Testing a Premium Review Plug-In

I tend to write quite a few reviews on my blogs. One thing I always found useful was (and is!) the free author product review plugin.

As it says on the tin, it’s absolutely free and allows you to give “star”-ratings to your reviews in a WordPress post. Most importantly, it displays the rating in Google search results using Schema.org markup options.

Nifty!

Still, let’s try out a premium plugin!

How To Disable Google Shared Endorsements

Without doubt, Google+ has been one of the more popular social networks for bloggers.

Where Google+ still is far, far away from Facebook for most folks, and remains curiously sterile.

Nevertheless, bloggers and internet-marketers have embraced it, hoping to improve search ranking and/or clicks if Google Authorship displays a friendly face next to search results.


#1 – Google Shared Endorsements

That said, Google recently announced a “Facebook-style” move by opting to draft all Google+ users for their advertisement. Starting November 11, 2013, Google will start using your Google+ profile and picture to promoted endorsed products.

Here are a few examples of shared endorsements on Google. The “Summertime Spas” example below shows a shared endorsement displayed in an ad:

Google Endorsements
New Google Endorsements

 


#2 – How To Disable Shared Endorsements

Fortunately, disabling Google’s new Shared Endorsements is fairly straightforward, though you still must do it to not be included in their advertising.

Simply head over to Google’s Shared Endorsement page, log into Google+ if you are not logged in, and untick the little box at the bottom.

Google Shared Endorsements

By default, your profile will be included in Google’s Shared Endorsement advertising.

Scams – My Top Tier Business

Online Scam

I recently talked about affiliate link basics. They are really useful things to have. They help monetize a blog and, in theory, shouldn’t matter to your reader any which way. After all, people clicking those links don’t pay more than they would clicking a non-affiliate link.

Theory and reality, however, don’t match up. Affiliate links have a shady flavour to them, as they can be abused for all sorts of shady pyramid schemes.

One really ugly squeeze-scheme I came across today was checking www.johnchow.com, who had a top bar linking to a highly insidious scheme at www.mytoptierbusiness.com

Here’s how it goes!


#1 – The Top Tier YouTube Squeeze

The start of the Top Tier attempt to trick you out of your money is a YouTube pitch that would be a great parody, except that it isn’t.

Well, first you have to give up your email, but if you don’t wanna burn a 10-minute email, you can watch the video on YouTube.

And it starts with a promise, which will be broken even before the video ends: That he won’t ask you for a single dime!

Not a single dime until after you make money withit

Remember that!


#2 – Oh, Only One More Thing!

Now, if you keep on watching the video, it proceeds to melt your brain with some 20 minutes of testimonials of “regular Joes” who made fortunes and nice cars with the “proven system”, only to end its whole pitch on asking you for 49,- bucks.

Top Tier Business Scam

Great: Didn’t you say you weren’t going to ask for a single dime? Well, you just ask for 490 dimes right there, camp!

Now, of course, he goes on talking about how the 49 US$ don’t mean anything to him. Fine. 49 US$ don’t mean anything to me either.

What does means something, however, is being lied to! If you say you will never ask for money and ask for money 15 minutes later, you’re a liar. No two ways about it.


#3 – The 2000,- US$ “License”

Any sensible person would stop right there. I certainly didn’t wanna wast 49 US$ down that drain (even if it’s not a sizable sum). I was intrigued however, and did some googling, finding a discussion on www.mytoptierbusiness.com on the Warrior Forums.

Here’s the experience of a user who did pay the 49 US$ “entry fee”.

MOBE License

So, being stuck in “the program” means you need to buy a license to promote the product as affiliate marketer?

Why do I need a license, if all I am doing is affiliate marketing? If I have a license, can’t I just sell it myself?

Either way, it should be obvious that “I will never ask you for a single dime” suddenly became a total of 49 US$ + 1997 US$ (or 20460 dimes) before you can make a single cent from this “affiliate scheme”.


#4 – Despicable!

Why do people fall for such thing, when it is obvious from the very first YouTube-pitch, that the person behind this (allegedly a Matthew Lloyd) will lie to you and forget his own promises within the space of some 15 minutes (not exactly my definition of “never”)?

Are people truly this desperate online?

Let me know!

Image: Scam Truck by jepoirrier

A Basic Guide to Affiliate Links

Affiliate Link Basics

What is an affiliate link?
Why are affiliate links important in blogging?
How to make use of affiliate links?


1 – What is an Affiliate Link?

In a nutshell, an affiliate link is a url from a website (such as this blog – or website A) leading to a different website, which sells a product or service (such as www.studiopress.com, who sells the Genesis Framework – or Website B).

Affiliate links are different from “regular” links, as far as they combine a unique user ID with a cookie to track the source of visitors arriving at Website B.

Here are both an affiliate link and a non-affiliate link using the example above.

