In 1996, when I was launching my first online businesses, I saw the Internet as a great vehicle for offering goods and services to people who would not have easy access to them otherwise.
My very first online business offered Drakes Cakes to customers across the country. Drakes Cakes (Devil Dogs, Yankee Doodles, Ring Dings and more) are delectable snack cakes, available primarily on the east coast. I loved them as a kid, living in Manhattan and was slightly traumatized by their absence when I moved to Los Angeles, with my family, at the age of nine.
I decided I wanted to build a website offering these sumptuous treats to transplanted east coaster’s who long for them. I reached out to the Drakes Corporation and scheduled an appointment with several C-level executives at their New Jersey offices.
Understandably, most of the executives didn’t exactly understand what I was talking about, when I expressed my desire to launch a website offering their products to people across the country, who would otherwise not have access to them. They could see how passionate I was about this project, and about their product, and they gave me the green light to sell their products online. The business grew quickly and we were even written-up in the New York Times!
I sold that business and launched a swimwear business, in late 1996, which grew to become a leader in its field. I launched the business from my living room on Park Avenue. At our peak, we were a top 5 retailer with many of the suppliers who we worked with, competing with some of the largest names in retail. I sold that business in 2010.
That was then, this is now… Since then, the Internet has evolved (or devolved), from a fairly even playing field, to more of a pay to play model. It’s much more difficult to achieve high organic positioning with the search engines nowadays. Many businesses spend thousands of dollars each month to buy clicks. It’s much harder for small business to compete in this environment.
Now that players like Amazon and Zappos dominate the online retailer segment, I imagine it is more difficult for a new business to find suppliers who are interested in selling to them. But there may be a solution…
Affiliate programs, such as Amazon Associates, offer individuals and small business the opportunity to participate in an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. With the tools currently available, it is not terribly difficult to create a nice looking affiliate website, focused on a specific niche, which links to products offered by Amazon. You build the website, market and promote the website, and Amazon takes care of everything else.
We have a few recently created affiliate websites at: FashionRelated.com, Leather.TV and GalerieArtiste.com. We have tried to focus on specific niches and to research the very best offerings from Amazon, saving our customers time and money. We encourage you to have a look and would especially value your thoughts in the comments section below.
Here’s the catch, Google, for one, doesn’t look favorably towards affiliate websites. Google sees this as duplicate content. Our brick and mortar world is filled with duplicate content. There are franchises and affiliates across the globe offering the same products and services. Individual stores often have different layouts and different product mixes suited to different demographics. This is a good thing… It benefits the large conglomerates and the entrepreneurial franchisees.
In the online space, if a parent company has an affiliate program and consents to it’s affiliates using their images and descriptions, their affiliates should not be penalized. If the site owners can build a consumer friendly website which offers customers easy access to exactly what they desire, they should be applauded.
Imagine a world where individuals and small business could build affiliate web sites, focusing on specific niches which they are passionate about. Imagine a world where search engine algorithms would give precedent to well designed niche affiliate websites, rather than penalizing them?
Imagine a world where companies like Amazon actually budgeted for the marketing and promotion of their better affiliate sites and offered higher referral fees to their affiliates? Imagine taking a huge step forward, by going back to what made the Internet so great to begin with… A level playing field which affords entrepreneurs, with passion, the opportunity to start a business, on a shoestring budget, which can offer them fulfillment and a meaningful income?
This can be achieved, with a little help from the people like Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and others. I urge them, and others in similar positions, to find creative ways to create a more level playing field. Allowing affiliate website owners a greater chance of succeeding, by not penalizing them, but rather by supporting them is in everyone’s best interest. It’s a friendly environment for small business which made America great and which can make America great again!
Claude Dauman – Domains90210.com
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