February 3, 2016

How to Grow your Affiliate Network with the Right Tools

Affiliate marketing might seem like a simple revenue model, but its successful implementation depends on a variety of factors. In fact, the whole affiliate marketing business is considerably more complex than it appears and depends on your ability to plan the use of available resources, choose the right tools to work with and do some math on how you can best grow your revenue.

With the advancements of web technology and tracking systems, affiliate marketing has become somewhat of a mathematical equation that includes precisely defined factors that influence revenue growth. Of course, this equation differs from merchant to merchant and is based on their industries, types of services or products sold, as well as the strategy adopted. Yet, consistent planning, measurement and analysis are vital for expanding an affiliate business and this is why you need to work with the right tools.

Once you start thinking about doing business either as a buyer or reseller of affiliate programs, think about the following tools that can greatly influence your business.

Consider the subtle differences between CMS solutions. 

Although the easiest way to start a blog is to simply use a website builder such as wix.com or webbly.com, serious affiliate marketers need a more solid solution. This means you should consider WordPress, Blogger, Joomla! or Hubspot platforms, which provide you with a greater number of options to customize your website, track your users’ behavior and integrate other tools you might need.

WordPress and Blogger are known for their simplicity, while Joomla! and Hubspot require some technical skills in order to be properly set. All the systems provide just enough options to start blogging and scale resources as your audience grows, thus letting you plan the expansion of your affiliate network more strategically.

Choose affiliate platforms that offer relevant integrations. 

Consistent networking is essential for developing a successful affiliate marketing business, which is why you need to invest a significant amount of time into looking for new networks, contacts and partners. Among the great resources for doing this within the CCBill platform is the Merchant Connect network.  CCBill’s Merchant Connect is designed with the goal of providing an easy way to find and work with the most relevant CCBill partners.  In addition to processing your payments, and handling your subscription base, CCBill also lets you connect with the consumers of other CCBill Merchant Connect websites, both in your industry and other industries.  That way, you can tie together and automate your payment services and your traffic generation using a single system and use your time more effectively.

Develop growth strategy using tracking and analytics systems. 

To be able to resell products and services, you need to engage your audience on different channels and the only right way to do this is to understand their behavior, interests and needs. A great place to start analyzing your potential audience is Google’s Consumer Barometer, which gives you an insight into people’s online and buying behavior based on different parameters.

However, as you start building a loyal readership, you should track your user’s behavior on your website specifically. This is why tracking and analytics are now available for a variety of tools and even for each CMS you may decide to use.  To further ‘close the loop,’ Affiliates who process payments with CCBill can also integrate our FlexForms with Google Analytics and Google AdWords to get comprehensive reports on the most valuable data about their prospects and customers.

Integrate automated social sharing tools. 

Social sharing is a great way to expand your customer base and attract new visitors to your website. But, the social space requires you to be constantly present, meaning that you should post regularly and on different channels. This typically takes time, especially if you’re serious about measuring your engagements. In such cases, tools such as HubSpot (paid), Hootsuite (free) and Buffer (free) may be ideal because they allow you to schedule posts, track their performance and maximize their efficiency.

These are some of the resources that can aid your affiliate marketing strategy by helping you segment your audience, optimize your website and drive targeted traffic through affiliate networks. Of course, the success rates will depend mainly on what you have to offer, and you should always combine those with the right promotional tactics, in order to succeed.  

January 27, 2016

Outlook for Online Adult in 2016

The ubiquity of technology and the ever expanding digital landscape keep bringing about new opportunities for both individuals and organizations. For an adult end-user, or anyone over age of 18 in this digital age, this means more professional opportunities, better access to educational institutions and, of course, more fun!

As opposed to previous generations, today’s surfer doesn’t have to travel in order to meet his or her international peers or business associates. If you decide to change a career in your 50s, you can easily earn an online diploma or start freelancing. More importantly, you can find resources to start your own small business online or finally meet a potential life partner. Of course, these are just some of the things you can do online and the year ahead of us is probably going to bring even more.

Let’s look at some of the most important trends online adults will enjoy for the next 12 months and beyond.

Meet new people - online dating is no longer taboo. 

An obvious advantage of being able to connect and communicate in the global village is the fact you can more easily find that special someone. Just think about how many lousy offline dates you’d have to go through before you actually meet someone worth of your intentions. Online, its’ much easier to connect with the people who share the same interests, start a casual communication and build a more serious relationship if both of you feel that’s the right way to go.

This precisely is what has made online dating so popular and now practically mainstream. Namely, Pew Internet Research revealed that 11% of all the U.S. adults have used a dating site or an app, with 23% of those saying they’ve found a spouse or long-term relationship through these sites. If you’re still single and want to find a soul mate, online dating websites don’t care about your age and are no longer taboo.  Check out the popular OK Cupid app or DatingBuddies and choose your preferred way to communicate.

