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Friday, April 04, 2014

Guest Post: Promoting With Raw Links Leaves You Hungry


Today I'm pleased to bring you a guest post from Jesse Lakes, CEO of the link management service GeoRiot, which I talked about in this blog post a little while ago.

GeoRiot is a service that lets you create "universal" links that will take anyone clicking them to the relevant page of their own national Amazon store (it also works with iTunes/iBooks).

The links can include your affiliate code if you wish, so that you will be credited with commission for any sales in stores where you are signed up as an affiliate.

GeoRiot has many other benefits for writers and affiliates as well, but I'll let Jesse explain about these below...

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Promoting your books in an international online marketplace can be challenging for indie authors in the iTunes or Amazon ecosystems. Today we discuss one crucial tool that should be in every author's toolbox - a link management platform.

"Raw links" is the term we use for links that go directly to a third party storefront, such as Amazon or iTunes. Generally, these links are great for one thing: sending customers to a specific item in a specific store. While using raw links when promoting your materials has been the industry standard since the dawn of self publishing, it's no longer best practice for a number of reasons.

The current norm for sending your readers to the Internet's largest stores is to use a "link management" platform. These services can be as basic as using a URL shortener (like Bit.ly), leveraging a WordPress plugin or by using a specialized platform (like GeoRiot) where the purchaser-facing link is first pointed at the link platform, then redirected to the appropriate book or series.

The gist is that when you put an additional layer between a click and the final destination, you gain long-term control of the link, get insight into your marketing efforts, and depending on the platform, can unlock some incredibly beneficial tools.

Future Proofing

Using a good link management platform with your promotion efforts gives you a fair amount of insurance, as they offer you the ability to edit the final destination URL for your link. This is a lifesaver when your marketing efforts include promoting your content via social media, email, press releases, blogs, and/or articles published by third parties where you either have no ability to edit the original link or there are significant delays involved.

Instead of having to reach out to those third parties, or manually change the link for each individual promotion you've done, you can instead just edit the destination once, and the links you've already marketed will automatically use the new redirect.

A few examples of when this comes in handy include when a new edition or enhanced copy of your book becomes available after you've already started your campaigns, or you end up going with a new publisher, or marketplace. All you'd need to do is add a placeholder URL from your link management tool and update it to point to the proper URL once the new one is available.

While it may not be an everyday practice, you'll thank yourself for the forward thinking if you do find yourself in a pinch and need to quickly update your links to make sure your existing promotions aren't a complete waste.

Watching Your Traffic

Keeping a pulse on your promotions is an essential step to becoming a better marketer, which is key to selling more of your books. Being able to answer a question like which campaigns or social media channels are sending the most clicks is important to helping with the decision on where to invest your time and resources. Unfortunately, with raw links, you won't get any of that information, which leaves you in the dark about what's working and what's not.

Most link management tools offer at least basic reporting on things such as referrers (websites that sent traffic to those links), the geography of where your clicks are originating, and a overview of the type of device used when clicking the link. Insights into knowing which social media avenues or campaigns result in the most clicks, or seeing that your iBooks links are often clicked from Android devices, are good indicators for optimizing your marketing efforts. 

Specialized Tools

A specialized breed of link management tools offer even more benefits in a number of areas. These can include incorporating Amazon and iBooks's affiliate program parameters to help you earn commissions, localizing and translating links for a global audience, and giving deeper insight through advanced reporting and tracking.

Both iTunes and Amazon have affiliate programs that reward people for sending traffic into their storefronts. Leveraging these affiliate programs is a no-brainer for independent authors as it pays them for an activity they are already doing - sending traffic into these stores.

The challenge, however, comes from the affiliate programs that require different tracking IDs for different regions. At this point some intelligence is required to determine when to use the appropriate affiliate ID, since it depends on the traffic's geographical location. When choosing a link management platform, be sure to pick something that at a minimum supports affiliate links, and ideally one that incorporates support for all of a retailer's affiliate programs. Then, use those affiliated links in all of your promotion and social media efforts to send traffic to your books, but also make commissions off anything else your traffic purchases within a specific timeframe.

