Are Affiliate Marketers just Spammers?

affiliate marketersRecently I was reading a book on SEO (search engine optimization) and I noticed the author used the term “Affiliate Marketers” in the book.  He was not using the term “Affiliate Marketers” in a positive way though as he used the phrase in place of “spammers” when referring to people that utilize Black Hat SEO techniques to rank websites in Google and other search engines.

Usually when I read SEO books, report, or material I see the terns such as spammers, black hatters, link spammers, etc.  The author of this SEO book decided the correct term was “Affiliate Marketers” which from what I could tell meant he had an extremely negative opinion of people that refer to themselves as Affiliate Marketers.  In addition he didn't seem to believe that affiliate marketing provided that great of an ROI (return on investment) and does not provide value for small to medium eCommerce businesses the majority of the time.  (Unless they have the resources to manage an affiliate program.)

I don't want to reveal what the book I was reading was and who the author is but I find it interesting that well respected figure on SEO would take this stance.  Since attending Affiliate Summit I would have to agree with the author though.  Honestly there were lots of successful affiliates there that make tons of money being spammers basically.  Their goal is to make the most money and they will use as many Black Hat SEO methods to rank in Google (and Bing I guess) as long as they work.  They don't produce content so their usually course of action is to scrape it from other blogs or websites, throw the text into an article spinner, and then run some scripts or automated backlinking software to rank a site for 1 week to a few months.  The affiliate link laden deal or coupon sites then earns a shitload of money before the affiliate company knows they are victim of affiliate fraud or the site gets de-indexed by Google.  Often times though Google's search engineers are too idiotic to actually read search results (because they are math nazis) and take down a spammy website until it's waaay to late though.

Do I think affiliate marketing is completely bad?  No, not at all since I use affiliate links on this site.  I just do it in a way that's reasonable and I'm completely upfront when I use affiliate links.  I've build mini-sites before but after Penguin 2.0 I've found they don't do well.

While I think there's a middle ground in terms of Black Hat and White Hat SEO techniques, affiliate marketers can't legitimately got to conferences like Affiliate Summit and complain about the bad reputation you get in the business.  Most of my assumptions about people that engage heavily in affiliate marketing were really only confirmed and cemented.

Do you think it's fair for Search Engine Optimizers to have such a negative opinion of Affiliate Marketers?  If you do affiliate marketing and consider yourself an “affiliate marketer” why do you think most internet marketing professionals have the view that you are just spammers?

I won a ticket to Affiliate Summit West, but I won’t be Attending

affiliate summit westSome of my regular readers might remember that I won a ticket to Affiliate Summit East this past Summer.  Well, guess what?  I won a Networking Plus Pass to Affiliate Summit West in Las Vegas coming up in January.  This marks the second time I've won a free ticket to an Affiliate Summit conference.  🙂  However, I won't be attending Affiliate Summit West since I have other projects I'm working on and honestly… it's not worth and I just don't feel like going.

If you read my Affiliate Summit Review detailing the conference then you will obviously know why I will not be attending again.  Probably some of you reading this that have gone to past Affiliate Summit's will understand as well.  Why do I mean?  There are tons of useless annoying fuckers that attend.

Heres's the the thing, most internet focused conferences I've attended usually these different groups of people attending;

  1. People that are genuinely helpful.
  2. People that don't know anything and shouldn't have shown up.
  3. Companies looking for marketing opportunities or to expand, sell, partner, etc.
  4. Assholes that are trying to get you to buy “whatever” they are selling under any circumstance even if it's shit.

I didn't write about this in my Affiliate Summit Review but there were lots of people in the #4 category.  When I say a lot I'm talking about 60%+ of the people who were not from companies.  Most of the time there are 2 or 3 of these people at a conference, not a majority.  Talking with fraction of the people that showed up to Affiliate Summit that were not trying to sell me useless shit this clearly wasn't a fluke as they felt the same way.

One guy I ran into who supposedly is an expert at driving social media traffic wouldn't give me any real world examples of what he does.  He also wouldn't give me any social media advice or tips on the spot.  However, he did try to get me to buy his rather costly book and webinar series, which I declined.

I made a real effort to try to meet a wide range of people to engage and learn.  What I found was most of them gave me the same song and dance as this social media scam artist.  They wanted me to buy their books, pay for consulting, or you know screw me out of my money.  I remember one guy that had some BS private forum and was telling me how great his conversions were like 70% percent or some ridiculously high number.  I asked, “How do you get such high conversions.” his response, “Pay to join my private forum.” my reply, “Hell no!” and I walked away.

