A few months ago I wrote about how PicMonkey Solved My Graphics Problems. In that post I talked about my new obsession with PicMonkey. I showed in that post how I could make graphics using the Collage tool mainly. Little did I know just how much I would love the Design Tool!

In the past I have mainly used Fiverr to get quick basic graphics to use for holidays. Or I created them myself in Photoshop and they were passable but clearly not professional. When I saw that PicMonkey had added Halloween specific tools, I decided to give them a chance.

Using the Halloween Design Editor

After I click on the Design Editor, the first thing that I do is set the dimensions for my image. This is under “Basic Edits” (the symbol that looks like a crop tool) and then “Resize.” As I mentioned in my other post, I use 560×292 for images that I want to use in blog posts and appear nicely on Facebook or Google+. I also experimented with some standard banner sizes to use in my sidebars. Essentially you can make the images any size you want.

I then went down to the bottom of the Design Editor sidebar and chose the cute little pumpkin and then the theme “Trick or Treat.”

(There are other themes that will create really cool Halloween images as well including Zombies, Witches, Vampires, and Demons).

After you pick the theme, you can choose from Halloween Overlays, Frames, and Text. The Frames look like they are meant to sit on top of other images, but I actually used a Frame as the basis for my contest image below:

Next I tried using some of the labels:

That was really basic but only took 30 seconds. You could make just about any kind of button with it.

This was using the Grim Garlands and Classic Creepies

The one took about I made at the top of this post took about 2 minutes and used some of the Vampire theme (especially the Night Frights Textures). This one is just a quick modification of that image:

All of mine were done without bothering to watch any of their tutorials. I’m sure if I took the time to watch any of their tutorials, I could do even cooler stuff. They even have a whole series of Halloween blog posts to help you get creative.

Some of the themes, overlays, texts, etc. are free and some of them are part of their Royale package. At $4.99 for a month, it is definitely worth the upgrade!

If you are like me and just need simple graphics but need them frequently enough that you need to learn to make them yourself or spend a fortune, I wholeheartedly recommend giving PicMonkey a try. And I look forward to dazzling you with my increased PicMonkey knowledge over time.

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A lot of bloggers use AdSense to monetize their sites, and you can definitely make good money from it. Sometimes you have content that is difficult to monetize in any other way and the AdSense links blend in to provide you some revenue.

However, there are definitely down sides to using AdSense to monetize your blog as compared to affiliate marketing. Here’s a great example that I ran into on one of my own sites this week.

When AdSense Doesn’t Work

I wrote a blog post a long time ago about Champagne of the Month Clubs. It was a great post when I had a merchant who sold Champagne of the Month Clubs and was worthy of promoting. Since the time I wrote that post, the merchant stopped selling the clubs and I was unable to find a good replacement that converted. Because of that, we added an AdSense block to the post.

In reviewing AdSense revenue the other day, Eric and I realized that we were making NOTHING from the block on the post despite a fair amount of traffic. How could that be? I went to look at the post and saw this:

In the middle of my post about Champagne was an ad for Sears Parts Direct. And not just an ad but a totally random picture of a part called a Transaxle that I am not sure that I have ever seen or would ever buy.

If you know anything about AdSense, you know that a big part of their ads involve retargeting. That is, they will show you an ad for a site that you were previously on. If it had just so happened that I was on a site that sold wine clubs the day before, I may have gotten lucky and seen a picture of wine here and it would have looked great and maybe even made me a couple of pennies. But as is often the case with retargeting, the ad that is on your page will have absolutely nothing to do with the content of your page or site.

Sometimes AdSense is just plain ugly!

There ARE ways to ensure that you get better ads on your site through AdSense, but that is a post for another day and involves a lot of things that, quite frankly, won’t apply to a lot of my readers. There are a lot of settings involved as well as ensuring that you have a good deal of traffic. I’m not saying never use AdSense!

But if you were just planning on throwing some AdSense around your site and making money off of it, you might want to take a close look at how much you are making versus how it looks on your site to decide if sticking with affiliate links would be better for you.

