Direct Linking vs Landing Pages vs Landing Sites

I was facing my first writer’s block and couldn’t think of anything to blog about and I really wanted to do a blog post tonight cause I had the time.

I’m not use to posting this frequently on a blog! I guess I still have a lot to learn about when it comes to blogging and keeping ideas popping into your head! Anyways, so because I couldn’t think of anything to write about, I made a tweet on twitter asking if anyone had any questions they would like to see covered in a blog post and BlueHeronTrail asked which was better to use a landing page or a landing site (ie. blog, website, etc) I decided to include Direct Linking as well as believe it or not it still works!

So, enough of that let’s get into it!

Direct Linking

First, allow me to explain what Direct Linking is for those that are just getting started in Affiliate Marketing.

Direct Linking is when link directly to an advertisers landing page. Most affiliates normally buy a domain name, some simple hosting, and create their own landing page that they send visitors to first before sending them to the offer(s) landing page. There are two main ways to Direct Link to an affiliate offer.

The first way and most used method of Direct Linking to an affiliates page is by using the affiliate URL your given when you sign up with a company. For example the link may look like this http://x.affiliate.com/publisher/5674 That of course is just an example and doesn’t actually link to an offer.

The second way is to buy a domain name and point the domain name straight to the offers landing page. This method isn’t used as much as the first method is, however, I truly feel that this is the best way to link to an offer and I’ll explain why below.

Advantages to Direct Linking:

  • Allows you to quickly test an offer to see how well it converts before building an entire site around the offer.
  • If the advertisers landing page is good enough quality and having a landing pages seems to cut down on conversions instead of helping.
  • Very easy to setup. You don’t need any knowledge of html, css, or php. You also don’t need to buy a domain name or hosting if you don’t wish to, however, I do recommend buying a domain for Direct Linking.

Disadvantages to Direct Linking:

  • Normally its pretty hard to get a good quality score in Google Adwords when Direct Linking.
  • You are unable to presell the customer. Preselling the customer can easy increase conversions by 200% if you take the time to learn how to do so properly.
  • You won’t normally receive any organic (free) traffic when direct linking. You may receive a little if you are direct linking with a domain name, however, I’ve never received any amount of organic traffic worth talking about.

Why should I use a Domain Name when Direct Linking?

As I said above, most people when they direct link to an offer they don’t even use a domain name. I however, believe that using a domain name even when direct linking has some really nice benefits to it.

First, you are able to build links to your own domain name and keep them if you decide to later build a landing page or site around an offer. I submit almost every offer I run to quite a few directories to start building up some organic traffic and to rank for keywords in Google. Once I know an offer is profitable I immediately start building links to it, even if its just a few well placed ones.

Secondly, Google Adwords has recently changed their Display URL policy saying you have to use the same domain as what is in your destination URL. If your running an offer through any CPA network like AzoogleAds the link for the offer your running normally redirects through their ad server anyways. Having a good keyword rich domain name can increase everything from your Quality Score in Adwords to your CTR%.

Those are the two main reasons why I always use a domain even when testing an offer by direct linking. You can get them for so cheap I don’t see a good reason not to just buy one. If the offer doesn’t work, I get rid of the domain! Simple as that!

Landing Pages

This is by far the most used method when it comes to affiliate marketing. You buy a domain name, throw up a one page site basically called a landing page and have an article or two with several links to the offer page and that’s it.

There are several advantages to this method over direct linking and a couple disadvantages.

Advantages to a Landing Page:

  • Easier to setup than a full landing site (website focused around an affiliate offer).
  • Still pretty easy to get a decent quality score even with Adwords believe it or not, although it is becoming increasingly harder and I believe within another year or two, landing pages will need to become landing sites.
  • Extremely great for seasonal offers as you wouldn’t want to spend too much time on offers that are only good one month out of the year.
  • Allows you to presell your customers thus increasing your conversion rates significantly.
  • Allows you to be more flexible. Some examples are… You can collect email addresses for sending out future offers, you are able to track using php on the keyword level fairly easily using simple cut and paste techniques!