This was a similar conversation I had with people in all sorts of fields. Why would I buy anything from you if you don't want want to share knowledge?  For most attendees you already paid the entrance fee, paid for a hotel, and showed the hell up.  If I can't take anything away useful from you it is very unlikely I'm going to consider using buying anything from you in the future whether it be a book or consulting.  I guess the hard up-sells must work on some people.

Last conference I attended there was a blogger I met that didn't know about Google Webmaster Tools and didn't have it installed on her blog.  I just got out my laptop and set it up for her on the spot.  I don't mind helping pope when I know they put in effort to come to these events.

Most beginners, people who have only had a website up for a few months, looked somewhat confused by everything at Affiliate Summit honestly.  From talking with a lot of people about I doubt they felt they got a lot out of the conference.  Also  I was kind of surprised at the advice I was giving people there.

Keep this in mind, I could take the free pass to Affiliate Summit West and go have tax-deductible fun in Las Vegas (aka Sin City) for several days.  Flights to Las Vegas are ridiculously inexpensive from most major cities since casinos subsidize airline tickets.  You can find a reasonably priced hotel if you play your cards right.  (Yup, pun intended.)  Affiliate Summit parties have open bars which a lot of people will readily use… but it's still not worth going.  That's saying a lot.

I'll have other chances to go to Las Vegas since there are plenty of web conferences held there throughout the year.  It's not like I'm missing out on anything I can't go experience another time you know.

I did send a request to the Affiliate Summit people asking if they could at least give me the Virtual Pass, which shows the videos of the sessions afterwards, in exchange for the Networking Plus Pass.  I figured at least I won the pass and they should give me a Virtual Pass.  Besides out of ALL the sessions I only found 2 useful from Affiliate Summit in Philadelphia.  (Luckily they were the 2 I went to.  I'm good at cherry picking good sessions at conferences.)  Here was their reply;

 “Unfortunately, the pass is not transferable in any matter, so we cannot replace it with a virtual pass.”

So not only is Affiliate Summit a waste of time but the organizers are inflexible.  It's their conference and their rules though.  Of course the video player in the backend for the Affiliate Summit Videos was a freeze monkey, so I guess I should be glad they are saving me the hassle of dealing with that and not having to watch and skip a lot of badly recorded sessions.

Even though I am not attending people are probably curios to know how I won both tickets to two different Affiliate Summit conferences.  The first ticket was provided courtesy of an eBay contest which was posted on the eBay Partner Network blog.  (That's eBay's affiliate program.)  All I did was leave a valuable comment about what I thought the best opportunity was in Affiliate Marketing.  eBay provided me with a Networking Plus Pass since I was an awesome commenter.  This ticket to Affiliate Summit West I won from actually attending Affiliate Summit East.  They have people fill out forms after sessions and keynote speakers to let us know what we thought about them.  They randomly pick 5 cards each day and one of the feedback forms I filled out was one.

Are you planning on attending Affiliate Summit West in Las Vegas?  If you haven't ponied up the money to go, did this article change your mind? Let me know in the comments below.

If you are looking at any other conferences remember to checkout my tips for attending a conference inexpensively.  There's some good advice I've complied there.

If you've got questions you want to ask me privately about Affiliate Summit feel free to contact me by the way.  I'd be happy to answer any questions you have about it.

6 Questions to ask Yourself Before you Buy SEO Software and Tools

seo software and toolsIf you are a search engine optimizer, internet marketer, blogger, or small business owner you are probably always looking for ways to get an edge over your competition.  This makes you always on the lookout for new search engine optimization (SEO) software and tools to buy to add to your SEO toolkit.

Companies that build and sell SEO software and tools won't like me saying this but a lot of times I see people needlessly waste money on these SEO programs.  To be honest with all of my readers I've been one of those people.  If you have also wasted money on SEO software I can tell you that the issue, like buying anything, is that you don't ask yourself the right questions before opening your wallet.  To try to save my blog readers time, money, and hassle I've decided to make this list of “6 Questions to ask Yourself Before you Buy SEO Software and Tools.”

1. Do I need this SEO Software or Tool?

Sounds pretty simple and like common sense, right?  Not quite.  A lot of people will just buy any SEO program or tool because they saw on some forum or blog that it was supposedly really useful.

What you need to understand is that most SEO software and tools have fairly good affiliate programs.  Meaning the blog or site owner gets money if you click through their link to buy it.  (Just so everyone is aware I have nothing against affiliate links and use them on this blog.)  The reason I want you to realize when someone is using affiliate links is that most people don't.