Both links appear identical on the surface. They both lead to the same destination.

A mouse-over of these links quickly reveals that the first link is a plain url - the same url, in fact, that one could type into the browser by hand to reach the StudioPress sales page for the Genesis Framework. The second link is different. It’s a longer url, leading not directly to the StudioPress website, but through an intermediary destination by www.shareasale.com (<- Affiliate Link!).

Shareasale is an affiliate marketing service. With the help of this unique link and a cookie, they track which visitors visiting StudioPress arrived from my blog.

If a person arriving on the StudioPress sales page (Website B) from this blog (Website A) through a traceable affiliate link ends up making a purchase, the owner of website A (i.e. me) will receive a small percentage of the sale as commission in return for the lead.


2 – Why are Affiliate Links Important?

It is difficult to place an exact number on affiliate marketing globally.

study commissioned by Linkshare – another affiliate network – placed the global value of all sales being influenced by affiliate marketing at 1.1 trillion US$ a year in 2011. The same study predicts affiliate marketing spending will grow at around 17% each year between 2011 and 2016, to an estimated total of about 4.47 billion US$ spend on affiliate marketing in 2016.

Long story short, affiliate marketing is huge. Affiliate marketing is here to stay (and grow).

All Bloggers deal with affiliate links – and sites promoting affiliate products – on a daily basis.

  • Affiliate Links as a Publisher

Many profitable blogs make a sizeable part of their income through affiliate marketing, marketing other people’s products on their blog or on dedicated websites created specifically to attract (search engine) visitors looking specific key words.

A great part of the appeal of blogging to many people is the fact that they can focus exclusively on (internet) marketing, leaving others to develop products and deal with after-sale issues.

The latter, of course, also includes all potential follow-up sales to the newly acquired customer.

  • Affiliate Links as a Product Creator

Alternatively, people who have a product they want to sell – anything from a simple eBook to sophisticated software or specialized services – can offer internet marketeers an affiliate commission to market their product.

A well-conceived affiliate programme will attract a lot of highly targeted traffic (that is, potential customers) to a product through the efforts of expert internet-marketers out there. Ideally this creates a win-win situation for both the creator of the product and the blogger and/or marketing expert driving internet traffic to this product in exchange for a commission.

  • Affiliate Links as a Reader of Online Content

Here’s the real crux of affiliate marketing.

If bloggers get money for advertising products – usually through “content marketing”, meaning (if they are good) through subtle nudges, examples and positive mentions in an article – who can you trust for “honest” reviews and recommendations.

This guide is a good example!

Above, I included affiliate links for StudioPress’ Genesis Framework, which I use to run this blog. I recommend Genesis on this blog on many occasions. As I potentially earn money from Genesis sales, this raises the question whether my advice is trustworthy.

Do I recommend it because it is good (earning money as a bonus), or do I run this site and recommend the product because I get money from it?

Now, the Genesis Framework for WordPress is a fairly safe example. It’s used by many highly renowned blogs, such as Problogger.net. If you buy Genesis – with or without going through my affiliate links – you’ll get a top-notch product.

The basic dilemma remains, especially for more experimental, novel products. If you see people raving about them, the bias of affiliate earnings is always in the background.

Good affiliate marketers only promote products they truly believe in.

Nevertheless, misguided marketing, dishonest marketing and simply bad products trudging on simply by the dynamics of affiliate marketing, rather than their merits as a product, are out there!


3 – How to Use of Affiliate Links?

To end this article, I’ll briefly discuss how to use affiliate links as a publisher, i.e. how to use affiliate links on a blog to promote other people’s products.

This is where most people take their first steps into the world of affiliate marketing. There are two main methods to add affiliate links on a website, especially a blog: manual and automated.

  • Manual Affiliate Link Insertion

Manual affiliate link insertion means placing each affiliate link, one by one, into a blog-post (or widget, etc..) as the content is written (or the website build). This is the method employed for the Genesis affiliate link showcased above.

  1. I went to my affiliate publisher account on Shareasale.com
  2. I selected my personal affiliate link for the Genesis Framework from my account
  3. I inserted the link into the post, using regular WordPress tools for writing blog posts

For reasons I will discuss elsewhere (mainly SEO), it is highly advisable to use plugins such as PrettyLink to create less tedious links, set no-follow attributes for search engine crawlers and collect basic statistic on your affiliate links. I omitted this here for demonstration purposes.

  • Automated Affiliate Link Insertion

Automatic link insertion uses a third-party software, which automatically converts viable links into affiliate links “on-the-go”. The two best-known services for this are:

  1. Skimlinks
  2. Viglink (<- Affiliate Link… guess which of these two I am using)

They both work very similar, automatically converting regular links on a website into affiliate links. In exchange, they take a % the affiliate commission.

