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#HowTo - A Series from the 2013 ShareASale Blog by Brian Littleton


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Table of Contents #HowTo - How To Use the New Personalized Commission Rules on ShareASale ............................ 3 #HowTo - How To Use New Coupon Features on ShareASale ........................................................... 7 #HowTo - How to Segment Newsletters Using Tags on ShareASale ............................................... 14 #HowTo - How To Use Salesforce to Manage Affiliates Like A Pro .................................................. 18 #HowTo - How to Value your Blog for Sponsored Posts ................................................................... 28 #HowTo - How to Implement a Custom Coupon and Coupon Affiliate Strategy ........................... 32 #HowTo - How To Perform an SEO Audit on Your Own Website ..................................................... 40 #HowTo - How To Stay Financially Responsible on Black Friday/Cyber Monday ........................... 47 #HowTo - How to Decorate your Home for the Holidays .................................................................. 51 #HowTo: How to Make a Bangin’ Holiday Playlist .............................................................................. 53 #HowTo - How to Keep Your Social Media Channels Active in Just Minutes a Day ....................... 55 #HowTo - How To Brew Different Tea Varieties for Fall .................................................................... 61 #HowTo - How To Prepare for Hosting a Big Thanksgiving Dinner and How It Relates to Your Affiliate Program in 2014 ............................................................................................................... 63 #HowTo - How To Explain Affiliate Marketing To Your Friends ........................................................ 66 #HowTo - How To Negotiate A Better Commission Rate as an Affiliate .......................................... 68 #HowTo - Setup Future Promotions ..................................................................................................... 71 #HowTo - Plan A Great Trip ................................................................................................................... 74 #HowTo - How To Tie A Tie ................................................................................................................... 77 #HowTo - How To Instagram With Photoshop ................................................................................... 89 #HowTo - How to Wrap Presents Like A Boss! ................................................................................. 101 #HowTo - How To Wear A Blazer With Jeans ................................................................................... 109 #HowTo - How To Make The Best Holiday Cards ............................................................................. 113 #HowTo - How To Make The Best Baking Decisions For The Holidays ......................................... 115 #HowTo - Tight On $$? How To Make Your Own Holiday Gifts ..................................................... 118 #HowTo - How To Survive Holiday Travel ......................................................................................... 123 #HowTo - How To Get The Best Deals on Black Friday/Cyber Monday ........................................ 126


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#HowTo - How To Use the New Personalized Commission Rules on ShareASale New Personalized Commission Rules allow you to: Commission based on Product - 3 new fields "Quantity in Order", "Discount Amount" and "Discount Percentage" New Performance Metrics to allow for splitting out of Sales, Leads, Bonuses and Leapfrogs



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#HowTo - How To Use New Coupon Features on ShareASale ShareASale has recently added two new features to help manage and grown your Coupon Affiliate segment. Remember, Coupon Affiliates can be an important building block - one of many - to a successful and diverse program. Take a look at these two main features designed to: Require the use of a Coupon Code at checkout in order to generate a commission Optionally lock that Coupon Code to an individual Affiliate and... Utilize Personalized Commission Rules when a certain Coupon Code is utilized at checkout. Note that both options require that you are sending coupon code usage data through your ShareASale Tracking Pixel. To accomplish this, just send in a support ticket to ShareASale and we can help you through this simple change.



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#HowTo - How to Segment Newsletters Using Tags on ShareASale From Homepage to 'Send Newsletter'

Use 'Affiliates' Tab from the account homepage Select 'Send Newsletter' icon

Create a Newsletter

Recipients Section


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Select the top, grey row titled 'Recipients'

Select Tag Group

Use the 'Tags' drop down to select group to remove from recipient list Select 'Search' below


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Edit Recipient List

The Affiliates in the specificed Tag group will appear in 'Results' section on left Select 'Remove From' to edit the 'Recipients' list and eliminate Tag group

Compose, Finalize & Send!


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Extra Newsletter Tips & Ideas! Presenting Your Best Self – 6: Newsletters | ShareASale Blog Posted by Sarah Beeskow Blay on Jan 31, 2012 in General News | 8 comments via: blog.shareasale.com

Newsletter Macros are Not the Enemy | ShareASale Blog Posted by Sarah Beeskow Blay on Feb 18, 2011 in General News | 0 comments via: blog.shareasale.com


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#HowTo - How To Use Salesforce to Manage Affiliates Like A Pro

By David Vogelpohl My name is David Vogelpohl and I run a full service digital agency in Austin, TX called Marketing Clique. One of our specialties is Outsourced Program Management (OPM). In our role helping people manage affiliate programs, we help people build CRM solutions for affiliate management, just like the methods I described in this article. I have been running Merchant side affiliate programs since 1996 for some very large and successful brands generating well over 350 million in online sales. I speak at national online marketing conferences like Affiliate Summit and PubCon, and have been a contributor at blogs like Marketing Pilgrim and publications like FeedFront Magazine. Affiliate marketing is one of my core passions and managing affiliate relationships in scalable and accountable ways is the foundation for my approach with affiliate management. Make sure to look for me at Affiliate Summit in January 2014 where I'll be speaking about "Super Affiliate Publishing with WordPress". Thanks for reading!

