For the better part of the past year, many of the articles posted in this forum have focused on how some users of AOM (or any software, really) stubbornly refuse to commit to the learning curve required to get the most out of the program. While it’s true that Associate-O-Matic does have a staggeringly large array of options, in many cases the defaults will serve to get a site up and running. But no program can compensate for someone who is unwilling or unable to take the time to learn the basics, such as HTML, unzipping files, using FTP to upload files, and so on. It can be difficult to hear from someone who may be retired and trying to supplement their income by setting up an online store, but has no clue on how to get a domain name.
However, if we delve into the situation a little more, we come up against something that may explain why this happens. The business of affiliate marketing is just that – a business. And like so much of the Web, it’s a cutthroat business, wrapped in a big fuzzy blanket of ‘user-friendliness’. Note that this is not something endemic to AOM; it happens with almost anything online, including Google, Facebook, and every competing affiliate software package. Once upon a time perhaps, it was possible to simply set up a mom & pop style online presence and make it a success. But if those days ever existed, they are certainly gone now. Today every available metric is being measured, analyzed, scrutinized and replicated over and over again, in order to make the online ‘experience’ a ‘better’ one.
What this means is that to be successful today in the affiliate market means that you have to be savvy enough to utilize these tools for yourself. If you don’t, someone else will, and take your niche. If you don’t know how to get a domain name and FTP your program files to your webspace, how will you be able to decipher the data you get from Google Analytics to determine the best way to set up keywords for your target niche? The simple answer is that you won’t. For all the hundreds and hundreds of video game or ipod storefronts that are created with a variety of software packages, only a tiny sliver actually generate any sales. And out of that, just the smallest fraction might generate any serious money.
With Google tightening the screws on affiliate sites in general, the market gets harder and harder all the time. But one of the simplest things anyone can do to improve their chances of being noticed is to fill their sites with original content. It’s a time-tested, proven rule that original content gives you an automatic edge over your competition. It’s still not a guarantee of sales, but it’s a vital first step on a very long ladder. It’s so important, that if you have an affiliate site without original content, it’s already game over. Your site is DOA. There are millions of people around the world who already have better sites than you do, and get more traffic than you ever will.
And of course, there’s also SEO, long-tail keyword optimization, niche-targeting, geo-targeting, making a site visually attractive, using words to stimulate a ‘call to action’, marketing, promotion and many, many other factors to contemplate. The best sites constantly experiment with trying different approaches to see what the effects are on traffic, conversion rates, completed sales, and so on. The history of the Net is littered with approaches that were developed, copied, then discarded in favor of better methods (META tags, RSS feeds and reciprocal links are just a few). The plethora of options available in AOM allows for fine-tuning to suit any individual circumstances. And as methods change, the software changes as well. But as has been stressed in this site many times over the years, AOM is not the end-all and be-all of a successful affiliate online presence. It is a tool, and should always be seen as such. And while AOM may be the best tool available, buying the best easel doesn’t mean you’ll be a better painter because of it. At some point you have to put in the effort to increase your chances.
So what’s the bottom line here? Am I suggesting that trying to set up an online store is a waste of time and money? Absolutely not. Many people do very well with all the requirements and obstacles that can litter the path of an affiliate. AOM really is the best tool to create that online store. But the takeaway point is that you cannot succeed if you rely solely on the software. You can buy a copy of Word™, but it won’t make you a better writer. It will just make what you do write look better. In any profession, you have to learn to use the tools available. Without knowledge of the basics like HTML and FTP, you can’t learn about SEO and all the rest of the skills you need to make your online marketing efforts successful. If you don’t learn how to be an affiliate, then you are wasting time and throwing away money. If you take the time and put in the effort, you can increase your chances of seeing a result. Otherwise, your chances will be zero. And that’s the bottom line.