What Was My Solution?

In this case we decided that the look of our site and the feel of our review pages was more important than the few pennies we might (might!) make off of the AdSense. Our ultimate goal is to sell wine clubs, not make pennies on the dollar with display or clickthru ads. So I removed the AdSense, created a new custom image with Picmonkey, and we are negotiating with the replacement merchant to figure out how to make the affiliate links convert better.

What’s the point of all of this, Tricia?

First, you should be checking analytics. You know how many people view your pages. You know how much you are making per view using AdSense or per click with your affiliate links.

Second, like Jessie J says, “It ‘s not about the money, money money.” Okay, maybe it is. But when you look at the big picture of your site and how you earn revenue, you have to figure out whether certain ads are not worth the money because they are causing you to lose other potential revenue.

Lastly, I’m using my own site as an example, but I’ve seen the same thing on a lot of your sites. I see what you are posting to make money with and question whether it is worth it considering the overall effect of how it makes your site look and function. Look hard at your numbers and figure out if your particular monetization strategy is worth it.

Are you a fan of AdSense? Do you use it because it makes you a lot of money or because you don’t know a better way to monetize?

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After attending over 15 Affiliate Summits, you would think that I would not be surprised at anything. I’ve attended sessions, networking events, parties, and more for over 8 years. And yet every time I leave a show, I end up coming away with things I didn’t anticipate.

  • I benefited a lot from my own session. That seems weird, but I probably benefited as much from the work I put into my own session as the people who attended did. First, I learned from Vanessa and Eric. They are both really smart, connected people. But second, I had to “practice what I preached.” You can’t be an expert on networking without actually DOING it. Over the last 4 months as we put together the presentation, I found myself really upping my own game and trying new tactics to see how they worked. I feel more connected now than ever before.
  • I actually like raw fish. I know that’s really random. But someone suggested at a dinner that I try it. I was skeptical but trying to be a good sport. And it was good.
  • People still are not taking advantage of some of the best opportunities at the conference. I sat by myself at a table in the VIP Snack on Sunday for almost 45 minutes. I was completely ready to meet new people, offer advice, make introductions, etc. Yet hardly anyone came in compared to the number of people with VIP passes. Even if you aren’t eating, it is a nice, quiet place to network.
  • A lot of people still don’t understand the benefit of networking before selling. They go right in for the pitch of their company without really having a conversation with you. If it were speed dating or a pitch session, I would understand. I’m talking about places like parties and meals. I am immediately turned off by people who sit down next to me and start pitching me right off the bat.
  • There are some REALLY awesome karaoke performers in our industry—including harmonica duets, back-up dancers, and Al from DealTaker’s wife!
  • After almost 10 years in the industry, I can still walk in a room and know almost no one. I attended a dinner with probably 50-60 people and I only knew around 5 of them. These were people in my same niches who worked with the same networks I work with. It just goes to show how much the industry continues to grow and how vast it really is.
  • Booth babes still exist. I thought we were past that. Apparently not because 2 cute girls approached a group of guys in the Exhibit Hall and awkwardly said to them “Do you do..um…internet…uh..marketing?” (Like they didn’t even know what that meant) The guys replied that they did and started to hit on the girls. The girls shoved flyers at them and took off for the next unsuspecting group of guys.
  • Giants Stadium is really cool. Even when your team loses the game. And people who take you to the game just to be nice are even cooler.
  • Too many people still do not know what the Performance Marketing Association is. Ask any lawyer what the American Bar Association is and they can tell you the basics. Ask performance marketers about the PMA and most will look at you funny. I know we are a young organization, but we still have a long way to go in educating and getting buy-in from the people in our industry. If you do not know what it is or are not involved, please talk to me!
  • No matter how many Affiliate Summits I attend, I still learn something new, meet new people, and come away energized after every single one. You may think that there is a point of diminishing returns on attending, but there shouldn’t be if you make the most of everything that is available to you there. I’m signing up with a new CPA network, picked up a few new merchants, made some new friends, secured commission increases for the holidays, and secured some PMA memberships. That’s on top of solidifying current relationships with OPMs, merchants, and fellow affiliates. Not to mention coming home ready to kick some butt in the 4th quarter!