Other posts from David Vogelpohl Follow @davidvmc !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElemen tById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentN ode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Running a great affiliate program is about one thing and one thing only: relationships. The relationships you have with your affiliates will make or break the success of your program. In 18

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this article, I'll show you how to use Salesforce (or any CRM) to effectively manage your relationships so you miss less opportunities, have stronger ties with your affiliates, hold your affiliate managers accountable, and forecast your affiliate program's performance in the future.

The basics Salesforce is a tool that allows you to manage relationships with people you do business with. I use Salesforce to manage relationships with prospects, customers, affiliates, advertising partners, vendors, employees, and pretty much everyone else I interact with while running my business. There are 4 primary record types for managing relationships in Salesforce: 1. Leads. A Lead is a company which you might do business with. Leads can help you track the success of affiliate managers in converting open Leads to verified Accounts. A Lead is converted to an Account based on criteria specific to your organization. I will not be addressing Leads in this article, but you can use Leads as an intermediate step to creating Accounts. 2. Accounts. An Account is a company or organization which you do business with or you may do business with in the future. For the purpose of this article, when I mention Accounts, I will be referencing Affiliates. 3. Contacts. A Contact is a person who works for an Account. 4. Opportunities. An Opportunity records the metrics of a potential business deal between you and an Account. Traditionally, Opportunities are used by sales people to report and predict their potential sales (e.g. their sales funnel). In this article, we will cover how to use Opportunities to report and predict sales generated by your affiliates. This article will show you how to use all of these record types (particularly the Opportunities) in order to more effectively manage and grow your affiliate program.

Institutional memory When I ask people running affiliate programs how they keep up with their relationships, the answer I get is almost always the same. It usually involves some combination of email, Google Calendar, a spreadsheet, and of course, "my head". When I hear this response, the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I think, "But what happens if you get hit by a bus?" One of the advantages to using a proper CRM like Salesforce to manage your affiliates is that you'll have institutional memory. Any single member of your staff can get hit by a bus, quit, get fired, or win the lottery and the next person can just slip right in and pick the relationship up in no time. Institutional memory is the difference between a scaleable affiliate program and one that is dependent on one or more of its affiliate managers, or even worse, you!

Creating Accounts You need to make sure to create an Account for your top affiliates and affiliate prospects. I'm not saying you need to enter every single affiliate in Salesforce, but for any affiliate old or new


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who has a potential to send you more revenue, you'll need them in Salesforce to properly manage the relationship.

Account Record Example

You should name the Account based on the Affiliate's company name, but it also doesn't hurt to put in the name of their primary website for quick reference. "Super Affiliate Co" isn't as helpful to affiliate managers as "Super Affiliate Co / lcdtvbloggers.com". By being more descriptive in your naming conventions, you can make it easier for affiliate managers to remember who they're looking at. Additionally, you'll want to record information specific to you and your program for your affiliate managers to use as a reference point. We accomplish this by modifying the Account record type with custom fields. We capture things like traffic, Compete score, primary properties, affiliate IDs, and a whole host of quick-reference fields which can help the affiliate managers more effectively manage the relationships. The point to all of this is that you want to create an institutional memory of the affiliate's company or organization.

Creating Contacts Believe it or not, you can't have a relationship without people. This is where Contacts comes in. You need to create a contact for every person under an affiliate's Account. If it's just one person, that's fine, but if there's a team or a whole company, you want to log each Contact into Salesforce. This way you can record and manage the relationships with each person as your relationship with the parent organization evolves.

Contact Record Example


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Again, you can modify the Contact record type for custom fields like Affiliate ID, web properties, etc., as a quick-reference guide when reviewing a Contact's record. Make sure to record all of their contact information including email, alternate email addresses, Skype, mobile numbers, and any other way you use to make contact with the affiliate.

Logging Calls & Emails You're going to want to log all your emails and calls for each Contact you have a relationship with. Logging emails is actually quite easy with Salesforce by using plugins for both Outlook and Gmail along with a host of other email solutions. With the click of a button you can record an email conversation directly under a Contact in Salesforce. You can record a call with an affiliate by accessing a Contact and clicking "Log a call". You then take notes on the context of the call. This is one of the hardest habits to master, but logging your calls will provide a more complete picture of the relationship with the affiliate and help you remember what was discussed at a later date. We also log notes from internal meetings relating to affiliates for the same purpose.