Disadvantages to Landing Pages:

  • Slowly becoming harder to get a great quality score with Adwords as they like content and lots of it.
  • Requires more time to setup than direct linking which could all be in vain if the offer doesn’t convert well enough and you end up having to cancel it.

Again, Landing Pages are the now. They are what’s working and they work well. I don’t believe they will work forever, however, who’s to say they don’t work for another 5 years! Google continues to increase their quality algorithms and they love content and multi-page sites. They want websites to have value to them and not just try to hurry up and send a visitor to someone else’s site only to be redirected yet again without adding any real value to the customer.

Landing Sites

When I say Landing Site basically I’m talking about a Landing Page that has more than just one simple page. A landing site has multiple pages, multiple articles, useful information for consumers, etc. They sometimes have a blog tied to them. Basically anyway you want to do it is fine. I don’t personally believe there is one right way or wrong way when it comes to building a landing site. Some people use a blog to add content, some don’t. The choice is entirely up to you, either way seems to work fine. I’ve personally done it both ways and haven’t seen a problem yet with one or the other.

Advantages to a Landing Site:

  • Google loves these sites, they love the fresh content that gets added to these sites, they love the fact that they typically help the customer and add value a little more than just a simple landing page.
  • These sites can very easily rank for keywords in Organic Searches thus providing tons of free traffic.
  • Easier to get good quality scores when using Google Adwords.
  • Plus all the benefits of a Regular Landing Page.

Disadvantages to a Landing Site:

  • Very time consuming to build these websites.
  • Constantly have to be updated with fresh content in order to be most effective.

So which do I use?

I personally feel and believe that there is a purpose for each type of linking. Let me give you a few examples.

Let’s say your trying out a niche that honestly you don’t know much about but have heard it’s doing well. Your not sure what works, what doesn’t, what type of landing page to create, if it will convert for you, etc. I would personally direct link to the offer first to test out these things and to give it a quick test. Now that’s just me speaking, I know people that do nothing but direct link and they make tons of money. Direct Linking still works but it tends to be more of a short-term income. You get an offer doing well and a couple months it dies, whereas landing pages typically last a lot longer.

Let’s say you’ve tested out a niche and your breaking even, or even making a little profit, or even maybe just losing a little money. You decide that the niche has potential and you’d like to try to scale on it and build. I would then throw up a Landing Page and work on increasing my conversion rate by preselling the customer, increasing my ad ctr%, etc.

Let’s say that you realize after your landing page has been up a while that you could really scale this campaign and you not only want PPC traffic but you also want to start driving SEO traffic to the site, I would then convert my landing page to a Landing Site by either adding a blog or adding an article page.

I hope this article helped you out and explained to you the advantages and disadvantages to using each of the three methods.

Let me know if you have any other questions about the three below in the comments.

Comments

  1. re: “Why should I use a Domain Name when Direct Linking?”

    So is the user ending up at the merchant’s site, or your landing page? As I understand, the display URL must be the same as the location the user ends up at (not necessarily the destination URL)

    Google’s take on display URL is that “your ad’s display URL match its destination URL (the URL of your landing page).” They address tracking URLs: “if the URL of your landing page matches that of your display URL, your ads will be approved.”

    So how can your own domain name help you when direct linking, if the landing page URL doesn’t match the display URL? I’ve never understood this.

  2. Hey Eric, the reason this works well, and this is just from my experiences, is because of course when you have your ad you have the spot to put in your display URL and then you have the link for your destination URL. From what I understand from Google is that those can’t be different. For example.

    Buy DVD’s Now
    Get the latest DVD’s at
    Prices that can’t be Beat!
    http://www.buydvds.com
    http://x.jump.com/xx87de

    Now the above is against the policy according to their new display URL policy however, if I have the domain buydvds.com my destination URL in my ad would be the same, even though it may then redirect to an affiliate offer I’m still first sending them to the domain that is in my display URL.

    Again, this is strictly from my experiences and Google may actually not like this, however, I’ve never personally had a problem doing it this way, nor have they said anything to me.

    If anyone else has any opinion, suggestions, or thoughts on it I would love to hear them!

  3. Thanks Derek – yeah, I don’t think Google likes what you did in your example, but until they say something, take advantage of it.

