Domain DevelopmentProduct portals

Why Epik Stores outperform Amazon and Shopping.com powered stores

By June 19, 2010 February 27th, 2017 17 Comments

A number of folks have asked about why our Product Portals perform as well as they do. How can it be a that a site makes little to nothing on a parking network, Amazon store, or Shopping.com store, and then months later on Epik dramatically more? There are a number of reasons that are worth understanding for anyone considering how to monetize product category domain names.

Amazon is an oligopoly — and they pay their affiliates accordingly: low and slow
As a consumer, I love Amazon as much as the next guy. They have simply nailed it.  However, as an affiliate marketer, they are burning the bridge with publishers. Amazon’s market power is impressively dominant to the point of being an oligopoly.  As a result, they dictate the price of traffic by lowering revenue share, shortening cookie life, excluding transactions,  and extending payment terms.  Sure, historically, Amazon paid well.  No longer. Today, the only folks that pay lower than Amazon is Shopping.com.

To Amazon’s credit, they made it incredibly easy to build stores around their Amazon affiliate feed with structured data, simple widgets and a robust API.  As a result, large numbers of solutions emerged, including do-it-yourself solutions, that are built around Amazon’s feed. Associate-o-matic is among the better known solutions.  Beyond Amazon’s rapidly plummeting payouts, there are two major problems with these Amazon-centric stores:

  • The content is not original:  Publishers have reported difficulty in maintaining indexing and ranking for sites that relied primarily on the widely syndicated Amazon affiliate content.  The search engines recognize the content as not original and have little reason to rank it.
  • You are training consumers to go to Amazon: If you build on Amazon, the consumer checks out on Amazon. Congratulations, you have just trained another consumer to shop at Amazon.  Amazon has little incentive to buy the resulting site. After all, they are already getting all of the traffic along with the repeat business.

The one big downside of not relying on Amazon’s feed is that it is a lot more work to find products that match a given domain name.  This is a short-term downside that is more than offset by the long term upside of sourcing products from affiliates that pay a competitive rate for traffic.

Epik’s network-wide average CPC in May was $0.18
The Epik portals are monetized on a pay per click basis. A typical visitor will actually click on several product listings, each one of which is treated as a click. As a result, a single visitor can rack up several dollars worth of revenue. During May, the average revenue per click was $0.18.  I have seen Steve Barclay’s Spoons.com rack up some of the highest revenue per visit of any site on the Epik network.  It had 8812 visits in the past 30 days. You can track the progress here.

Building a proprietary affiliate network is hard work.   In addition to having secured one of the highest paying CPC networks for online retail, we also pay out on the 20th of each month and with increasing revenue shares for higher performing portfolios.   A big reason why we were able to build this out as quickly as we did is because of our exclusive relationship with Seattle-based Wishpot.com — a group that I and others venture-backed in 2007.  When Epik partnered with them, Wishpot had already spent 3 years and significant resources to build a shopping comparison network with high revenue share. This capability is a core component of the Epik Product Portal platform.

Looking ahead, because of the rapidly growing transaction volume, Epik’s ability to negotiate with affiliate networks is improving.  We are in discussions with additional affiliate networks that are likely to push the average yield into the range of $0.24-30 per click. The final step will be to enable advertisers to directly buy CPC from the network. So, for example, we often hear from advertisers who want to list their products on our sites.  At the moment, we can sell advertising and sponsorships. In a few weeks, we’ll release technology previously developed by Wishpot that will allow advertisers to upload their product listings and pay for traffic on a CPC basis.

Bottomline:  Where’s the Beef?
When evaluating solutions for product portals, looks beyond the homepage and the short-term SEO tricks. Pay particular attention to how the resulting traffic is monetized in a way that actually benefits the publisher of the site as opposed to the downstream seller of the product.  In other words, “Where’s the Beef?”.

Join the discussion 17 Comments

  • Funny you don’t even mention how Wishpot compares to CJ. I’m sure I’m not the only one who hasn’t seen satisfactory results there. Just curious if you have experienced tracking issues or if the issue is more of where the affiliates links are placed within each page. Individuals looking for information on a particular subject aren’t necessarily looking to buy a related product but one would imagine eventually a few sales would result.

  • Scott Macket says:

    Is anybody making money with Epik? Everytime that question is asked, nobody ever responds.
    Please no hype, just facts???

    Thanks, Scott

  • Rob Monster says:

    @Leonard – Commission Junction, Linkshare and others are really market makers. So, you can still do well but it is a lot of misses and occasional hits. The e-file.com example is illustrative. Tax prep services do pay high bounties for leads. However, you are absolutely right that you can burn a lot of clicks sifting through the affiliate offers on CJ. People get frustrated with it and roll back to Adsense though a targeted affiliate deal will dramatically outperform. The trouble is that you have to sift through so many underperforming campaigns to find them. Like I said, all affiliate networks are not equal and we don’t do anything with CJ. FYI.