Your goal is to make a record of every communication relating to the affiliate so you don't have to rely on your memory or the memory of your affiliate managers to recall the history of your relationship. With properly logged calls and emails any member of your team can quickly review the notes and come up to speed on the history of the account or a particular item which was discussed in the past.

Advancing & managing affiliate 21

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relationships Now that you have your affiliates logged in Salesforce and you have an institutional memory of the relationship, you can now take action to keep those relationships moving in a positive direction. For this we're going to focus on Activities. The three types of Activities are Tasks, Events, and Meeting Requests. For the purpose of this article I will focus on Tasks. A Task is a reminder to take an action at a future date. For affiliates, this might mean seeing if the affiliate is running your offer, checking in on an existing campaign or just following up on new Affiliate prospects. The Task is the most important thing in Salesforce because it is your trigger to take action at the appropriate time to further the relationship with the affiliate.

Prospecting Task Example

Affiliate Launch Task Example

Affiliate Management Task Example


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Your goal is to set Tasks on each action item necessary to move the relationship along. You should always have a Task set to do something on all of your valuable relationships. Even if it's cold lead and you set the Task a year out, always have a reminder set. Tasks are what allow you to manage relationships without having to keep track of next steps in your head, calendars, and spreadsheets. Every day you'll check your open Tasks and only worry about those for that day. Once you're done with your Tasks for the day, you can relax and focus on other things. When tomorrow rolls around, you deal with those Tasks, and so on. You can access your Task list from your home page when logged into Salesforce. I actually prefer using a custom report to view my task list (filtered by today's date), as I find it to be a cleaner view than the default Task list in Salesforce. Listed below is an example of my custom task list and the back end settings to build your own.

Sample Custom Task List

Custom Task List Back-End Settings

Using Opportunities to measure and predict affiliate performance Opportunities are by far my favorite part of managing affiliate relationships with Salesforce.


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An Opportunity is basically a tool to record the predicted success of Campaigns with affiliates. The use of Opportunities can shed incredible light onto the future and past performance of your affiliate relationships. The goal of your relationships is to drive more sales and Opportunities allow you to view the success of these relationships on an aggregate and even per affiliate manager basis. With affiliate management, we have three primary sets of data we capture on Opportunities. 1. Information specific to the Opportunity like the name, type of advertisement, type of site, and any other relevant information related to the Opportunity. Again, you can customize Opportunity fields based on your criteria. 2. The predicted performance of the Opportunity. Typically this means impressions, CTR, clicks, conversion rate, conversions, and expected revenue. This is going to be a lot of guess work in the beginning, but the idea is to start to quantify campaigns with affiliates. 3. The actual performance of the Opportunity. You want to go in after you launch the campaign and record the actual performance in the Opportunity. You can also use the Salesforce API to automatically integrate this data from your affiliate program. These three elements allow you to predict the performance of your program and, with the help of the actual performance data, become better at predicting affiliate campaigns in the future. You also want to make sure to set the Stage of the Opporunity. The Stage could be Cold Calling, Warm Lead, Closed Lead, etc. The criteria are tied to a chance of close (e.g. 10%, 50%, etc.). You'll want to customize these stages for your organization, but make sure to record the Stage, as this will affect the Sales Forecasting Reports we'll discuss later in this article.

Sample Opportunity


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Using Standard Opportunity Reports Salesforce provides a whole host of Opportunity and forecasting reports built right in to the reporting section. You can view pending and closed Opportunities, predict your performance in the future through Pipeline reports, and much, much more. Listed below are the standard Opportunity reports available in Salesforce which you can use to track and manage campaigns with Affiliates.

Standard Opportunity Reports List

Creating Custom Opportunity Reports If you're anything like me, you usually blow right past the standard reports and start creating custom reports on the systems you use. This is especially true for me with Opportunities. I create custom reports to show type of affiliate, type of placement, traffic, estimated revenue, and a whole host of other information that lets me prioritize and track the success of my efforts with affiliates. Here is an example of a custom Opportunity report I created for keeping track of all Opportunities. This report includes estimate traffic and revenue data along with the stage of the Opportunity (how close it is to closing).

