Category Archives: Miscellaneous

EasyAzon Review – First Impressions

If you’re looking for a nice easy way to integrate Amazon listings into your WordPress blog, then EasyAzon from Chris Guthrie is your answer.

I’ve used WordPress for many websites over the past few years, so I’m always excited when I see a new plugin out that helps me accomplish something faster or more efficiently than I could previously, using WordPress.

I’ve also created quite a few websites around Amazon products, and in the past I’ve used plugins such as ReviewAzon. ReviewAzon is a very powerful plugin, and it can let you do a lot of things on autopilot; however the problem I’ve found with it is that as Google has gotten tougher and tougher on duplicate content, some of my sites that were relying on content pulled from Amazon have suffered in their rankings, and thus traffic and revenue has dropped off.

Recently, that has left me searching for a simple way to integrate Amazon affiliate links directly into WordPress posts and pages, however not in an automated fashion that is likely to leave footprints for Google to track. I wanted to be able to search from within the post editor for an Amazon product, and pull up the affiliate links. Further to that, I wanted this to be a simple process that I could hand off to my writer in the Philippines.

Enter EasyAzon.

In stark contrast to most of the other Amazon related WordPress plugins that are out there, EasyAzon is very simple. This is what the Settings screen looks like:

EasyAzon Settings

These are one-time settings that you’ll never have to touch again.

At the bottom of that page, you’ll see a place where you can enable Link Localization. This is a really cool feature that allows you to enter your details for other international Amazon affiliate programs. EasyAzon will then automatically detect the users’ IP location via their IP address and serve them links to the appropriate affiliate program. Depending on your traffic demographics, and the products you’re promoting, this could reclaim a fair bit of sales for you right off the bat.

The only problem with this is that most of the other Amazon sites don’t carry nearly the same depth of products as Amazon.com, so in many cases the product you’re promoting may not be available on the users’ local site. That’s not a limitation of the plugin though, but rather of Amazon itself.

EasyAzon Review – Daily Use

Ok, enough of the big picture stuff. How easy is this plugin to use, and what exactly is it going to do for me?

First, open a new post, or edit an existing one. Once EasyAzon is installed, you’ll see this box below the post edit screen:

EasyAzon Amazon SearchSimply type in whatever you’re searching for, either in a general sense, or specifically and hit ‘Search Amazon’ to get a list of results. If you want, you can narrow the results down further by specifying which Search Index you want to use, but that isn’t really necessary.

As soon as you do that, you get a list of results right there in the form. I’ll use “RC airplane” as my search – you can see the results below:

EasyAzon Review Search ResultsAt this point, to insert an affiliate link into your post it becomes as easy as clicking on ‘Insert Text Link’ or one of the other link options: Image Link or Info Box.

If you select Text Link, you’ll see a simple box that lets you specify what anchor text you want to link with.

If you select Image Link, you’ll see a box with options for how large you want the image to be, and its alignment.

If you select Info Box, you’ll see a screen where you can specify alignment.

After each box, you simply hit Insert Shortcode, and the shortcode gets pasted into your post where your cursor is at the moment.

EasyAzon Review – Conclusions

Drop Dead Simple

As you can see, EasyAzon is remarkably easy to use. It is simple and straightforward; perfect for either your personal use or for an outsourced worker to use. In my case, I wanted something foolproof that my outsourced writers can work with, without having to access my Amazon account.

Natural Look and Feel

Ironically, I love the fact that this plugin has zero automation features. So many plugins claim to save you time by literally ‘doing everything for you’ and they do; however by taking such a heavy role in the site creation process, they inevitably leave footprints all over your site which Google can easily see and attribute to the work of some autoblog system. Google is always fighting web spam, and it stands to reason that an autoblog is going to be seen as web spam in their eyes.