Have fun – the adult entertainment industry is stronger than ever. 

Let’s face it – most people still see and use the Internet as a form of entertainment.

While it’s true that the web has long evolved into a business and education resource, the entertainment industry still dominates it. In fact, after a brief slowdown over the last few years, the industry is expected to flourish with the boom of mobile devices. Now already a $97 billion industry according to some estimates, adult digital entertainment is only going to grow bigger as more people start exploring it from their smartphones and tablets. In fact, Juniper research predicted that by 2017, a quarter of a billion people will be accessing mobile adult content from their phones or tablets (30% up from 2013), while mobile adult video chat or live cams alone will see an annual growth of 25%.

Obviously, if you regularly enjoy this form of entertainment, you’re not alone. Billions of other people are looking at the same types or content as you, and there’ll be even more of that in 2016!

Start your own business with online resources.

If you’ve always dreamed of starting your own small business, the year 2016 is the right time to do it. With the availability of free online resources and advanced software tools, starting an online business has never been easier. Even creating a website no longer requires extensive technical skills, but rather research. With WordPress as the simplest and the most intuitive web content management solution, website builders, free hosting services and YouTube tutorials, virtually anyone can become and online merchant or business owner.

What’s more, the creative adults who have found a way to merge business and pleasure can consider building an entertainment website and earn from consumer subscriptions or affiliate programs! If this sounds like a great idea to you, you might want to check out how CCBill supports online merchants to get a clearer picture of your business potential.

Gain new skills. 

In addition to the two aspects described above, personal and professional improvement are among the fields that greatly changed with the development of the Internet. Today, you have the best online education resources at your disposal to finally become a pro in the field you like.

This is particularly important for those who want to improve their language or tech skills in order to be able to work remotely, either as freelancers or external consultants in an international company. For the newbie entrepreneurs, there are loads of materials that help in improving the necessary skills for creating a new empire. Some of the best resources for this type of improvement are edX and Coursera, whose popularity has grown considerably over the last few years, mainly thanks to the quality of courses they offer. If you have entrepreneurial ambitions for 2016, these could be the right resources for you.

It somehow feels good to be an adult in 2016, doesn’t it?

Where on the web will you be spending your time this year?

January 20, 2016

The Impact WordPress has had on the E-Commerce Industry

If you are a web developer, webmaster or you are writing and publishing front end content, you undoubtedly have used or at least considered using WordPress.  Starting out as a simple blogging software, WordPress has become the preferred open source platform for nearly a quarter of websites around the world.

Rarely does a tool spark so much debate between experienced webmasters, designers, and programmers.  We’ve heard everything from powerful and simple to frustratingly complex and bloated. Opinions around this ‘all in one’ platform solution are varied, from one extreme to the other.

So what exactly is WordPress?

WordPress is an open source blogging software and content management system (CMS). Designed and launched in 2003 by Mike Little and Matt Mullenweg, it is based on the framework for the b2 blogging software.  Since then, WordPress has grown to become a full feature solution. Used for websites of nearly every page amount and depth, including those of fortune 500 companies, WordPress has introduced a new way to launch and manage websites.

Is WordPress good for those of us in the e-commerce industry?

Early e-commerce sites chose a dedicated focus, requiring dedicated resources to get up and running. Many companies simply were not willing to create an e-commerce website because of their high ticket and maintenance expense.

But over time, there was a rise in simple website creation tools. Tumblr, Blogger, WIX, and WordPress, were all created with the intention of allowing individuals and SMB’s the ability to create their own websites.

These types of systems were a direct catalyst for the explosion in websites, by removing the required HTML, CSS, and PHP skills to manage a site, and replacing them with a simplified plug and play solution. More and more quality websites were launching from people who wouldn’t be your traditional webmasters.

Even with the expansion of front end website, there remained challenges with payment integration, whether with a payment solution such as Authorize.net or with a payment processor such as CCBill. To accept payments on your site, you either had to implement the processing yourself or find an available plugin.

Occasionally, plugins were available, but they were few and far between.  If you could locate a plugin payment solution, it most likely was a ‘pay to use.’   And believe or not, even those ‘pay to use’ plugins, which could run as much as $100 or more, came with minimal support, adding another layer of challenges. If you were lucky enough to get someone to respond to your question, in most cases, you were still left on your own to stitch together a solution using inadequate code.

As people realized the substantial revenue opportunities online, we saw a rise in the e-commerce plugins available. Modules soon began to be added faster than ever before, and for nearly any purpose you could imagine.

Today, it is nearly impossible to name even a handful of the available e-commerce plugins, but a few we offer our Merchants include WooCommerce, WP eCommerce, Easy Digital Downloads, and Jigoshop. Each day, more and more plugins are being added to help manage every aspect of an e-commerce site.