    Eric

  4. Well, also if you remember I basically count direct linking as a temporary thing. If it makes money and you want to just leave it as is, then do so, although I think eventually Google will become even more strict on direct linking.

    So if your using direct linking as a way to test an offer, etc. Then it will be such a short time and you’ll have a landing page up on the domain quickly anyways. Most likely before Google even notices or cares.

  5. Troy Duncan says:

    I use “landing sites” with my campaigns. I like the link building, targeting, and flexibility they offer.

    I’m more of a SEO than PPC guy. I like the long-term cash-flow potential.

  6. Sean Cavendish (BlueHeronTrail) says:

    Derek,

    Thanks so much for the explanation! Even though some of your vocabulary is a bit over my head at this point in my education, I do believe that I understand the gist of your article. Sounds to me as though the Landing Page might deliver the best value in terms of work/revenue ratio. A bit more work than Direct Linking, but considerably better conversion ratio. A lot less (ongoing) work than a blog, but a bit worse on the conversion ratio. Am I understanding this correctly?

    When you talk about breaking even or losing money, am I to understand that you always (or usually) buy AdWords (or some other advertising) for your Direct Link/Landing Page/Landing Site? Or are you just talking about the cost of the domain itself? If it’s the former, what would you advise setting the AdWords monthly budget for when just testing a new niche? (Keep in mind that I am, for now, operating with a single, very modest income.)

    Anyway, thanks again for the response, and sorry it took me so long to get to it. Feeling under the weather these days, so the mind’s a bit blurrier than usual.

    Thanks again,
    Sean Cavendish
    http://twitter.com/blueherontrail

  7. Derek,

    As I understand it, as long as the final destination of the URL is the same as the display URL, Google is OK with it. So if the offer goes through an adserver like nbjmp.whatever.com but it finally lands on theofferpage.com then you have to have the same display URL as theofferpage.com in your ad.

    You have written up a clear explanation of the difference between using direct linking and landing pages/sites. I agree that direct linking is short term but both techniques have their place and should be in the arsenal of any affiliate marketer.

  8. Hey guys, Thanks for all the replies!

    First let me start with Sean and answer his questions.

    Actually Sean, a Landing Page normally has a better conversion rate than a Landing Site does for me, however, Google loves a good site so you normally pay less per click. Also, you start getting Organic traffic building up after a while which we all love free traffic.

    I mostly do PPC yes, again if I find that an offer is doing well I’ll build a landing site and start to work on organic traffic. I’ll do a post up on the differences and why I like and dislike each one so subscribe! :P

    You can set your monthly budget to whatever you can afford, its entirely up to you. Honestly, you may and probably will lose money your first couple campaigns, think of it as paying for education, cause you’ll learn so much that it is 100% worth it in my opinion.

    Hock, direct linking is a little weird, sometimes Google allows you to do something and sometimes they don’t. I’ve never had much luck with direct linking the way your saying it. Google normally hits me with some high bids. Even with high CTR ads. However, it doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. As I always say there are thousands of ways to do affiliate marketing and all of them work!!! I just explain what works for me on this blog.

    Again thanks for all the comments guys.

  9. If we’re not using google adwords, but yahoo or msn, does the whole “quality score” effect us still? I was talking to you on AIM and forgot to ask that, saw this post and it reminded me to ask :)

  10. Hey Mike, Yahoo and MSN both have their own versions of a quality score, but they are nowhere near the beast that Adwords is.

  11. Good article.

    PS: your =/ you’re

  12. This may or may not help. I had an ad with my display and destination url going to a domain that I had purchased. I had that domain forwarded to the sales page via my affiliate link.

    I wasn’t sure if that would be kosher with google, so I emailed asking if it was legit to have a domain that was forwarded as my display url. They said that the final destination had to be listed as the display url, however, they also said that they had checked out my campaign and my ad was fine.

    So, I’ve decided to leave it up since they’ve checked it…but I’m still confused.

  13. One thing I haven’t tested as much are video landing pages like in the membership sites I see being promoted nowadays…is anyone having any success with it?

