degree on Journalism – Multimedia Production.
I worked for PC World Romania, part of International Data Group, as an Editor-in-Chief. That helped me a lot getting acquainted with the IT&C field and the global trends. Then, in 2008 I came onboard Avangate and helped grow the global software and online services specialized affiliate network that we have today.
I am currently in charge of Avangate’s affiliate management program for merchants, working with our in-house team and outsourced program manager partners. Working within the software and online services vertical, my responsibilities revolve around the relationship with our merchants and partners, turning the services we provide into successes.
You have written an interesting post on Avangate blog about retention campaigns last year which of these drivers would you suggest affiliate managers start exploring first?
CM>> First of all I would suggest affiliate managers to make sure they have the relevant data to weigh the status of their affiliate program, including the competitive analysis. After that it’s very easy to see where they should act.
From what I saw, most of the merchants start at the commission level, which is the most important according to the AffStat survey. Although I would say that a healthier and proactive approach would be the one where the affiliate managers communicate with the affiliates and know of their potential issues before it’s too late.
I saw that the AffStat 2013 report shows a big shift to commission and relevancy, how can affiliate managers best respond to retain affiliates?
CM>> Actually in the 2013 survey the percentages have not been normed to 100%, but put there based on the frequency of choice in the multiple selections of affiliates.
That said, the shift I see is more related to relevancy and that is only natural with affiliates identifying niches on which they can be “kings” without much competition to go against. The best way for affiliate managers to respond to this is nurture their top affiliates with personalized programs (exclusive opportunities) to help each grow their way. I would also advise them to develop a pipeline of long-tail affiliates, to minimize the revenue impact of a potential top affiliate leaving the program. That can be managed via the affiliate programs that vertical networks run – like Avangate on software & online services.
If affiliates are managed right what are some of the benefits for merchants? Revenue? Traffic? Retention?
CM>> Ultimately it all comes down to revenue – that should be the end goal. Judging from the “take one small step at a time” point of view, it really depends on the affiliate program development stage the merchant is in. For vendors that are just starting to work with affiliates, getting relevant traffic is the first goal. With that you will also get revenue. Then, you aim to maximize the revenue by getting more affiliates onboard. Finally, retention is the way to go when the merchant’s revenue can grow mostly from existing affiliates. And we mustn’t forget that given the rise of subscriptions and longer term customer relationship, the affiliate managers must take into account rewarding the affiliates in the retention phase as well. Affiliate networks already provide ways to incentivize the affiliates for both acquiring new customers and also retaining them.
There’s no universal method of managing the affiliates the right way. The guidelines are there as best practices, but a smart affiliate manager has to integrate those to the specific of each of the affiliates in order to get maximized efficiency
I have like many affiliates have experienced being thrown out of a program without notification due to becoming inactive or not driving enough revenue. Is that the best course of action?
CM>> I certainly hope the affiliate manager who was handling the program at least took the time to speak with you (email, IM, phone) prior to throwing you out of the program. I generally do not recommend that, especially for the affiliates driving some revenue. I think every affiliate is a potential partner that can help move business for you so the least you should do as an affiliate manager is make sure that lead is “gone-dead” from a business perspective before disabling them from your program.
What I’ve seen some merchants I’m working with do is create a “drop tier” with a very low affiliate commission rate to which they temporarily assign policy violators – that can be a solution for inactive affiliates as well, just so the affiliate manager knows they’re all in one place and also keep the relationship.
6. What is the best way to track inactive affiliates or those that swapped to promoting a competitors product?
CM>> First of all, every affiliate manager should look over the stats of the program at least once a week. That way they can see any changes in revenue and traffic from the affiliates and can get back on those.
Also, with big affiliates it’s always useful to check their website, be subscribed to their email campaigns and be connected with them via social media (Facebook, Twitter), just to see what they’re communicating to their audience. There are also paid tools out there (e.g. WhatRunsWhere) which you can use to get more info about your publishers
7. How do you find is the best way to evaluate if a poorly performing affiliates can improve with coaching/support? Is it the type of traffic they send? The amount of traffic? or is it your knowledge of the product/industry?
