We’ve made a website for experimental purposes. We’re taking steps one by one that we would, for a client, take all at once, so we can see the effects of what we’re doing. The base of the experiment is an attractive, well-designed site with good, frequently updated content. We’ve done a little bit of linkbuilding, set up a Facebook page, and made an effort to increase content in the areas where we see a lot of traffic (measured by keywords). We occasionally tweet a link to this site or link to a particular page at our own Facebook accounts, but just rarely.
There are still lots of things we could do — and should do — to increase our traffic and improve our search results.However, we can see from our analytics that our traffic is increasing nicely, so for the sake of our experiments, we’re shifting our attention to the affiliate marketing side of things.
We set our site up with Amazon affiliate marketing. This seemed like a good idea for a variety of reasons, though we didn’t examine all our options and choose among them so much as we thought, “Let’s try Amazon.” I’ve spoken since with people using other options, though, and their experiences seem similar to ours.
Amazon doesn’t offer nice analytics, so you have to download the stats and analyze them yourself, but we can see pretty readily that our visitors (the people who click through on our Amazon links) have increased. We used to have numbers like 0 and 2, and now we have numbers like 73 and 52. No sophisticated analysis is required to see that we have increasing traffic. We’re not seeing a comparable increase in orders.
Last week, we decided to get a little more aggressive about sidebar ads. We had two, and now we have six. We also added an Amazon widget with a carousel of different items which we choose. We continued with the in-text links at the same rate as before.
This is as far as we’re willing to go, frankly, even for experimental purposes. I leave sites with too many ads. I also don’t want to spoil my beautiful website with banners and stuff. This may mean that we won’t be able to get the full truth about the effects of aggressiveness in ads (we’ll try to suss it out some other way). However, we can report on our results thus far.
While our SEO efforts have often given us immediate spiky or steady results (check out the traffic pattern above), our advertising showed no changes. Traffic through our affiliate links continues to increase at a predictable pace, and orders continue to trickle in. We did see an immediate though temporary dip in traffic to the site, but the evidence isn’t sufficient to suggest that our visitors resented the new ads.
Our tentative hypothesis at this point is that sidebar ads — as long as they aren’t intrusive enough to bother readers — are neutral. If you feel that they dress up your page, they probably won’t do you any harm. They don’t seem to make much difference for clicks or sales.
We’ll continue watching and let you know if we confirm or disconfirm our hypothesis.