  14. Great article Derek. Are you I framing your Landing pages?

  15. Dude! Great article man..glad I came by. PPC is something I’d like to learn a lot more about, as I haven’t done much with it at all.

    I’ll be browsing around the site a little more to see what I can learn, thanks.

  16. I’m going to try direct linking first and when I am sure that it is profitable then I would be making some landing pages.

    Derek
    Could I make a landing page that is only a blog that focuses on that particular product?

  17. Hello
    i have a question on display url when direct linking.
    suppose i am promoting ebay.com/affiliateid1234
    Then, can i use ebay.com in display url ? am I allowed to display ebay.com by ebay or adwords ?

    Thanks.

  18. To Affiliate: This seems to go against Ebay Partnership TOS wherein it says you cannot direct link to ebay.com…but this is a very touchy subject lending to various interpretations.

    Now I am definitely sure you cannot bid on those terms and although,it will probably take forever for them to respond you could ask them…I once searched their forum for answers to certain questions but they were just just as confused as me.

    I’ve had drama with ebay in the past so be sure you understand their rules for affiliates.

  19. I have been using direct linking lately. I buy a domain name, then forward that domain name to the merchants site. The thing I do not like about direct linking is that you can not track whats converting. So, Im going to have to build a landing page to see whats converting and whats not converting to cut down on costs.

  20. @Jon

    Actually, you can track very easily in fact which keywords are converting even if you are direct linking. There are ways to do it whether you have your own domain or not. Even if you just direct link right to the offer url you can easily track keywords. I’ll do a post on it within the next couple days to show you how Jon.

  21. I am also interested in how you track keywords and conversion rates for a direct link to the product. I like the idea if the stats can be measured.

  22. Hey Gary, actually I already did the post on how to do it you can view it by going to this url… http://www.clickconsultants.com/track-which-keywords-convert-while-direct-linking

  23. PPC seems to be very actual for promotion,it attracts more traffic that gives in its turn more potential clients and customers.

  24. Hi Derek, I’ve just getting started to learn CPA.

    All this time I do direct linking with quite good success.
    But I am afraid, I’ve to agree with you, for a long term, I should move on landing pages and not just rely on direct linking.

    Hey, I am following your blog and subscribing to your feeds.

    Hendra

  25. Hi,
    If you ore promoting a CPA offer and it did well how would you then build an entire site around it?

  26. this article seems to be very useful for me… I have bookmarked it :D now i know about the difference, advantages, and disadvantages of direct linking, landing pages and landing sites :D

  27. I’ve found that you can’t submit domains that redirect to an offer page in directories. How do you go about submitting domains that redirect when most directories don’t allow it? Informative info though.

  28. Michaelyo says:

    Hi Derek,

    I know this blog posting is somewhat old in the realm of blogging but I’m hoping we can revisit some of the strategies posted here.

    It seems you were right about the weakening use of single landing pages. Google loves content and it seems the landing website is currently the way to go today. What’s your recent thoughts on this?

    I’m currently getting started in Affiliate marketing and I want to use Direct Linking to start. However, it looks like a lot of merchants are against allowing Direct Linking. I’ve signed up in cj.com and so far all of the merchants in my niche want me to have a website.

    I don’t have a registered site in my cj account because I had planned to do Direct Linking initially and then build a site if its profitable. I’m I just picking the wrong merchants or is this a widespread policy change for most online merchants?

  29. hi! i am a huge novice at this whole website thing.
    I have a degree in marketing and have been looking into affiliate marketing but the website part is so beyond me that i feel lost! The landing page vs. a fully functional website is my hang-up. what i have been trying to figure out is, if you have an affiliate product you are promoting and you want to try to promote it in several different ways to see which one has the best revenue return; say you want 4 different landing pages for 4 different offers for the same product – can you put those on the same website? do you have to purchase 4 different sites in order to have 4 different landing pages for the same product? I just want a couple different pages to offer a couple different processes to get to the same end result…. how would you best do this? you don’t really want someone hitting your landing page and surfing thru an entire website, seems like i’d want the landing page and either a yes or no option for each offer….. but i can’t see having to purchase an entire website for each offer right? can you explain how that works?

    Any advice you can offer would be greatly appreciated!

    Thanks!

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