Is My Site Mobile Friendly

Everyone is talking this week about Google’s threat to change their algorithms to start penalizing sites that are not mobile friendly. I started getting emails to my Webmaster account several months ago about the need to update my sites. Some sites we were already working on but others we were a long way from touching.

If you want to know if your site is mobile friendly, Google will be happy to tell you. Just go to their Mobile-Friendly Test page and put in your site. You will get the response above “Awesome! This page is mobile-friendly.” if you have done a good job. If you haven’t, you will get the response below that details what your problems are and some ideas of how to fix them.

Not Mobile Friendly

 

Interestingly, you can actually look on a page by page basis rather than just your entire domain. For example, my site Sunshine Rewards was re-designed to be responsive, but we have not paid to upgrade our Vbulletin forum. So our forum shows up as “Not mobile-friendly” when I run the test on it, even though the rest of the site is fine. It will be interesting to see if Google is really going to change on a page by page basis or rather will penalize the entire domain. (We’re working on it!!)

So what if you have a bunch of old blogs and don’t have the time or money to upgrade them all quickly? One suggestion is to install the WP-Touch plugin. It will make your pages instantly mobile-friendly. I installed in across 3 different blogs in less than 10 minutes. It is not a perfect solution, but it does solve the problem for now until I have time to completely upgrade my themes (I’m switching from Thesis to Genesis).

Once you install WP-Touch or upgrade your theme or whatever and have run it through the Google check to make sure that Google thinks it is okay, it’s a good idea to test some interactions as well. There are some really great Chrome Extensions you can use to bring up your site the way that it would behave on various phones and tables. I like both Mobile/RWD Tester and Responsive Web Design Tester. I am sure that there are a lot of other similar ones.

Are your sites all ready for the big algorithm update? What have you done to upgrade them or what (if anything) are you planning on doing? 

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Aweber Free Trial

I’ve been using Aweber for my mailing lists across many of my sites for a number of years. I have an internal list processor that I use for Sunshine Rewards (combined with Mandrill for delivery), but I use Aweber for everything else. I know a lot of affiliates and bloggers go back and forth on which newsletter companies to use, but here are some of the reasons that I keep my list on Aweber.

Customer Service

I won’t lie and say that I haven’t had any problems at all with my newsletters. When I have had problems, Aweber has given me MULTIPLE ways to contact them. I’ve talked to them via email, on Twitter, and even on the phone when I was really having problems. When I am paying for a monthly service, I want to be able to get in touch with someone to get my problems resolved! So far, they have helped me resolve every problem that I have had.

Affiliate Marketing

Aweber is a pretty integral part of the affiliate marketing community. Their terms (unlike some other newsletter providers) do not exclude affiliate marketers. In fact, they exhibit and speak at Affiliate Summit, have their own internal affiliate program, and even allowed me to moderate a panel on affiliate marketing at their first conference last year (ASCEND Summit). When affiliate marketing is your business, it’s good to have partners that understand as much about it as you do.

Reputation

I’m not alone in my love of Aweber. I see so many of my friends using them and when I ask other people what they use, Aweber is one of the top 2 or 3 that always get mentioned. The ones who do NOT use Aweber usually say it is because their list was not double opt-in. But Aweber has done away with the requirement that imported lists be double opt-in. So I bet even more people will now be switching.

Tools

I’m not incredibly high tech, but I have some high tech demands for my sites. I need WordPress integration, widgets, light boxes, blog broadcasts, and more. In fact, I even found a way to turn my deal posts in my VBulletin forum into an RSS feed that is now a Daily Deal email on Sunshine Rewards. Talk about repurposing content! (You can see how I did that in my post Combine Tools to Streamline Work and Reach Customers.) I also like the archive pages for my newsletters and the ability for them to be shared easily.

Price

When I started out, my lists were VERY small. It was nice to be able to pay a small monthly fee when I wasn’t making much off of my lists. As my lists have grown, I have not moved up very much in my monthly fee but I have been able to really expand to offer multiple lists for different sites. I can control my costs by deleting out unsubscribes, undeliverables, and people who just aren’t interacting with the emails (especially for my niche sites where I use contests to generate signups).

And what is the very best price? Free!! Because that is how much their trial is now. You can sign up for free and get in there and really get your hands dirty seeing what it can do for you. You actually get an entire month free (which is longer than a lot of free trials these days). Or you can take an even bigger discount by getting a whole quarter for only $32.67 (versus $49).

So what are you waiting for? Jump in there and grab your free trial and see if Aweber is the email marketing solution for you.

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In the last couple of days 2 different big brand merchants have announced that they are setting their program terms to 0% commission. Leapfrog is turning off their entire program so the 0% is a stop gap until people have time to remove their links. However, The Children’s Place is simply “out of budget” for the time being and promises to return affiliates to the regular rates hopefully in April. ToysRUs and BabiesRUs recently also “ran out of budget.” It happens!