So, the more we can do to make our sites look natural, the better. EasyAzon basically just takes everything that you would have done by hand, and does the heavy lifting for you, putting the necessary things right at your fingertips rather than sending you digging for them (through Amazon’s site). The output is basically the same thing as what you’d end up with if you hand coded your affiliate links, so there isn’t a footprint to speak of. That said, I’m not sure about the info box, but I know the image and text links are pretty plain vanilla. They’re not even cloaked.

No HTML Required

I have vivid memories of the battle to get some Amazon code to stick on one of my WordPress blogs. It had to be done in the HTML view, but as soon as I switched to visual view, everything got completely screwed up. I had to make the change in HTML view, save the post, and then in the future, make sure if I wanted to edit it that I opened a different post, switched to HTML view, saved it, went back out, and then into the post I actually wanted to edit so that it would open in HTML view and not screw things up the instant I opened it up. I can’t tell you what a gong show that was. Thankfully, all that is firmly in the past with EasyAzon. You don’t have to know a speck of HTML, and you surely don’t have to change to that HTML view either.

Personally, I’m very happy I discovered EasyAzon, and I’m going to be rolling it out across my various Amazon product sites immediately. If you do anything with WordPress and Amazon, this is one plugin that is worth getting. You can find EasyAzon here, and yes, that is an affiliate link. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I do.

EasyAzon Review

Are You Simply Guessing?

I just discovered there’s an embed code on the daily Dilbert, so you can expect to start seeing some of those on here hehe. Here’s a great one from today:

Dilbert.com

Moral of the story though is marketing should be actions you take based on information you have about your clientele. It should NOT be shooting around in the dark…

So head on over to Quantcast.com, or Alexa, or one of the various other places online that give you things like that and get busy figuring out your demographics, for starters!

Screw Google: Facebook Now Rules… Whaaat?

Your Facebook Fans

With the simple qualification of you being in marketing and having a functioning email address, I can pretty much guarantee that you’ve recently been digitally assaulted with one of the latest renditions from the “Screw Google” crowd.

Specifically, I’m sure you’ve now been educated to the fact that Facebook gets 39+ BILLION page loads per month, 5x more than Google. And that for this very reason, Google is now trembling in their gold-lined, diamond encrusted bunker, aware that their demise must be imminent at the hand of this fearsome foe. Further, savvy marketers should get on the band wagon ASAP, and ditch Google in the hope of greener pastures on the other side of the fence. Why stick it out on the Titanic?

Facebook, so it would seem, is the new Adwords (circa 2004) – king of cheap, targeted traffic.

Proponents say there’s more traffic, you can target by demographics, and that click prices are cheaper.

I’ve been seeing the emails increasing all week long, to the point where I’m getting a little cheesed at this latest ‘slap-Google-back’ stunt. Finally, I just read a good post over at the Affiliate Black Book blog that talked about the issue (yes, that’s where I scraped that fan picture from… thanks X!) and seeing as I was just sitting around here on a Friday evening waiting to go out, I thought why not write my own?

So let’s consider the issues.

Is Facebook a Threat to Big G?

Ok – is Facebook really a threat to Google? Well, depending on your source, Facebook’s projected revenue for 2009 was somewhere between $500 and $550 million. Google’s 2009 reported gross income was $23.65 Billion according to this source. Oh yeah, and they reported net income of $6.52 Billion.

In case you didn’t catch that, there was a B on Google’s statement, and just a little m on Facebooks’.

In case you didn’t catch that, Facebook’s entire 2009 revenue was about 8.4% of Google’s profit.

I highly doubt Google is shaking in their boots about on this one.

Is Facebook Targeted?

Ok, so let’s look at the claims. Facebook is incredibly targeted – you can choose your customers (that’s the claim). Ok, but what are they doing on Facebook? Most people are jumping on Facebook to tell their friends that they just got their hair done, the latest game sucked, or their boss is a jerk. (Careful with that – boss’s are on FB too!). Does that sound like a warmed up prospect? Not to me.

