Today I've got a very insightful post from Amar Hussain of FE International. These guys make a living brokering website sales, much the same as Empire Flippers or Flippa.com.
One advantage of the industry they're in is that they are exposed to A LOT of successful websites and know what models work, and what models don't work.
Another bonus is that they often get invited to meetings with huge online businesses, such as Amazon.
A few weeks ago I asked the FE International guys if they'd like to guest post for me, and Amar suggested writing about what he learned about conversions from meeting with Amazon in their London HQ. It's not every day that we get to learn directly from Amazon what effects conversions, so I'm really happy to be able to share this with you.
In his post, not only does he share some excellent reasons for why Amazon sites make great niche sites to start with, but also how to increase your conversions.
Over to Amar…
At FE International, we have vast experience selling websites operating various business models in a variety of niches such as health, fashion, travel, fitness and photography to name a few. A type of website that sells well is one that is monetized through affiliate programs. A popular affiliate network is, of course, Amazon.
If you’re not already an Amazon Associate here are some key advantages of Amazon over other affiliate programs:
- It is a trusted brand, converts well and most people already have an account.
- The commissions are tiered so you can scale quite easily.
- Amazon is a stable, established company so there are less concerns about them going out of business in comparison to smaller networks.
- It’s very simple to use and easy to get approved.
- If you want to sell your website in the future, there are a wide range of buyers who are interested in websites monetized in this way.
At FEI, the average sale price is approximately 2-3x annual net profit for businesses in the $20k-$2m range. Profitability is key whether you plan on selling your website or just want to increase your income.
In the myriad of e-mails that hits my inbox, I was pleasantly surprised one day to receive an e-mail from Amazon. They had extended an invitation to their top affiliates in a variety of niches to come to their London HQ to give feedback on the Amazon Associates program.
Not one to be wowed by a fancy office, I still thought it was a great opportunity to get an insight into not only Amazon themselves, but also what was working for other affiliate marketers in different verticals.
Here are some of the key learning points from my meeting with Amazon on how you can increase profitability, and therefore the sale value, of your website.
1. Your Conversion Rates Need Work
Conversion rates on my personal websites have always fluctuated between 5-10% but I was interested to learn that Amazon’s top converting associates have conversion rates of 20%+. Now this is obviously dependent upon how targeted your traffic is e.g. are they just curious, researching products or in buying mode? Nevertheless, until your conversion rate is 100% there is always work to do.
Not only should you focus on the conversion rates on Amazon by directing the right traffic to the right products, you should also consider your on-site conversion rates too. It’s not enough to just insert a text link to a product on Amazon. For example, using Amazon colours and button types can signal trust whilst also indicating to the reader where they are being directed to when they click. There are a few marketing psychology tricks that you can use to increase your conversion rates.
2. Take the Zero Moment Of Truth (ZMOT) into Consideration
The ZMOT was a macro study commissioned by Google to investigate how shoppers approach decision making. What it found was that the average shopper looked at nearly double the amount of sources over the space of a year when it came to making buying decisions. Shoppers are becoming savvier. So how does this information help you?
Amazon cookies only last 24 hours and if a customer enters through a different affiliate link your cookie is replaced. If shoppers are looking at more sources these days there’s a good chance that someone else’s affiliate link might be clicked. You need to give them less reasons to go elsewhere and search for information. If you’ve reviewed a product, include information and links about the alternatives. If Amazon is cheaper, show a price comparison of rival sites. Do the leg work for them and they are more likely to make a buying decision from your content.
3. Get Your Readers onto Amazon Fast
The average amazon associate earns commission on a roughly 60/40 split between a customer buying the item that they originally clicked on and something else. 40% of commissions are earned on unintentional product referrals! This highlights a few key points.
Firstly, it’s important to get your reader on to Amazon so that your cookie is dropped and you get the commissions. Secondly, Amazon is so broad and you can get commission on anything they buy. Whilst this may not be what you intended, you still benefit which is why being an Amazon Associate is a great way to monetize a website. I’ve referred people to personal healthcare products and instead they’ve bought things like a home security system, a batman cape, digital cameras and hiking boots. It’s not what I intended but I picked up affiliate commissions nonetheless.
4. Utilize Different Authority Websites
One tactic I found quite interesting was affiliate marketers leveraging the power of authority websites. For example, one affiliate produced short product reviews and ‘how-to’ videos on his YouTube channel. The titles were keyword optimized and ranked well in Google search results. The first line of the video descriptions was always a link back to his website which had an in-depth review and affiliate links.
Rather than relying solely on your own website’s search rankings, you can piggy back off a website that will naturally rank well and you can build links to your YouTube videos more aggressively with little to no risk.
5. Don’t Just Stick to Your Domestic Market
It baffled me how many affiliate marketers were leaving money on the table by only sticking to their domestic Amazon website. One of my personal websites received traffic from the USA, UK, Canada and Germany but I was only collecting commissions from Amazon.co.uk.
If you are running a WordPress website the solution is a plugin called Amazon Link Localizer. Depending on where the user is coming from it will change your Amazon link to the appropriate website. On the website mentioned above I managed to increase my total Amazon earnings by 38% by using this plugin and collecting commissions in different markets.
Finally, just a useful tip about collecting Amazon commissions. You will need to sign up to each individual Amazon associates for each country that they offer the program as you will get a unique affiliate code for each. For programs in countries that are not your own you will be paid by cheque. If cash flow isn’t a major concern I would increase the minimum pay out threshold so that you aren’t charged lots in foreign cheque transaction fees.
6. Become an Authority Rather Than a Review Website
It became apparent that even though most affiliates at the meeting posted reviews on their websites, the majority did not simply just have review websites. For example, one woman had a baking blog and she generated Amazon commissions from a ‘baking starter pack’ she had posted on her website listing everything you might need to start baking. This was one of her few “money posts” but the rest of the website was content about baking. Having a genuine authority site with lots of content is easier to build links to than a straight review website.
It’s clear that Amazon is not going away and building, growing, and selling an Amazon affiliate website is a self-bet when it comes to making money online. The business model has been proven time and again. What’s more, is that there is a hungry group of buyers out there who want to acquire websites like these.
Amar Hussain is the Marketing Director at the website brokerage firm FE International who, to date, have successfully executed an industry-leading 250 transactions.