Consider if the person is recommending the product on the merit of it's usefulness or if they just want to collect affiliate money.  Just because someone recommends something doesn't mean you have to buy it.

2. What will I use this SEO Tool for?

I guess this goes into question #1 but I'd recommend you ask yourself this anyway.  You need to have a clear idea of how that SEO tool or SEO software you are going to be paying for will be helping your online business.

If you can't think of an area where the tool will help you, then just don't buy it.  If the SEO tool seems legitimate, you know what you will use it for, and it's going to fill a specific SEO need you have, then go ahead and open your wallet.

3. Is there good Documentation and Tutorials?

Before I put any money on the table for SEO tools or SEO software I like to check the website and see if they have a reasonable amount of documentation.

For instance I want to know if the software has any bugs.  Issues with certain operating systems might be something you want to think about.  If you use Mac computer you will probably need to run most SEO programs in Parallels, which emulates Windows in a virtual environment.   Most SEO developer don't spend time making a version for Macs or Linux desktops.  Often times in the documentation they will state if there are issues of it's been tested in Parallels or WINE (like Parallels but for Linux).

I also like to understand how the SEO software works and what it does.  Is an SEO tool that can be used for whitehat or is just for blackhat link building techniques?  Consider who built and who the developers are behind it too.

The creators of any SEO software should have clear and easy-to-understand video and picture tutorials on how to use it and state specifically why you need it.  This will make your decision for question #2 easier.

4. Is this SEO program Easy to Use?

If you don't understand how to use the SEO program and software, you will have just wasted your money.  If you check the documentation and tutorials this should give you a clear idea of the difficulty for picking it up.

I've personally found that most SEO programs and tools have a learning curve higher than average.  So you will need to put time into learning but do consider how much time you want to put in. 1 hour or less?  A week?  Keep in mind a lot of SEO programs are built by programmers and NOT people that are great with intuitive design layouts.  Often they focused on making things easy-to-use, but failed miserably.

Most creators of various SEO tools will offer a short free trial period before you buy so you can see whether it's useful, easy-to-use, and will fit your needs.  They vary in length but usually are between 7-30 days for a free SEO software trial period.  Some don't but I'd take advantage of any free trials.

5. Is the Support Good?

If support is non-existent or isn't helpful, don't buy.  I've been surprised by how many times I've needed to contact support for an SEO tool due to an unexpected bug or issue.

I usually recommend you send an email after looking over the documentation, FAQs, and tutorials and see how long the response time is and what the response is like.  If they seem helpful and answer your questions clearly that's a good sign.  If not, you might want to move on and keep searching for another SEO software with the tools you need that has responsive and helpful support.

6. Can I afford these SEO Tools or SEO Software?

A lot of SEO tools comes with monthly subscription costs which can be quite costly.  The reason for this is that most SEO programmers know that marketing and SEO agencies often charge a king's ransom.

Most of us probably don't have a huge amount of money to drop on every single SEO tool that we feel we need.  So don't break the bank by overextending your finances.  Again, it's common sense but if you can't afford something don't buy it.  If you feel you need that SEO software with a monthly subscription cost for your toolkit ask some friends or family with websites that wan't better Google rankings if they want to split the monthly cost with you.  All of you could then save a ton of money learning and building links on your own sites.  You will have to all collectively ask questions 1-5.

I usually try to find SEO software that does not have a monthly or yearly renewal.  I like to pay once and forget about it.  That's just easier for me and my wallet.  Also I like to weigh whether the software will cover the cost of buying it.  Meaning can I make back what I spent on the SEO tool?  You should consider the same thing too.

Sometimes it might be worth it to check around first to see if there is something for free that can fill your SEO needs.  Honestly for something like basic keyword research you probably won't need much else besides the Google Keyword Planner.  If you want free keyword rank tracking all you need is Google Webmaster Tools.  Most of the time though you will find you need to spend money on buying an SEO tool, unfortunately.

Final Thoughts on Buying SEO Software and Tools

My final recommendation would be to just watch out for any shyters selling useless SEO tools or ones that will get you banned or deindexed by Google.  There are a lot of people selling useless products out there and I met plenty at Affiliate Summit.

I hope you've found my “6 Questions to ask Yourself Before you Buy SEO Software and Tools” useful and helpful.  If you want to refer to these next time you are considering purchasing any SEO Software and Tools feel free to bookmark this article.  If you have any questions or comments to add feel free to leave them below.