One massive advantage of selling/marketing both physical and e-books on the Amazon or iBooks platforms is that you reach a truly global audience. This means potentially more sales if you promote correctly by sending users to their local storefront, something raw links don't accomplish. The reason for this is that sometimes a link for your work differs between regional storefronts due to different distribution and licensing agreements, or issues such as language and currency differences. Either way, when an international user clicks a link that directs them to the incorrect storefront or the link errors out, your chances of converting that click to a sale go down significantly.

Intelligent link management platforms alleviate this problem by "localizing" a link, which is where the service sends each user to their own local storefront instead of whichever store the original link is from.

However, what happens if your item has distinctive IDs in the different country or region specific storefronts? In this case, you'll need something even more powerful - a tool that not only localizes, but also translates the link to use the appropriate ID when necessary. Both localizing and translating links give your users the best possible experience, which makes it much more likely for them to purchase.

Another benefit of the more advanced link management platforms is sophisticated reporting and tracking capabilities. This functionality, coupled with using the affiliate programs, can lead to some really cool information. What if, instead of just seeing total clicks from different social channels or promotions, you could also measure how efficient your different links were at making a sale? Actionable information, when acted upon, can boost the efficacy of your next promotion and save you time.

If you are curious to learn more about the differences between raw and well-done links, shoot us a note and we can discuss over e-meal (feel free to cringe now).

Also, if you are actively marketing your books inside the iTunes or Amazon ecosystem, we encourage you to check out GeoRiot.com or reach out at contact@georiot.com.  My team and I have been working hard on building the best link management platform that we can, and we'd love your feedback on how we are doing. 

Thanks - Jesse

Byline: Jesse Lakes is the CEO of GeoRiot, a company that provides industry-leading affiliate linking capabilities to indie authors. With a single, unified link, Amazon and iBooks traffic is directed to the appropriate, geo-specific item in that user's local storefront to improve international user experience. Additionally, the GeoRiot service allows authors to leverage the many country-specific affiliate programs simultaneously, typically doubling their affiliate commission simply by sending traffic to purchase their books. GeoRiot has served over 2 billion clicks for thousands of clients worldwide.

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Thank you to Jesse for an interesting, in-depth article, that sets out the benefits, to independent authors especially, of using a link management platform such as GeoRiot.

I have been using GeoRiot for some months now and highly recommend it. Not only does it make life much simpler to have a single link you can use for any Amazon product, it has also boosted my income from Amazon's affiliate program considerably.

A further benefit I hadn't previously considered is set out in Jesse's article. This is the fact that if you need to change the destination to which a link points retrospectively, using a link management platform makes this very easy. As Jesse says, if you publish a new edition of your book (with a different Amazon ASIN) you can ensure that even people clicking on old links that may be outside your control are automatically forwarded to the new edition.

One point I should probably address is the cost. The good news is that you don't have to pay anything to join or use GeoRiot. Rather, they take payment in clicks. A certain proportion of these (up to 15 percent) will have their affiliate code embedded rather than your own.

The system is explained in detail on this page of the GeoRiot site. Overall, though, it is designed to have as little impact on your own affiliate commissions as possible.

For starters, all clicks to your 'base country' (the one you used to create your GeoRiot link originally) are always credited to you. In addition, GeoRiot take clicks to any national stores you don't have affiliate arrangements with initially, so you won't lose out at all there. If these amount to 15 percent of all your clicks, you are fully paid up and won't have any more taken. Even if you do end up having a few clicks taken by GeoRiot, in my own view (and experience) the benefits far outweigh this.

If you would like to see what a GeoRiot link looks like, here is one to my Festival on Lyris Five illustrated novella: http://georiot.co/1kW2. Feel free to click through and it should take you to the relevant page of your own national Amazon store. And yes, if I'm an affiliate there, my affiliate link will be automatically embedded!

If you have any comments or questions for Jesse or for me, as always, please feel free to post them below.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Tony Chianese said...

The article put me to sleep. They talk about long ad letters, this one nailed the thought.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Sorry you found it heavy going, Tony. I agree that there is a bit of jargon to wade through, but in my opinion the basic information is sound. Certainly, Jesse makes a good case for using a link management system (GeoRiot or something else) rather than raw links.

I am a fan of GeoRiot, as I stated in the post, because I believe it is a genuine win-win proposition for authors. I don't expect every reader of this blog will take my word on this, but even if you are sceptical I urge you to give the service a try. And no, I don't receive any sort of remuneration for recommending them!

10:40 PM  

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