The advantages of automated affiliate link insertion are:

  • Works for all links (including those in posts you might have written years ago)
  • Covers hundreds, if not thousands of merchants
  • Access to some hard-to-get-in affiliate networks (eBay, for example)
  • No fiddling with ugly affiliate links by hand
  • Optional advanced features, such as product fly-overs and automatic link-insertion

The disadvantage is that Skimlinks and Viglink take a share of the spoils.

Quick-Tip: Use both manual and automated affiliate link insertion.

This means, find a handful (at most) top-products that you want to promote (because you can truly stand behind them, see above) and use manual link insertion. It is a bit more effort. If you do put the work into it however, it is worth going for the full commission!

In addition, use an automated affiliate link service to cover the broader field, including many links you might have never considered as potentially money-making affiliate links.

 

That’s it! A very brief overview of affiliate links, how they influence blogging and how you can use them on your own blog.

I hope it helps.

5 WordPress e-Commerce Themes for Genesis

Ecommerce WordPress Themes

WordPress e-commerce has matured immensely in the last couple of years.

Today, there are literally hundreds of WordPress themes for online shops of all sorts available. However, my personal selection is currently more limited.

Since I run the Genesis Framework on my sites, I currently want to stick with it and run my online shop not only with WordPress, but with the Genesis Framework.

Unfortunately, the choices available are few. What’s more, decisions like this will also tie your site to a particular plug-in or provider of e-Commerce functionality.

Here is what I found.


1. Agency Theme from Studiopress

Agency Theme from Studiopress

Pro:
Contra:
  • Official Studiopress theme with e-commerce integration
  • Mobile Responsive
  • Only 25,- (without Genesis theme)
  • WooCommerce Integration
  • Not really online store styling
  • Focus on company presentation instead of selling goods


The only official child theme from the people at Studiopress. The high synergy with Genesis and the legendary Studiopress support speak for themselves.

Unfortunately, the Agency theme does not appear to be a true e-Commerce theme at all. It is build to be a company homepage first. The shopping cart is an afterthought.

To get a good online store from this, extensive customization would be required, somewhat defeating the idea of doing it with an off-the-shelf theme.


2. ClipCart Theme from Themedy

Clip Cart Theme from Themedy

Pro:
Contra:
  • Studiopress marketplace theme with Studiopress support
  • Cart66 e-Commerce plug-in integration
  • Clean and simple styling
  • Not mobile responsive
  • Slightly more expensive ($ 35,-)


Clip Cart from Themedy is the next obvious theme. The Clip Cart theme is featured and supported by Studiopress’ marketplace for third-party developers and comes with the full Studiopress forum support.

Unlike the Agency theme, Clip Cart is clearly designed from the ground up to be an online shop. I like the minimalist clean styling, though it is 10,- USD more expensive than a regular Studiopress child them.

The price is not a deal breaker, but the lack of mobile responsive styling just might be in this mobile-device dominated age of the internet. It’s 2013 already. Get on with it!


3. Genesis Commerce from Jigoshop

Genesis Commerce

Genesis Commerce from Jigoshop

Pro:
Contra:
  • Jigoshop integration for Genesis
  • No styling
  • Fairly pricy at 40,- USD


I am not sure what to make of this one. For 40 USD, this child theme makes Genesis compatible with Jigoshop. But it offers no styling, which is usually done through child themes. So what does that leave me with visually? It sure promises to be a flexible combination, but it seems the only people truly interested would be developers who can use this double-framework to code a custom shop on top. Something I cannot do.


4. myTunes theme from the Web Princess

myTunes

myTunes theme from ‘The Web Princess’

Pro:
Contra:
  • e-commerce to sell Music
  • Gold Cart and JPlayer integration
  • Free
  • Highly specialized styling
  • Not mobile responsive


This is a great offer that, unfortunately, is of little use to me. myTunes from The Web Princess is a free e-commerce child theme for Genesis from The Web Princess.

However, it is, as the name says, highly focused for the sale of music and, perhaps, other multimedia files. To really make it work to sell other goods online, heavy customization would have to be done.


5. Mariah e-Commerce by WebSavvy

Mariah Theme

Mariah Theme from WebSavvy

Pro:
Contra:
  • Mobile Responsive
  • A great variety of colours and stylings
  • WooCommerce integration
  • The most expensive theme at USD 50,-
  • “Feminine” styling that may be difficult to customize


The Mariah Theme from WebSavvy is the final entry to this list.

From all the themes discussed, it is currently the only one that comes with a full spectrum of non-coding customization options in the form of different schemes and colours. It is also mobile-responsive, which I consider a big plus.

The downside is you pay for that. 50 USD on top of the Genesis Framework make it the most expensive entry here. And despite the variety of colours, the heavy feminine styling and fonts don’t appeal to me like the cleaner, more minimalist themes.


Your Thoughts?

There you have it. Do you know of any other e-Commerce Themes for Genesis? What theme can you recommend?