Ok, let’s look at Adwords again. Hmm… prospect types in “XYZ review” sees your ad, and clicks because its relevant. You’ve got a shot at making that sale. He was looking for you. On Facebook, they’re not looking for anything. It’s interruption advertising, same as anything else. Content network, CPV, etc etc. Except search. Oh – and the fact that content network is contextual.

Yes, you can choose your demographics on Facebook, but you can do the same on Google’s content network. And the content network is far larger.

Compared to Google, Facebook’s advertising platform looks like something a 2 year old could rustle up in a sandbox. And need I say that you have FAR MORE OPTIONS on Google’s highly advanced Adwords platform? Anybody who is familiar with the content network on Google knows that Facebook doesn’t offer even 1/10th of the refinement and control that Google does.

Google offers targeted advertising. The best we currently have anyways. Facebook offers you an educated shot in the dark.

Is Facebook Cheaper?

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.

I found a blog post where one fine fellow got quite excited about Facebook’s potential. He says he spent about $500 in a couple of weeks and was able to add about 1000 fans to his new fan page (less 50 of his friends that joined as well… so 950 for $500).

How does that work out? That’s about 53 cents per conversion. To get a fan.

I’m trying desperately to remember how that quote goes about not being able to buy love.

Ok, so 53 cents for a conversion isn’t bad. But how does it compare to the content network, or search network? I’m currently getting conversions for around 83 cents a piece (its still dropping) – but these conversions aren’t joining my fan page. They’re opting in to a sales funnel. Many of them are buying my products. The revenue from my sales overshadows the cost of PPC, thus making list building (and there’s a BIG difference between list building and fan base building) essentially a negative cost. Yes, because of the sales, it costs me less than nothing to build my list.

So yes, you maybe be paying 25-50 cents per click on Facebook, but I can tell you I’m currently getting hundreds of clicks per day at an average of 11 cents each off the content network. Oh, and a quite bunch at 4 cents each off one particularly massive site which I won’t name, just to keep you guessing.

So you can talk about prices, and you can talk about conversions. But even then, most people aren’t talking about the same thing. A conversion can be becoming a fan, opting in to a list, or becoming a paid customer.

Should We Really Ditch Google?

If you had an income stream producing consistent revenue, would you throw it away in favor of something else? No, any rational, sane person would simply test the new source, and if it worked out, add it to the mix. Only an idiot would throw out something that is working.

I’ll say that again. Only an idiot would throw out something that is working.

So, that gets me to the main tick in my craw. The fact that every marketer, as well as some of their dogs, have been promoting the NewTrafficHoneyHole product from Ryan Deiss.

The same guy who just promoted his product that taught people how to use Google’s content network to target Gmail is now telling people Google sucks.

You can’t have it both ways!

That’s the thing that really gets me about the internet marketing crowd. Gurus are no exception. Somebody comes out with a hot product, and every starts flogging it, because there are a few bucks to be made. Fact is, I and others I know have tested the Gmail tactic and never been wildly successful at it. And I’ve seen Deiss’ course – nothing we weren’t trying in there.

I’m not sure it ever worked that well, and that makes this latest Facebook thing suspect.

Who’s the Real Rival?

The funny thing is, is that in all of this, I haven’t heard a peep about the fact that Yahoo and MSN are now merging their advertising forces. Just heard it on the radio the other day. Now, that’s something to talk about. Both have highly developed advertising platforms, in many respects far closer to Google than Facebook has any hope of being within a couple of years.

They are both established players, and they’re looking to make waves. Bing is not only aiming at Google, they’re firing. With some Yahoo bullets in the chamber, they’ll get a bit further. It’s going to be very interesting to watch that particular game unfold over the next year or so.

What’s the Upshot?

