Affiliate Marketing for B2B Publishers

It’s time to shake it up again at “Bill Freedman’s Soon to be a Major Trend.” I’m going to start experimenting with Affiliate Marketing links. In this post we’ll take a look at the Affiliate Marketing players, the transactions and the industry dynamics. And we’ll explore my first foray into Affiliate Marketing featuring DreamHost, my web hosting provider for over a decade.

The main purpose of this web site is to share perspectives on B2B marketing. But it’s also a site where I experiment with new technologies and tactics. Experimenting with Affiliate Marketing is consistent with the blog’s charter, so let’s dig in!

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate Marketing is hardly a new topic, but it is new to this site. It is a form of performance marketing that rewards “affiliates” for promoting third-party products to their audience.

Let’s dig deeper, starting with the cast of characters in a web-based affiliate marketing program and then digging into the transaction details.

The Affiliate Marketing Cast of Characters

  • Brand – This is the organization that provides rewards in exchange for sourcing new customers
  • Publisher – This is “the affiliate” or organization that publishes and promotes links to the brand’s web site and purchasable products
  • Customer – The is the publisher’s audience who ultimately buy products on the Brand’s web site.
  • Affiliate Network – The Affiliate Network acts as a broker between the Brand and Publisher. It provides infrastructure and services like account portals, metrics, links, etc. that make it easier for brands to attract Publishers, and for Publishers to share affiliate offers on behalf of the Brand. Amazon Associates is an example of an Affiliate Network.

The Affiliate Marketing Transaction Flow

The actions taken by the Customer, Publisher, Brand and Affiliate Network are outlined in the diagram below.

affiliate marketing transaction flow

Affiliate marketing transaction flow.

The Publisher attracts Customers to their web site, typically through valuable content. Only when the Customer buys a product does the affiliate marketing transaction flow take effect. Affiliate marketing programs rarely compensate for impressions or even clicks. As a result, the Publisher is typically rewarded in the form of high Commissions for Buy transactions, especially compared with cost per impression or cost per click compensation schemes. In many situations, the Affiliate Network facilitates setting up the relationship between Brand and Publisher and is the clearing house for metrics and payments. Larger Brands may run programs without an Affiliate Network intermediary.

Setting up an Affiliate Marketing program makes sense for Brands that seek an incremental method to extend their distribution reach via trusted partnerships. Participating in affiliate marketing programs make sense if the Publisher is confident they can drive purchases and earn commissions.

Before You Begin with Affiliate Marketing …

It seems easy and low risk to join the affiliate economy. As with many things the model makes sense but reality can be very different. I have three pieces of advice for anyone looking to join an Affiliate Marketing program:

  1. First, build an audience. Without an audience and web traffic, it’s pretty tough to convert affiliate links into cash. So focus first on your audience by creating assets–content–that they value. Yes, you can deploy affiliate links starting on day one, but your ultimate affiliate marketing strategy may evolve as your audience evolves.
  2. Keep it relevant. Affiliate ads pay per action, which means that you get paid only when readers click on the ad and make a purchase. The more relevant the offer/link is to your site content, the higher the likelihood visitors will click on the ad and perform the desired action. If visitors don’t purchase, it is a win for the vendor (through their branded link or ad), but not for the Publisher.
  3. Assess each program’s value. There are lots of Brands offering affiliate programs, but not all affiliate programs are created equally. Read the fine print and make sure the compensation from the Brand is a fair exchange for promoting their products through your web site.
  4. Integrate offers wisely. Use site design to balance the core content with affiliate and other offers. Skew too far toward affiliate offers and your site looks like a NASCAR race car. Skew to far to content and you’re missing monetization opportunities. Use experiments wisely to find the optimal mix … but do it in a way that doesn’t ever scare away readers.
  5. Keep your “SEO Juice” to yourself. When adding affiliate links to your site, make sure to include rel=“nofollow” in the link tag. That way search engines will not automatically confer domain authority to the affiliate.

I’ve used DreamHost shared hosting since 2003. I’ve grown up with them. I’ve enjoyed extremely high service levels and I’ve even stayed with them through some ugly outages (they’re ancient history now). While you can always find a cheaper hosting provider in this highly competitive (dare I say cut-throat) business, DreamHost has earned my loyalty. DreamHost’s core shared hosting service is competitively priced, includes unlimited storage and bandwidth, includes a parade of new feature releases every month and is backed by honest and transparent customer service.

They’ve also offered an affiliate program forever. I’m just taking advantage of promoting in on my blog now.

Affiliate Marketing link: DreamHost Web Hosting

My motivation is two fold. First, I want to understand how the Publisher side of affiliate marketing programs work. I’ve offered Google AdSense for some time on this blog (and made a modest return from it). Now I’d like to learn about another blog monetization channel. Second, I want the coin. Yes, I expect to profit from including DreamHost affiliate links on my site.

Click here (affiliate link) to sign up for DreamHost’s truly great shared hosting service.

How to Transcribe .MP3 Audio from Podcasts or .MP4 Movies to Text on Mac OS

I listen to podcasts. I watch videos. But more than anything I read and write. That’s just how I roll.