Was there anything about Affiliate Summit East 2014 that was surprising to you? Did anything unexpected happen for which you are grateful?

(photo credits: Thanks for the random pictures, Kim Rowley, and for tagging me in them on Facebook from FMTC!)

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I was looking through some stats for one of my niches today on CJ. When I notice that we are not making much money off of a merchant that we have a lot of traffic for, the first thing I do is go into the network to see what their overall stats look like for other affiliates. What I saw for the merchant in question shouldn’t have surprised me given our lack of sales.

The 3 month EPC (Earnings Per 100 Clicks) for the merchant was $3.41. The 7 day EPC was ZERO. That’s ZERO commissionable sales in the last 7 days across ALL of their affiliates.

If it were March and the site sold Christmas trees, I might not worry. But I know that the EPC for their competitors that I promote is anywhere from $5-200. Houston, we have a problem.

There are a number of reasons that the EPC could be zero, none of them good for the affiliates.

  • Tracking is broken. Perhaps tech made a change to the site and didn’t replace a necessary tracking pixel. You would be surprised how often this happens.
  • The site itself is down. With a smaller merchant, the site could actually be completely down and you are still sending traffic. This is rare but has happened.
  • Products are sold out. It’s possible that all of the products are sold out. We had this happen once with a Daily Deal site. They just flat stopped putting deals up on the site, although the site was still up.
  • The site isn’t converting for some reason. Did the merchant make a change to the site that is making it undesirable to the customers? Did they change the shopping cart in some way that is making people abandon the cart 100% of the time?
  • The SKUs in the network are wrong. For some programs, the merchants only pay for specific SKUs on their site. If the merchant changes the SKUs of the products they are selling but does not update them in the network, there might be sales but they are tracked at 0% commission.
  • The merchant is “stealing” the sales. Has the merchant instituted some kind of pop-up deal on the site that overwrites the affiliate cookie by giving the customer a better deal if they click on it?
  • The products just aren’t any good. It’s possible that the site is fine but people just don’t like what they are selling.

I’m sure that there are even more than this, but ALL of these can be figured out by an affiliate manager worth their salt pretty quickly. The merchant can tell them whether sales are being made at all through other channels (which goes to the site conversion). They can also say whether affiliates are making sales but commissions are not working (SKU issue). The affiliate manager can make a test purchase to see if tracking is working.

Although it is true that stats are only one part of the story of every affiliate program, an EPC of $0 is a big red flag whether you are looking to join a program or are already working with a merchant. When you see it, contact the affiliate manager immediately and start running through the scenarios above to see if you can get to the bottom of it.

What do you do as an affiliate manager or an affiliate when you see a program with a zero EPC?

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Affiliate Summit East is going to be here before we know it. I’ve ordered my costume for the ShareASale party, counted my business cards, and double checked my reservations. Now it’s time for two main things–setting my conference goals and pre-networking.

Earlier this year I wrote about planning for Affiliate Summit and setting goals, so we don’t need to talk about that again (although re-reading it in anticipation of the conference is a good idea!) Let’s talk about starting your Affiliate Summit networking and how you might even be able to score a free ticket (worth $125) to Affiliate Karaoke.

My Networking Session

Off the bat you need to know about my session with Eric Nagel and Vanessa Branco.

  • Getting the Most Out of Networking: Best Practices Revealed
  • Shubert Complex
  • Monday, Aug 11 @ 3:30 pm – 4:30 pm
  • Affiliates and merchants know that networking is important but are likely not doing enough of it. Learn the benefits networking can give you plus concrete methods you should start using today.

We have some REALLY cool stuff planned including some audience interaction, our best secret networking tips, and a take-home guide that will amp up your network really fast!