CM>> I think that understanding how an affiliate promotes your products is the key. It encompasses both the traffic (volume and quality) and the targeting of it. There are affiliates that send hundreds of thousands of people in traffic and get no sales, but if they have the right traffic, they do not need so much in order to generate revenue.
From the affiliate manager perspective, they can also share their advice with affiliates on how to best promote the products.
8. What do you find are your best channels to building relationship with top affiliates?
CM>> Events help very much in schmoozing with your affiliates and building a relationship – it’s always best to associate a face to a name. Unfortunately we don’t get to meet all your affiliates (not even all our top ones) at events, so we can also try to have periodic phone / IM calls with our affiliates, to keep them close and build the relationship. That’s more cost effective as well – the trouble is not all of them prefer these methods of communication, so we might be left with the email. Some nice gifts sent around holidays also help building the relationship.
What are some of the best channels you find for distribution of affiliate news, new offers and changes to your affiliate programs?
CM>> Emails (newsletters) work fine with affiliates usually. For top affiliates, an additional personal reach (IM, phone, email) is recommended, so they see you care about them. You can even throw something extra for your top performers along with the offer for general affiliates.
What is the main ideas/points that you hope people get from attending your session?
CM>> Affiliate managers attending this session should leave with a clear retention campaign plan for their affiliate program: getting in touch with affiliates, updating their competitive analysis, constantly analyzing their current program status and using the guidelines we’ll go through to ease the retention efforts.
What other AM Days speakers or sessions are you most looking forward to attending?
CM>> There are several sessions I’m looking forward to attend, but the ones that I’m especially waiting for are the panel on understanding your affiliates and the one on growing affiliate programs in Europe vs. US.
So where can people found you if people want to follow/engage with you online?
Thank you Cristian for your time in answering these questions. If you want to catch Cristian Miculi speak and save ££££ on tickets for AM Days London you can use our discount code LOSTAGENCY14 and you can register and find out more here.
It sometimes annoys me with the questionable posts that friends share to their wall, as it shows up in my news feed. Today’s one was offering anyone that liked, commented and shared the post on their wall a chance to win 1 of 5 BMWs. This is an obvious scam done just to build likes to a page that can be used to sell or market other services such as premium SMS, surveys, harvest emails or promote affiliate offers.
What makes this seem like a scam?
It’s highly unlikely that a random Facebook page you have never heard of before that is not actually associated with BMW is going to give away a car. Even if the promotion was real they would require some more strict entries such as a signup form and it would be limited to a specific country or state and would not be global due to the legalities. But also the cost for transporting the prize to some winners might cost more than the value of the car and companies don’t like uncertainties like this in their marketing promotions.
The other part is that if you shared it onto your wall so only your friends could see if there would be no way the prize organisers could check on your compliance with rule 3 if you have correctly setup your privacy settings.
What about the page URL?
You can see below they have picked a typo custom URL, this is a sign they are using someone else’s brand or they have had a similar URL shut down before. This is the first warning sign that something is not kosher.
Multiple Edits to the Post & Inconsistent Dates
Facebook recently rolled out a nice little feature that makes this next part really easy to spot. You can see that the spammers have been testing different messages to see which works best or potentially what is not flagged by Facebook. Another warning sign is they are swapping around the dates for the prize draw and give away and for such a large prize they have such a short promotional window. But every Facebook marketer could learn a bit from what they are doing by creating urgency and testing messages.
Read the comments first!
You can see a whole bunch of people reading the post are calling out Bullshit on the share and win but yet hundreds of thousands more are making a serious effort to try and satisfy the page owners by following the 3 steps. There are heart warming pleas and several links and warnings to users that this is a scam yet the likes and comments continue.
Check their about us page
If this was a real promotion or company doing this they would have a lot more information and the page would likely have existed for more than 2 months. The big red flag should be the page’s about description text states “Like & Share” and the contact information is mostly missing except for a link to a page dedicated to Fast & Furious which is setup for selling illegal copies of the movie or fishing for peoples email address to sell onto other people for marketing lists. I advise you don’t visit the page but if you want to see what is on it I’ve got a screenshot PDF Version which is safe to preview.
Why Spammers do it?