Frequently I want to save an audio snippet or video clip for future reference. Sure I could save the source media file, if I had unlimited disk space. But what I usually do is keep a link to the original source and text synopsis of the snippet. That both saves on storage and makes future searches for that particular item simpler.

If you’re like me, you really want the original text more than a synopsis. It take s a bit of extra effort, but I have a nice solution that uses only a Mac and open source software. Read below for instructions on converting an MP3 audio file to a text document.

The Basics of Configuring Your Mac to Transcribe .MP3 Audio

Here’s what you need:

  • The original media (.mp3 file, for example)
  • Soundflower. Soundflower is an application that creates a virtual audio channel and directs audio input and output to physical or virtual devices.
  • Audacity. Audacity is a free application for recording and editing sounds.
  • TextEdit.app. TextEdit is the default text editor/word processor that is included in Mac OS X.

Follow the instructions on the developer websites to get all of the software installed and working on your system. Once you have the software installed, the next step is to configure your Mac to use Soundflower for dictation.

Dictation and Speech

  • Open System Preferences and click on  “Dictation & Speech”
  • Select the Dictation tab
  • Select “Soundflower (2ch)” as the dictation input source
  • Click Dictation to “On”
  • Tick the “Use Enhanced Dictation” box

Your Mac is ready for dictation. When dictation is turned on in TextEdit (or a another word processing app), your Mac will transcribe sound from the Soundflower input source.

Getting Your Audio and Text Files Ready

Next, you need to queue up the audio file in Audacity and direct output to Soundflower. For those who are new to Audacity, this will be the trickiest step. But relax, you don’t need to learn much about Audacity beyond deciding what section of sound to play and how to select the audio output from the default speakers to Soundflower.

Transcribe .MP3 Audio to Text - Audacity

  • Launch Audacity
  • Import your audio file into audacity (File–> Import, or simply drag the file into the center of the Audacity screen.)
  • Click the play button to give it a listen, then click stop once your confident you have the right sound clip/transcription area.
  • Choose Audacity –> Preferences –> Devices. Under playback, choose “Soundflower (2ch)” to switch the output from the onboard speakers to Soundflower. Click “OK”

Audacity Preferences Dictation

With Audacity and your sound file queued up, its time to turn your attention to TextEdit.

  • Launch TextEdit
  • Create a “New Document”
  • You may want to add some meta data to the document, such as the podcast name, episode #, publish date and URL, to go along with the key transcript.
  • Position the cursor in the file where you want the transcript to appear.

And … Action!

It’s time to start audio playback and dictation transcription. Here both sequence and timing are important:

Start Dictation

  1. In Audacity, move the scrubber start location 10-15 seconds before the key transcription area.
  2. Press “Play.” The scrubber and meters will start moving, though you won’t hear any sound. The audio signal is going to Soundflower instead of to the speakers.
  3. Put focus on Text edit and position the cursor where you want the transcription to begin.
  4. Select Edit –> Start Dictation. (or use the hot key combination, Fn Fn). A microphone icon with a “Done” button will appear to the left of your document.
  5. Text will start appearing in the document. It will likely lag by about 3-5 seconds.
  6. After approximately 30 seconds press the “done” button. Transcription will continue until complete.

This is the fun part: watch as transcription happens in real time right in the document window. Look Ma, no hands!

And now you have the original text (and most likely a few errors) as text to save. In the future you can easily search and retrieve the information.

An Excellent Alternative: Google Docs Voice Typing

While the solution above works great for offline work, one alternative with a lot of promise is Google Docs. The Voice Typing feature work much like the dictation service in Mac OS. It has the crowdsourcing advantages and privacy disadvantages of other Google products. If you’re OK with that, I found Voice Typing to do an very good job with accuracy and it can go longer that Mac OS dictation.

To use Google Voice Typing, follow all of the steps above with Soundflower, Dictation preferences and configuring Audacity.  Instead of using TextEdit, you’ll want to start the Chrome browser and create a Google Doc. Once you are in document, Select Tools –> Voice typing

Transcribe Audio with Google Voice Typing

The user interface and process of starting and stopping transcription is the same as with TextEdit.

Dictation and Transcription Limitations

This process sets you well on you way to the goal of a high fidelity audio transcription. But it will be short of perfect. Here’s what you can do to go from good to perfect:

  • Understand that Mac OS dictation transcription works for a maximum of 30 seconds at a time. If you need longer, you may want to use an alternate technology such as Dragon.
  • Audio playback needs to start before dictation/transcription begins in TextEdit. TextEdit needs to be in focus for dictation to work. If you set the Audacity scrubber a few seconds ahead of target snippet, you’ll be fine.
  • Transcription cannot intuit punctuation. You’ll need to add that after the fact.
  • If you have multiple speakers or a noisy background, you may need to complete one additional step of creating a pristine audio file to work from. This can be done by listening to the sound through headphones and speaking the text into an audio recorder. Use the recording of your voice to drive the transcription.