With online ecommerce competition so stiff, you need to set yourself apart from the pack.  Don’t do it alone.  Partnering with a payment processor like CCBill, is a good way for you to compete.

How can you use WordPress and CCBill?

First, the simplest way is to use one of the CCBill WordPress modules available on CCBill’s Partner Integration page at ccbill.com/integrations.

WooCommerce works exceptionally well if you are building a store based website. CCBill’s WooCommerce module was designed by CCBill, and offers you the assistance of our 24/7 Merchant Support Department to assist with getting it set up and running orders and sales.

If you are looking to do a membership based website, we recommend either the Magic Members or the aMember plugins. Both were developed to work specifically with CCBill, and are used widely since their release.

The fabulous thing about WordPress is that you are not required to use a plugin. Though a plugin can  simplify the build of a website, it may come with specific restrictions that don’t line up with your business  or end-user needs. In these cases a custom solution may be your best option.

Something else to consider as a low-cost solution, is using our CCBill User Management System. This htaccess authentication system is offered at no extra charge to CCBill accounts.  A simple service, once a user signs up to be a member of your website or program, CCBill automatically adds the user to your authentication system. Including expiration functionality, when that user’s membership has ended, the system automatically removes that user’s access, by removing them from the authentication system. This automated user management is low cost, yet provides a high-touch and seamless user experience.

Looking for more control?  Choose one of the many available CCBill APIs. The most common setup used is the Webhooks system (a version of instant payment notification) to manage users. Once a transaction takes place, the CCBill system sends out a webhook that can be captured by a script that adds the user to your authentication system. When that user’s access should be revoked, the system will send an additional webhook, which notifies your authentication system to remove the user’s access.

Other options include our Datalink system, to query a user’s access level, adding or removing them, as necessary; or our CCBill upgrade system, to offer multiple ‘tiered’ level access, such as a bronze, silver, and gold access. By automating the multiple levels of access, your website becomes more attractive to a potential buyers.

With this level of simple and flexible customization, with the multiple themes available, the variety and wide breath of plugins, and your ability to use and choose from lots of different APIs, CCBill helps to make WordPress much more than just ‘a blogging software.’

If you are thinking about starting a new project, consider WordPress and see if it is the right platform for you.

Ray Kelsey
CCBill Sales Engineer

And the 2016 Cybersocket ‘Best Webmaster Resource’ Web Award Goes to CCBill

On January 13th, the Penthouse Nightclub in West Hollywood, California was electric, as the leaders of the gay online media and entertainment industry gathered with an extremely loyal fan base to create one of the most exciting events in our industry - the 16th Annual Cybersocket Web Awards!  Always happy to hang out with our partners, merchants and their surfers, the CCBill team had a great time at the event, and we were truly honored to be recognized by our peers, with an Industry Choice Award.

The recognition of being awarded the prestigious Best Webmaster Resource Award further solidifies the pride we at CCBill feel for servicing this incredible industry.  Having so many respected industry members and contemporaries vote for us in this category, simply put, means a lot to us.

We believe this Cybersocket Web Award reflects our mission to improve and simplify payment services and business expansion opportunities for adult webmasters.  We have been busy over the past couple years building additional systems and network resources to achieve that goal.  With the launch of the Merchant Connect one-click network we can help any member of the CCBill merchant base grow their business; and by opening up our Integration Partners program, our merchants can easily find and leverage integration tools, software and plugins to automate and fuel their growth.

We definitely don’t intend to stop there.  CCBill has some great plans for the future. With this Best Webmaster Resource Award as an additional motivation, we will keep working to be even better at what we do, by creating more options and value for our merchants.  After all, as Gary Jackson of CCBill points out:

“This award honors the work of the CCBill team and all the adult webmasters, who keep introducing advanced systems to improve the online experience for their viewers, subscribers and partners. We see this as a recognition of the innovation that is happening in our industry and a way to celebrate a plethora of opportunities now available for webmasters.”

This 2016 Cybersocket Web Award is definitely one of the differentiators that has already marked our year. Together with an XBIZ Award 2016 for Billing Company of the Year – IPSP, received at the XBIZ Awards on January 15th ; and a 2016 GFY Award for Best Billing Company at the GFY Awards on January 18th, we hope that our dedication and the pride we have for serving this industry is clear and strong as ever.

As a final message, we want to offer a big ‘thank you’ to Cybersocket for supporting both the industry and the surfers, with this impressive and important event. As Diamond sponsors of the Cybersocket Web Awards, we at CCBill are delighted to think of Cybersocket as one of our key media partners.

Many thanks too to all who voted for us.  We hope that you will continue to be part of the CCBill family and we look forward to seeing and catching up with you at the upcoming industry events, including The Phoenix Forum 2016 (Twitter: @TPFPHX) – March 31st - April 3rd at Tempe Mission Palms Hotel in Tempe Arizona!