People are gullible and often desperate to believe and that is what these pages take advantage of each and every time. As of now 131,330 people like this one post, it has 331,305 shares and 139,121 comments which will likely continue to grow until Facebook shuts it down and they have to do it again.
You won’t win, so don’t comment, share or like these types of posts. You encourage others to believe and you are benefiting the spammers so if you see these types of posts report it via the Facebook systems and then report their Facebook page for spam.
Do you fall for these posts?
If you aren’t so gullible what do you do when you see these posts in your news feed or on your friends Facebook wall?
It seems Google+ is starting to emulate some Facebook & Twitter features by trying to promote the original owner of the content being shared which is potentially great for content creators, but maybe not so much for the user/page sharing the content. As I couldn’t find a feature name in the HTML code I’ve decided to call this feature Google+ Smart Links.
Almost exactly 12 months ago Facebook started promoting anyone clicking like on a post if they “Want to see more from this FB Page” to drive more FB fans for the brands page. This feature seemed to be only offered in a limited rollout and seemed to be focused around Facebook’s big media partners that they were trying to win over.
Twitter has had their Twitter cards which they rolled out in June 2012 that allow for a rich snippet but also allow users to easily follow the Twitter account linked to the official owner of the content. The process did require the website to add in Twitter meta tags and then have their account verified before they would show it but has worked quite well for driving increased engagement and better CTR from Tweets.
I noticed last night when doing some research for another Google+ post that Google has quietly also rolled out an enhanced Google+ status update with a link to the content’s owner as you can see below for VentureBeat post.
Lee Jarrat over on Google Plus Daily seems to be the first site to post about the new Google+ smart links thanks to a tip from Sebastien Defrance. What is interesting is that Lee has correctly pointed out that this new Google+ page link replaces the websites URL which is part of Google’s general move in Search results away from showing the websites Domain/URLs and towards just showing Names/Brands.
So how do Google+ Smart Links Work?
It’s an easy assumption to make based on who is showing up that this feature is only available to verified names or those pages that have verified their link to the website. It seems that the Google+ Smart Links are showing in feeds for both personal accounts and if acting as a Google+ page. So I decided to shift through both feeds and these are the pages that I noticed were showing Smart Links:
- Thomas Cook UK (verified/linked)
- Tourism Whistler (verified/linked)
- SurveyMonkey (verified/linked)
- VentureBeat (verified/linked)
- SocialMouths (verified/linked)
- Storify (verified/linked/not-active)
- MediaPost (unverified/linked/not-active)
- SEO Chat (not-linked/unverified)
What was interesting is that I found that the common element was usually that the page was a Google Verified Name and they were a Linked website but I also found that this was not always the case. So there is obviously something else that is triggering if Google+ decides to show these for your pages.
SEO Chat was the interesting example where they did not have a verified name, had not yet verified the link to their website and their page and unlike the other examples they only had a small amount of people that had them in circles. I did check their website and the SEO Chat Forum does have their Google+ publisher link embedded on their page so maybe that is enough?
This made me wonder if the new Google+ Smart Links had some link with the amount of URLs shared on Google+ or the authority of the admins running the page? The reason why I wonder this is that both MediaPost and Storify have not posted once on Google+ yet are included in this test experiment.
Doesn’t Relate to Circles
The initial thought was that the Google+ Smart Links were similar to Facebook’s follow this page feature but if you look at the example below when I was using Google+ as a page Thomas Cook UK was showing these. But if I mouse over the link you can see that I already have Thomas Cook UK in my circles so maybe these Smart Links are being used for more than just growing follower numbers?
Downside to Google+ Smart Linking
What are the downsides to Google+ Smart Linking can be seen below where a random user Kerry was looking for people to complete her SurveyMonkey quiz. But as you can see in the screenshot her Google+ post is now also promoting the SurveyMokey Google+ page instead of the URL of the survey.
What is the upside to Google+ Smart Linking?
The potential upside is expanded branding for content owners/creators that are having their content shared on Google+ and have created a Google+ page. The other point I’ve noticed is that because this feature is controlled by Google it seems to be retrospective for old posts. The other upside is that it appears unlike Twitter cards brands/pages don’t have to do anything onpage to have this feature enabled so it’s probably something that is going to be more attractive to big brands and large websites.
Active Google+ Post Discussions About it