Tuesday, 24 June 2008
This is the third (first, second) and final post in my mini-series on the excellent incentive being offered by Sunshine. As it stands, my site Orlando Florida Holiday has a 1 in 6 chance of winning. That's right, I could win a holiday easily worth £2,000 simply because 6 of us have entered.
I'm extremely surprised by the response to this competition. I've put other incentive-chasing on hold for a couple of weeks and cranked out this beast of a site. Anyway, I'm not forcing you to enter (it's better for me if you don't) but in case you want to know a bit more about how I set up my Orlando site, read on.
How Long Did It Take?
It took 14 days. Some of you will instantly rule out an entry because of this but consider this. In the 14 days I registered some web space, registered an affiliate account with Sunshine via Affiliate Future, created a data feed file, coded the site, found the pictures and videos, researched the content and slept!
Before I started the site, all I knew about Orlando was that my grandparents have been there and that SeaWorld, Disney World and Universal Studios were there. Oh, and it was in America.
What Script Did You Use?
I started off thinking I wanted something quick and easy. I didn't need a database as all I was going to do is list the main attractions and deeplink to Sunshine for hotel information. So I started coding in plain old HTML (or more specifically PHP using a .htaccess file).
I then thought that it may be more advantageous to list all the hotels on my site. If I did that, I could have more pages indexed in the search engines. For that, I continued to use PHP and built a very simple script to pull data from a database. I always find Tizag a goldmine when it comes to coding.
Where Did You Get Your Pictures?
Most of the hotel pictures are from Sunshine's website as is the inspiration for the hotel text used within my data file. Some pictures were too small so a quick look at the public domain images and hotel website's themselves was in order here.
With regards to the attractions, I used Flickr. If you do an Advanced Search, tick "Only search within Creative Commons-licensed content" and "Find content to use commercially" and search away. Just remember to attribute the copyright to the photographer in question at the bottom of each page. A small price to pay for a free image I think.
Videos are care of YouTube. Where else?
Why Use a Data File?
I found a macro a long time ago for Excel that exports spreadsheets into a text file, separating each cell with a delimiter I specify. With a simple script, I can clear my database, reset the autocounter and insert all the new data. Quite simply, any database data that requires a mass uploading to begin with would benefit from a similar method. Simply edit your Excel file, export it to a text file and upload that, then install it. Simple :-)
I'm sorry but I don't know where I got these gems from. A search of Google would reveal them as I definitely remember getting them through there.
What Are The 'Nifty' Features?
There's a few hidden gems!
I love the Google Maps that appear on the hotel listings pages and on the Orlando Resort map page. I created custom markers and geocoded all the addresses (converting the addresses and zip codes to x,y co-ordinates).
Magic Parser is used to parse RSS feeds from Sunshine on my International Drive Deals page, as well as the other deals pages.
Talking to Chris, he said these feeds are generated automatically based upon searches. So sometimes they will be empty and no deals will be displayed and other times they'll be packed with resorts.
A bit of script wizardry is applied to these feeds as I convert the airport codes into their full titles. For example, 'CWL' is converted to Cardiff, Wales. It took a while to get this sorted and it's such a tiny feature but it's worth it (to me anyway)!
Have You Had Any Success?
Funny you should ask! I submited a sitemap to Google a few days ago. I checked my stats to see how much bandwidth I'd used and found I had 2 natural search visitors BEFORE I OFFICIALLY LAUNCHED THE SITE so I've already got some keywords. Not bad for a site with no backlinks at the time.
I imagine as I build up visitor counts I should have some success with this. Travel is a competitive market so we'll have to wait and see.
Would You Do It Again?
Yep. It took a while but that's only because I created fresh content. On the plus side, by delving into something so far outside of my comfort zone, I've been forced to research the subject properly and thus expanded my knowledge.
I would certainly do this again though I have to admit that the incentive was a large push here. Perhaps without the incentive I would be less likely to and more likely to revert back to the comfort zones. Never say never though.
What Else Would You Do Given More Time?
Hmmm, some sort of user generated content would be nice. Perhaps some more video clips, maybe video clips of the hotels themselves. A newsletter would be a waste of time especially if you are the type of person who rarely goes back to a place twice. If my customer base always visited the same place, then a newsletter becomes a serious prospect.
Perhaps an e-card tool would be nice so you could send virtual Orlando postcards. I need my own photos for this hence the attempt at winning the prize ;-)
Set aside a few days or a week before Thursday 10th July (that's 2 weeks this Thursday) and knock up a quick website about a destination Sunshine.co.uk serves. Chris has stated you don't need a travel site but I think the least you could do is knock up a small niche website in exchange for an entry. Given the prize could be worth £000's, it's a small gesture of a committed affiliate.
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Oooh. Have been trying to get this working for a while - but have been using multiple networks and multiple feeds. May just strip back my efforts and start on a smaller scale. Will mean that my domain buying will have to start apace once again.
Written on Monday 30 June 2008 at 08:41:28 GMT (Permalink)
@Miike - Take a look through my other Sunshine posts and you'll find some useful hints and tips. Chris Clarkson, affiliate manager for Sunshine, suggests starting small and growing larger. He suggests concentrating on one town or village, then expanding out.
The best way to do this is either:
1) Buy a generic name (e.g. spanish-holiday .co.uk), add some content about Madrid and then add more towns at a slow pace.
2) Buy a set of city/town/village specific names (e.g. madrid-holiday .co.uk), standardise the layout for each name and then link them all together.
Both has it's pros and cons but the overall message has to be concentrate on a small region first, then expand.
As to the number of merchants you use, that's up to you. Sometimes more choice can be better but it can also confuse the customer - which is the best recommended travel agent for that area? It may be worthwhile taking a look at http://davidfiske.com/item/... . It may not be for a travel site but it promotes just 2 merchants (at the time of writing) in a discreet manor.
Finally, I notice your domain is about caravan park holidays. Not sure you heard about this but it's worth entering if all you have to do is add a banner! http://www.affiliates4u.com...
Written on Monday 30 June 2008 at 09:12:53 GMT (Permalink)
Cheers Dave. I had looked at that Haven competition but TBH the banners get such a dreadful ctr compared to the text links and I'm updating/building the CMS and re-designing it just now. So am concentrating on that so I can do more things with multiple merchants - CMS is really only built to deal with one merchant and every time I add more just now I have to rehack sections of it. I've been doing some bits with low AOV products (as the competition is lower) and concentrating on developing them sectionally with category level optimisation and expanding the ranges of categories on another site. I've found that targetting the website into niches and then growing the niches to be working pretty well - it is early days just now. Cheers for the help.
Written on Monday 30 June 2008 at 14:41:01 GMT (Permalink)
I've just been researching Affiliate Marketing and your blog is a fantastic resource. Just out of interest, if your Orlando website still attracting web users and earning you any money?
Written on Thursday 10 May 2012 at 10:02:54 GMT (Permalink)
@Pat - Admittedly it's stagnated a bit. It seems to get a decent amount of traffic from people who have already booked holidays :-(
Written on Sunday 13 May 2012 at 16:13:17 GMT (Permalink)
Thank you to all previous commenters.
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