  • Hugh says:

    Rob do you really think .18 is great ? I get clicks of .50 to $1 and non products may get $2.50. I realize you are not talking about non product domains, but .18 is not great. I see WannaDevelop is out telling people to leave EPIK, guess that is the reason for this post. You have nice looking pages hopefully .18 will grow to .50. Cheers

    • Rob Monster says:

      @Hugh – To be clear, this $0.18 per click is not always a one-off click away. It oftens means many clicks for a single visitor. Each time a visitor clicks a product for detail, they are being sent to another affiliate site with a monetized click. This can really add up. I have seen with Spoons.com, for example, a single visitor rack up tens of dollars of clicks as the shopped around looking for the right spoons for their needs.

  • Tim says:

    I’ve seen Wanna Develo pages in the past and they are worse than old-school made for Adsense pages, full of nonsensical jargon.

    It’s been some time since I looked at their pages maybe they’ve changed but what I’ve seen was a total turn off to me.

    I like what Rob is doing but I have just been watching as I always do on newer things as I hate to run down the wrong path only to start over. So far, it looks like Rob might be on to something.

    The only thing that concerns me is deindexing by IP when Google sees all those Epik pages on the same IP. This is what I predict is going to happen to Demand Media as they get stronger Google will start to see them more and more as competitors and then just deindex them and tell them, like they do everyone, “Improve you quality”. It’s so easy to say and they can nix anyone. This is the big Achilles Heel I think everyone is struggling with in the back of their mind.

    Once you get really rolling Rob how do you plan to tackle this IP problem? It seems to me you could have all your great success wiped out overnight without having a ton of direct navigation traffic that does not depend on rankings in the search engines.

  • Kenny says:

    @Scott Mackett- I have made a considerable amount of money on Epik. Some of my early sites are charging up the results, check out bra.net, page 2 for “bra” or IceCreamMaker.com, at #3 on Google for Ice Cream Maker. Mens-Tank-tops.com and womens-tank-tops.com both just launched about 3 weeks ago and already #1 for their terms on Yahoo and making money. I have been a customer for 6 months and each month improves as my SEO improves.

  • I suppose another point to take out of your post is that one should consider to experiment. Just because one affiliate program or network hasn’t produced satisfactory results doesn’t mean that affiliate programs are useless. One just needs to survey others to see what is working and try to understand why what one has attempted has not yet produced the desired end result.

  • Max says:

    @Leonard. Just to clarify the Wishpot platform uses a large number of feeds and affiliate networks (we support 10+ feed formats and have 5000+ affiliates). We use CJ as well use many others. As you correctly stated it’s all about optimizing and experiment quickly. As you can imagine the trick is doing it over thousands of niche sites.

    @Tim. We strongly believe that by doing the right thing – which is simply helping consumers to find what they are looking for – we are doing “good” with Google or any search engine. We provide vertical content, Q&A and what I like to call niche shopping communities, which provide a better shopping experience for a specific product. You’re likely to get better choice and content about ice cream makers on icecreammaker.com than in most generic stores.

  • Hugh says:

    Let’s try this again. Max the Q&A is cool but there are none on any EPIK site I have seen except HardDrives.com

    The tiering is fine but 50% is insane. You should start at 35% and tier the % down.

    Looks like you getting called out by SiteDepot.com on Morganlinton.com where there is a post on this “competition”

  • Rob Monster says:

    The Q&A feature is still being rolled out. The pages are being nicely indexed. Any questions answered are also echoed to Questions.com which is a backlink from a separate subnet. The same concept is being applied to Comments.com for user reviews.

    As for rev-share, the starting rev-share is 50%. However, it is possible to get as high as 80%. Details can be found here: https://localhost:8888/epikblog/show-me-the-money.html

    As for HardDrives.com, it is now on page 1 of Google. Some users are reporting it is now #2 on Google for “hard drives”.

  • VRtv says:

    i have just checked , cleared all cache , etc

    HardDrives.com, is now #5 on Google for :: “hard drives”

    i’m now @ hk,China

    best,2w

    • Rob Monster says:

      @VRTv — Appreciate the confirmation on the Google rank for HardDrives.com. We made some content and SEO updates last week which seems to have made the difference.

  • Steve says:

    Very happy with the site and results, looking forward to improving the site even more. Rob, thanks for the great effort!
    Best Regards.

  • VRtv says:

    hi Rob

    HardDrives.com , or , any high-traffics Epik_powerred site , would b ranked higher by SEs ,
    if there’s forum or chatroom for q&a there

    best,2w

  • @VRtv – It turns out we are actually developing chat-rooms.com as a Meebo-like network voice, text and video chat. The chat rooms module will deployed across much of the Epik network! In the meantime, there is Q&A already — more improvements are coming there as well.

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