Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Using Shopping Bot Sites to Attract New Visitors to your affiliate marketing site


If you're looking for a new source of extra traffic to your site, one that sends qualified buyers your way, you'll want to learn more about shopping bot sites.

If you're an Affiliate Marketer or an online business owner, you know that attracting qualified targeted traffic, people who are already interested in buying your product or service is fundamental to your success. That's why I wanted to tell you about an increasingly popular way to get that cheap, qualified and targeted traffic you're after. What I'm talking about are "shopping bots," and they're becoming more important to e-business owners and affiliate marketers all the time.

Shopping bots are basically like search engines except that, instead of finding "information," they're designed to help shoppers find the products or services they're looking for on the Internet. In much the same way as search engines provide searchers with links to both affiliate marketing and product orientated Web sites, shopping bot sites list specific product information so shoppers can compare features and prices. And this means that shopping bots can be an excellent way for your potential customers to find out exactly what you have to offer and how to get it.

Most shopping bot sites will display ads to potential customers in an appealing, easy-to-understand format, making these sites increasingly popular places for savvy consumers to conduct their product research. If your product or service is competitively priced or offers buyers a unique or compelling benefit, and if you have a well-written ad, standing out from your competition will be a piece of cake.

Best of all, shopping bots can be a great place for business owners struggling to stand out in competitive markets to capture the eyeballs of qualified potential customers without spending more than you can afford for the more popular pay-per-click ads like Overture and Google AdWords.

So how do you get your site registered? Though shopping bot sites differ slightly from each other, registering your site and products with most of them is usually pretty easy. Here are the basic steps you need to follow to get your ad placed on a shopping bot site:

1. Take a look at the top five shopping bot sites to figure out if the site's format is right for you. (While there are dozens of shopping bots to choose from, there are really only five or so that get enough traffic to make submission worth your time. I'll go over my top five favorites below.) What you want to determine is whether your products or services are either competitively priced or if they have a feature that makes them stand above the competition.

Some shopping bot sites list products according to price, or give shoppers the ability to modify a search to show pricing in ascending/descending order. Others will list suppliers in priority sequence based on pay-per-position bidding.

Shopping bots that place a strong emphasis on price may not be favored by business owners who rely on a unique selling feature instead of price. So, if your product is better but not cheaper than the competition's, you'll need to find a shopping bot that's a better fit for you.

2. Determine the cost of placing your ad. For the majority of shopping bot sites, you'll be expected to pay on a pay-per-click (PPC) basis. On average, these costs vary between 5 cents and $1.25 per click, depending on the popularity of your product and the category it appears in.

In many cases, you'll also need to make a deposit of between $100 and $200, depending on the product or service you're selling. But don't worry these deposits are applied toward your PPC account.

3. Get your "product feed" ready to go. Your "product feed" is the information you submit to a shopping bot about the product you want advertised. This may include the description of your product, pricing, the category you want it to appear in, your web site URL, and product availability. A typical product feed looks something like this:

Product URL
Prod. Name
Product Description
Category
Price
Avail.
http://www.fitnessnyou.com/book14.html
Shake it up!
Meal Replacement Drink
Health & Nutrition
$40/ case of 12
In Stock

When creating your product descriptions, be sure they include clear, compelling benefits this can make the difference between having prospective customers find you with ease or letting your ad get lost or pushed down in the search results. Also try to avoid using obscure abbreviations or product codes in your ad. For example, would you be more inclined to click on an ad that says: "Tel. blk. crdlss. 21KF4900-A" ... or an ad that reads: "900 Mhz Black Cordless Telephone" You'd pick the second ad, right? That's because it clearly states what the offer is. Shoppers will be deterred by an obscure ad, so make sure your ad is clear, compelling and reader-friendly.

How you submit your product feed to a shopping bot site will vary depending on the guidelines of the site. Some sites make it easy to submit your feed through their online forms or downloadable software; other sites make it a bit of chore to submit your feed, requiring you to upload information through an FTP (file transfer protocol) client.

Whatever type of product feed a site uses, beware of third-party companies or web sites that want to take your hard-earned money to create product feeds for you. Creating your own product feed isn't difficult to learn, and it can save you a lot of money in the end.

4. Register your product feed. Once you've decided which shopping bot site to use and have created your product feed, registering should take a matter of minutes. The shopping bot site administrators will review your information and product feed for approval. (Be aware that the approval process can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.)