Starting Your Networking Now

I know…Affiliate Summit is still a week and a half away. That’s where the real networking happens, right? Yes, and no. What you get out of the conference in large part depends on what you put into it. That means getting your ducks in a row before you get there. Even Shawn Collins mentioned it lat week (and he should know). Things like:

  • Figure out who you need to reconnect with that you already know and drop them a line to see when you might meet up or cross paths. If you want a more extended time to talk, set up a meeting.
  • Look for new people you want to meet. You can find them in a lot of ways including following the #ASE14 hashtag on Twitter, joining the Affiliate Summit East Facebook group, and signing up for the official networking site.
  • Once you figure out who you want to meet, start following them on Twitter, G+, and Facebook. Not in a creepy stalker way. Just get to know them a little bit and, if applicable, comment on their posts.
  • Make sure that you have any materials you want to hand out ready to go. This might include business cards, Q4 promotion cards for your company, and even giveaway items.
  • Get your name out there. Don’t just be a follower!
  • Write a blog post about Affiliate Summit and it will likely get shared and read by a lot of attendees. Tell us who you want to meet and what your goals are. The more people know about you in advance, the more likely they are to seek you out rather than the other way around.
  • Even just Tweeting with the #ASE14 hashtag will get you noticed. (Just don’t SPAM it!)

Make the Most of the Time in NYC

As I mentioned above, you should be setting up at least a few meetings with people you want to meet. Beyond that, you need to plan every opportunity you can to meet with people. The educational sessions are great, but you need to balance them with the social time. Some of my plans for this time include:

  • The ShareASale Party Under the Stars. Yes, it is $25 this year. But it will be worth it. It’s a great chance to meet people in a relaxed setting. If you don’t know anyone there, find me!! I promise that if you ask around, someone will be able to point you in my direction.
  • Never miss a meal. That doesn’t sound quite right when written that way but I mean it! If you have the pass that includes meals and the snack break, make every effort to be there (even breakfast although it seems early in the morning when you have been up “networking” late the night before). Meals are some of the best places to meet new people and actually be able to have a conversation.
  • The ABestWeb Cocktail Hour. I’ve been a member over there since I first started affiliate marketing and love catching up with old friends plus meeting the newer members.
  • Meet Market and Exhibit Hall. Even if you don’t think there is something there for you, there will be. It might be someone you meet at a booth or it might even be someone you meet wandering around! Put it into your schedule to visit both for at least a couple of hours.
  • Performance Marketing Association Events. I don’t have all of the details yet, but I know that there is going to be an Open Forum for members to talk to the Board of Directors Saturday night plus a fundraiser on Sunday. Both will be places to connect with industry veterans.
  • Affiliate Karaoke

Wait…what’s Affiliate Karaoke?

Affiliate Karaoke Giveaway

Affiliate Karaoke is being put on by me and some of my friends, with some really great sponsors. There’s a lot of back story that basically starts with the fact that Affiliate Summit used to have an official karaoke night that we loved. When it was discontinued, we tried to find other venues to meet up at…with varied luck. So this year we took matters into our own hands!

This event will be a maximum of 100 people (I know because I have the wristbands!). So it’s a small group. It’s an Open Bar plus Appetizers (which I helped pick out and look delicious). There will be people in attendance that have been in the industry since the first Affiliate Summit! Sponsors have a total of 60 tickets to give out as they see fit, or you can buy a ticket for $125.

As a sponsor, I get to decide what to do with my tickets and I have decided to give 2 of them away. If you are looking to attend a smaller event and network with people who can connect you with pretty much anyone in the industry, this is the one to come to!

Rules: You must be attending Affiliate Summit to enter. It’s not because we are affiliated with Affiliate Summit (because we are NOT) but rather because we only want people in the industry to attend the party so that it is a true networking opportunity. In addition, if you are one of the winners, you must get the wristband from me by noon on Monday at Affiliate Summit or I will give it to someone else. They are going to be heavily sought after and I want to be sure that it gets used! So please don’t enter if you don’t plan on showing up. Too many other people want it!

To Enter: The Rafflecopter is below. I’ve tried to make it interesting. Contest ends Thursday, August 7 at midnight Eastern. I’ll randomly choose 2 people to win wristbands.

Let’s get started networking!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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