What’s an affiliate to do when they get a notice like this?

First, I hope that you are already using link redirects. I’ve mentioned them so many times before and this is a perfect time to be using them. I use Pretty Link on my blogs and an internal script on Sunshine Rewards. By changing one link on the back end, I can change the links across my whole site to redirect them somewhere else. It’s a lifesaver in case where a merchant changes networks but can also be used in times like this.

But should you redirect your links?

For a site like SR, I will absolutely turn off a merchant completely because I am not going to send them free coupon/cash back traffic. And I can easily just deactivate the merchant on my site through my administration panel so that their page disappears. That’s pretty much the best solution with sites like that.

What about blogs?

This gets tricky. If you wrote a purely promotional post about a sale at The Children’s Place and you leave your links active, you will be sending them traffic and they will not be paying for it anymore. What a boon for them! And a bust for you. From a financial standpoint, it’s dumb to let them have the free traffic.

But you’ve got your audience to think about. What happens when your reader click on your link and it takes them to a dead page or a merchant they didn’t expect? You might lose credibility. In that case, you are better off leaving the links as is. And of course the merchant knows that and is hoping for that. If the merchant closes the program completely like Leapfrog, you may just want to put in a direct link to their site. If the program is going to be at 0% for an indefinite amount of time, you can just leave the affiliate link.

If you have a page of niche product recommendations that you can remake easily (for example just taking them out of your PopShops search results or creating a new Make a Page quickly with ShareASale merchants), you can keep your content but recommend other products. That’s the best-case scenario for a page like that, even if it does mean some extra work on your part. Just change any mentions of the merchant entirely and pick products from a different merchant.

Which Is the Best Option?

You know your audience better than anyone else (or at least you should). Depending on how much traffic you are getting to the posts versus how much money you make off of them versus what alternative merchants you can switch to, you at least have some options. As affiliates we HATE getting these types of notices, but it’s just part of the business and we have to figure out how to roll with it for our particular sites. It hurts worst when it is a brand that is hard to replace (like Children’s Place) because you can’t get the same items anywhere else (unlike Leapfrog).

What do you do when a merchant sets your commission to 0%? Will you trust them again later and eventually put their links back up? Or will you refuse to work with them again even if they reset them?

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I’m just now getting around to writing my wrap-up from Affiliate Summit West because so many exciting things happened there and shortly after! I went into the conference with the goal of treating it like it was my first time, and in many ways I achieved that. I attended sessions, made new friends, and even checked out the entire Exhibit Hall and Meet Market.

Although there were a lot of highlights for me, here are 8 things that I was glad that I didn’t miss but some of you might have.

Affiliate Karaoke: Although it was not an official even this time (anyone want to be a sponsor in New York??), Nathan Smith found us an amazing little dive bar to get cheap drinks, dance, and sing karaoke. We had a fun group of bloggers, merchants, and OPMs. Some of us knew we were looking for it in advance and others just saw us talking about it on Twitter. It pays to follow conference hashtags on Twitter if you are looking for something fun to do!

My session with Eric and Todd: I was lucky enough to give a presentation with Eric Nagel and Todd Farmer about our site WineClubGroup.com. We didn’t hold anything back. We showed our analytics, our revenue, how we find merchants, and everything that has made the site successful. I’m disappointed that more bloggers didn’t show up because we really did share a lot of our tips and tricks. You can still download our Resource Guide if you missed it.

Meeting Kozzi in the Meet Market: I promised myself that I was going to make a real effort to visit all of the Exhibits this time, and I did. Finding friends and current partners is nice, but finding NEW partners is a real bonus. If you didn’t make it to the back of the Meet Market to talk to Kozzi, you missed out. They are a stock photo provider with AMAZING deals for both people buying stock photos and affiliates who want to promote the program. If you have any interest in stock photos at all, you should check out the Kozzi Affiliate program.

Affiliate Legal Issues Session: As an affiliate and a lawyer, this session was totally up my alley. But even if you are not a lawyer, you need to understand things like nexus legislation and FTC disclosure requirements. Sam Engel, Gary Kibel, Carolyn Kmet, and Gerri-Lynn Becker did a great job of giving information about various legal issues that can threaten your business as an affiliate or a merchant. If you are not paying attention to these, you may find yourself on the wrong side of a lawsuit.

Newcomer Program: The Affiliate Summit Newcomer Program “helps connect first time attendees with Affiliate Summit veterans.” I was paired up with the amazing Mindy Marzec of Budget Fairy Tale. Not only did I make a new friend, but it was nice to be a part of something that would help someone else experience Affiliate Summit fully. I used to do it all the time but had stopped because I didn’t think I had time anymore. Remembering back to my first time at Affiliate Summit, I realized that it doesn’t take much to help put someone at ease. Whether you are a veteran or a newcomer, you should be taking advantage of this program if possible. (and thanks to Mindy for some of the photos above!)