And here's an important note: Larger shopping bot sites share their listings with affiliated sites. For example, registering with a shopping bot site like Shopping.com, which is affiliated with DealTime.com and Epinions.com, will get you listed with the affiliated sites as well at no extra cost!

Which Bots Are Best?

I've spent some time checking out dozens of the shopping bots on the Net. A number of them are good, but not all of them are worth submitting your ads to. Here are my five favorites:

My top choice is BizRate. BizRate requires a $100 deposit from its merchants, but offers low minimum bidding rates, starting at just 10 cents per click and moving up to 30 cents per click. BizRate currently ranks 272 in Alexa, which means that the site gets a huge amount of traffic.

Product feeds submitted to BizRate may take seven to 14 days to be listed, so you'll need to make sure you aren't pressed for time when advertising your goods. (Merchants with product feeds already submitted to Yahoo! Stores can submit the same feed format to BizRate.)

Grabbing the No. 2 spot on my list is PriceGrabber. This site offers many of the same features as BizRate, with one major difference: Merchants without a Web site can use PriceGrabber's "Store Builder" option to post their product or service. There are no up-front costs for the Store Builder service because it's commission based: Merchants are charged $1.00 on each sale under $15, and 7.5 percent for each sale over $15. These virtual storefronts are also covered by limited fraud protection of up to $500 with a $15 deductible.

The third shopping bot on my list is Shopping.com. This service works especially well for merchants who don't want to spend time coming up with catchy product descriptions for their product feed, as Shopping.com displays a universal description of commonly searched items at the top of a search page, with ads listed below. Of course, this may be a disadvantage if you rely on a unique selling proposition (like high-quality, or ease of use) as opposed to a competitive price.

Shopping.com offers a flexible bid-management system. For example, if one merchant bids 40 cents for placement and another bids 55 cents, Shopping.com will adjust the higher bid down to 41 cents.

To set up an account with Shopping.com, you'll need to put down a minimum deposit of $200 before submitting your product feeds.

Appearing at the No. 4 spot on the list is Yahoo! Shopping. One of the attractive features of listing with Yahoo! Shopping is that your search results will also appear in other Yahoo! search engines (such as Yahoo! Search and Yahoo! Guides).

Yahoo! Shopping operates on a PPC platform. Costs for PPC listings start at 19 cents (for categories like clothing and general household items) and go up to $1.25 (for categories like flowers and jewelry). The Yahoo! Shopping search results are listed by item type, but not necessarily by manufacturer or model number. This style of listing can be advantageous to you if your unique selling proposition is more attractive to potential customers than the price of your product or service.

The fifth bot on my list is Google's new project: Froogle Beta. Google's new free beta shopping bot ("beta" meaning "almost finished, but not quite perfect!") is online and ready for you to use. The "free" aspect of Froogle is an especially attractive element of the beta testing and should not be overlooked. In fact, it's rumored that Froogle will continue to be free even after the beta testing stages, adding to its appeal. Froogle will be relying on sponsored ads (found at the right-hand side of their web pages) to keep the shopping bot going.

Froogle also offers two convenient ways to submit product feeds:

1. By filling out their online form
2. By making use of their Froogle Feeder software, which can be downloaded on a 30-day trial basis

Froogle still needs to work out a few bugs before it can provide shoppers with accurate search results, but it ranks in my top five list because it's free and there's no risk for merchants to list their products.

I also found some shopping bot sites that had definite perks to them, but didn't make it onto my top 5, including:

· MySimon

· NexTag

· PriceSCAN

· StreetPrices

Final Thoughts

Using shopping bots is definitely a great way to beef up your Web site traffic, bringing you qualified (i.e., interested) shoppers without costing you a lot of money. The most important thing to remember is that not every shopping bot site works in the same way. Choosing the one that suits your product or service will be crucial to the success of your ad.

And while shopping bots are an excellent source of cheap, qualified traffic, be sure you don't limit yourself to this one tool! Used properly, shopping bots can be a great addition to your online ad campaigns and can nicely complement your other marketing efforts.


Internet marketing expert Corey Rudl has gained popularity because what he teaches is not theoretical approaches to online marketing but real examples of what works when it comes to having a successful business on the Internet. He's also the author of the recently updated bestselling how-to guide, Insider Secrets to Marketing Your Business on the Internet - Version 2004. For more information on his new advertising technology, go to www.marketingtips.com/hoverad

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