Well, I’ll make no bones of the fact that Google still pisses me off. They act like they’re God, and they just honestly don’t care about me, or you. Doesn’t matter if you spend a buck a year or a million, we’re all human spawn in their eyes. Except if you’re a real big boy like Amazon or Ebay (then you get preferential treatment apparently as their ads seem to be WAY outside the normal relevancy guidelines the rest of us are subject too).

So no, I don’t like Google. Does that mean I don’t do business with them? Well no. It’s profitable for me, and an excellent source of economical, targeted traffic.

So what about Facebook? Well, I’ve just launched a campaign there this week as well, and I’m now testing out different strategies. Am I abandoning Google? Heck no. But I will be evaluating Facebook’s advertising performance against my benchmarks from Google.

So until I’m able to prove it otherwise, Facebook is not ‘da bomb’ that most people are making it out to be right now, and no, I’m not jumping ship from Google, even though I freely admit the thought of doing business with them frequently brings a sinister gleam to my eye.

Last word? Shape up guys. Use some integrity in what you promote eh?

Life As A Merchant (And How to Keep It Simple)

For the past few months now, I’ve been deeply involved in creating and marketing my own products. I still do some affiliate marketing, but for the time being, I’m building my own inventory.

Along with being a product owner comes some unique challenges.

One of these is customer support.

I keep a rough mental tally of how many emails I’m receiving on a given subject, and when things start getting out of hand (ie more than 2-3 emails in a week on a particular question) then I try to come up with a solution. 2-3 emails right now could easily become 10-20 per week later on, and if there is an easy fix, I’ve saved myself tons of time, right?

Ok – so here’s an example. I offer a member’s only download area, and some people were having trouble logging in and downloading. Mostly these questions were due to weak computer skills, and I found myself explaining things like ‘right click and save target as’ over and over. Well, I quickly realized I hadn’t put that particular line on my download page, so I added that, and things improved a bit.

Then I decided to do a walk through screen capture video and talk about everything a member might want to do, and show them how to do it. Boom. Emails dropped off.

Something else I’ve been dealing with lately is failed transactions. It just drives me nuts to see a failed transaction come through, because I know that’s lost revenue for me!

Unfortunately I don’t currently have a way of automatically following up with those people, but I did start emailing each one separately, to see if I could provide some suggestions as to how they might successfully purchase. Anyways, this started to get tiresome as well.

So I created some custom signatures in my email program, Entourage, one for each product. Now if a person tries to purchase product XYZ and fails, I can go into my system, click on their name (which opens an email window), type in a subject line and “Hello Johnny” and then select the signature of my choice and hit send.

The signature is in fact a complete email, complete with a screen capture shot of the order form with red circles and instructions.

So now I have a way of following up in a semi-automated manner, and hopefully capturing back some of those transactions. To date, although I haven’t counted exactly, I have seen a handful return for a successful purchase. Well worth 30 seconds.

You could take this same concept (email signatures) and use it for pretty much any kind of common customer support issue you run into. It is just a really handy way of storing a pre-packaged answer to a common question.

Do you have any little tricks on how you deal with customer support issues as a merchant? I’d love to hear them – leave a comment below!

I Shall Sing You The Song of My People

Sing the song of my peopleDoes your marketing turn heads?

A picture is worth a thousand words – this one included!

I’ve heard that if you haven’t offended anyone with your marketing, you’re not doing a very good job. Good marketing is truly “sold out” for the cause – you’ve identified your tribe (no puns intended) and you are SUPER relevant to them. The natural outcome of this is that you’re going to annoy and possible anger people outside of your tribe, or herd, as Dan Kennedy likes to call it. But your tribe will love you for being that relevant to them, and will reward you accordingly.

Checkout the caption – “I shall sing you the song of my people” – that’s a tribal type of phrase right?

What about the song? Do you know your target market well enough to know what makes them tick? What makes them laugh, what they talk about, where they hang out, and most importantly, what makes them purchase?

Who is your tribe, what is their song, and are they really “your people?”

Leave a comment below and tell us about it!