PMA CEO & Founder Event: The Performance Marketing Association put on a terrific cocktail party where members and others interested in joining could chat about industry issues and the part that the PMA is playing. It was great seeing so much support for the organization and getting a chance to share the wonderful things that the organization has done this year. If you are reading this and are not a member, you need to find out how to become one.

ASW Speaker Event: Being a speaker has its perks, besides the free pass. This year we were invited to a networking event on the High Roller, which is like a great big enclosed Ferris Wheel. I was incredibly nervous about getting on it and my friends did their best to make me think we were going to fall to our deaths (or at least into the safety net below it). Despite that, it was a nice opportunity to chat with other speakers before the conference started and take in AMAZING views of Las Vegas. Thanks to Shawn and Missy for treating their speakers!

Pinnacle Awards: I was not really looking forward to the Pinnacle Awards because I had become a perennial loser and it is kind of embarrassing to sit there with my friends and lose every year. But it IS an honor to be a finalist even if you don’t win. I was absolutely floored when I found out that I won Affiliate of the Year! It was a moment that I will never forget. And I was incredibly excited for fellow winners Joe Sousa, Brian Littleton, FMTC, and Acceleration Partners.

There’s a lot of other stuff that happened that was important to me but wouldn’t be important to you (including quality time with some of the people that I treasure most in this world–you know who you are!). I’ll spare you the personal details.

Did you attend any of these events? Was there something you did that *I* missed that I need to do next time?

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This weekend Affiliate Summit will be held in Las Vegas. I can’t remember how many Affiliate Summits this is for me…maybe 17? I’ve written so much about Affiliate Summit that it has its own category on my blog! Each time I try to set specific goals for what I want to get out of it (see What’s Your Plan for Affiliate Summit).

Early on I focused on getting as much as I could from Affiliate Summit as fast as I could, including education and networking. As the years went on I focused more on using my time there to build my own brand and credibility. My days were planned down to the minute including meetings with both new and old partners. There was little time allotted to just absorbing what was around me.

This year I want to take a step back from all of that. I’m going to approach Affiliate Summit like I haven’t already been there 15+ times (with the benefit of knowing some of the things that I know!). Here are some of the things I am planning:

  • Attend sessions. That seems like a no-brainer, right? Nope. Every year I end up saying that I can skip the sessions and watch them on video. But then I never get around to it. This year I am going to prioritize some of the sessions I want to attend, block them on my calendar, and make the most of them. There are some INCREDIBLE speakers that I know will help me make my business better.
  • Leave open meeting spaces. I have a tendency to say “yes” to everyone who wants to meet with me, even if I think there is no potential for us to work together. I end up doing a whole slew of meetings basically just because other people want me to. When I meet someone new at the conference and they want to chat for a bit, I have no time because I have prescheduled it all. This time, I am intentionally blocking out spaces in the schedule to give me time to talk to new people.
  • Visit booths. Again, this is something you would think I regularly do. In reality, I have gotten into the habit of quickly running in and out of the Meet Market and Exhibit Hall and only visiting friends or current business partners. I forget that the people I met in the Exhibit Hall at my first Affiliate Summit in Orlando helped me triple my business in one month.
  • Introduce myself to new people. It’s easy to get into a rut of only talking to my friends. Or even sitting at a table and waiting to see if anyone new is looking for someone to talk to. I’m going to be sure to go out of my way to introduce myself to people I haven’t met.

Those all seem so basic and yet I feel like I have not done nearly enough of them the last few years.

While I have your attention, there’s just one more thing I want to throw out there.

On Sunday I will be giving a presentation with Todd Farmer and Eric Nagel about our Wine Club Group site (Case Study: Drinking Wine and Making Money(The Full Monty)). It’s unlike any that I have ever given before in a few ways:

  • We’ll be sharing secret tricks and giving actual numbers of how we went from an idea at Affiliate Summit to a site that profited over $10,000 just last month.
  • The presentation itself is almost all images showing search terms, analytics, merchant research, etc.
  • At the end we will be sharing a Resource Guide that lists all of the tools and services that we have used to build the site and make it successful.

I’m really looking forward to sharing it all because I think a lot of people can learn from what we did right AND what we did wrong. And there’s no hype. We’re not saying everyone can make $10K a month doing exactly what we did. But we’re showing how to build a legitimate content-based website that can make you residual income over time.

So that’s it…time for me to get packing! I’m drinking my Emergen-C every day, counting my business cards, and loading up blog posts to go out while I am gone.

Will I see you at Affiliate Summit? How is your plan the same or different than mine?

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