Custom Opportunity Report Example

Custom Opportunity Report Settings


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Creating an action plan Now that you know the steps to use Salesforce to manage affiliates like a pro, you need to come up with an action plan. Beyond just the steps I described here, you have to work on incorporating this methodology into your internal operations. You need to get in the habit of recording calls and emails, creating and updating Opportunities, and keeping up with your Task list. The instructions I provided in this email are easy to impliment. It's just a series of steps that pretty much anyone can acomplish. The real trick with using Salesforce is using Salesforce. If you don't keep good records and keep up your instutional memory you'll only get a fraction of the value you could be getting. Write down your action plan for implementing Salesforce into your affiliate process and make sure you and your staff follow the rules and procedures you define. The Salesforce platform is a monster for managing many affiliate relationships in an accountable and predictable way, but it's up to you to keep it fed.

But I don't have Salesforce! In this article I focused on the use of the Salesforce CRM for affiliate management, but there are many other CRM ("Customer Relationship Management") platforms that will work just fine. In my company's role as an OPM, we have assisted merchants with integrating the strategies described in this article on CRM solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics, Sugar CRM, and many other platforms. If you're using a major CRM platform, chances are you'll be able to execute the strategies described in this article, but watch out for the different naming schemes for your CRM.

About Me

My name is David Vogelpohl and I run a full service digital agency in Austin, TX called Marketing Clique. One of our specialties is Outsourced Program Management (OPM). In our role helping people manage affiliate programs, we help people build CRM solutions for affiliate management, just like the methods I described in this article. I have been


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running Merchant side affiliate programs since 1996 for some very large and successful brands generating well over 350 million in online sales. I speak at national online marketing conferences like Affiliate Summit and PubCon, and have been a contributor at blogs like Marketing Pilgrim and publications like FeedFront Magazine. Affiliate marketing is one of my core passions and managing affiliate relationships in scaleable and accountable ways is the foundation for my approach with affiliate management. Make sure to look for me at Affiliate Summit in January 2014 where I'll be speaking about "Super Affiliate Publishing with WordPress". Thanks for reading!


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#HowTo - How to Value your Blog for Sponsored Posts Bloggers are in high demand in the Affiliate Marketing space. Read that part again. As Retailers look to create high value, high impact relationships - they are looking more closely than ever at bloggers who are delivering high quality content every day. What that means is... you are in more control than you think. A lot of bloggers have been contacted by Merchants directly about the idea of "Sponsored Posts" - and so I wanted to give you a few ideas as to how to value such a possibility.

SPONSORED POSTS? As a blogger, some of your Merchant partners may start asking you about doing "Sponsored Posts". At such time, you may be asking "What is a Sponsored Post?" - and rightly so! Here is some advice that I recently gave one of our more successful bloggers about venturing into that world:

HOW DO I MOVE FORWARD - WHAT SHOULD I ASK FOR? Here are 5 Basic Points to consider moving forward...

1. Cost Per Click Rates (CPC)


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CPC (Cost Per Click Rates) can vary, but are generally very high - this is a key factor when considering negotiating.

2. Product Features At the Merchants discretion, they could send you product to highlight.

3. Traffic Levels You need to know what the traffic levels are on your blog, and what kind of expected viewership you can deliver via your combined blog and newsletter.

4. Traffic Valuation Traffic is valuable, and your traffic (as it comes with organic "validation" is even more valuable) Consider the following rate table as a starting point (I've included a starting point of 5,000 visitors as my rates are working off of the assumption that the Merchant has contacted you in this regard):

Be confident. Indicate to them that your rates are well thought out and take into account expected traffic levels. This is not set in stone! You need to consider other things that could take that rate up or down. Think of these factors: A. Social Media Number of Twitter followers or Facebook "Likes" - and whether or not you will Tweet/Post on Facebook the information. B. Newsletter Subscriptions Newsletter subscriptions and whether or not you will send the post as a newsletter, or part of a newsletter.

The goal here is to create long term partnerships where you can rely on posting income and subsequent Affiliate Marketing income.


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A few more thoughts and considerations on traffic valuations: This rate itself - even the up front fee to post - is still probably going to be lower than what they would pay for traffic, so don’t feel bad asking for it. The worst thing they can do is counter-offer or turn it down… which is not a bad thing at all. The worst thing that YOU, as a blogger, can do is undervalue yourself. Think about it, how long do those posts take…. A few hours at least? At an hourly rate that is not much at all.

If this is your first venture into a "Sponsored Post" - use it as a learning experience. Use your first offer as a place to start. They may outright reject you, or they may think “Wow, that’s a bargain”. In any case, it is a great learning experience.

You could include a clause to re-pay (or to do a second post for free) the money to them should, for some reason, the post receive far less than expected traffic values. Set real numbers, such as 1,000 clicks – and then basically work your tail off to get that traffic to them. This is basically your version of a “Money back guarantee”.

Offer them headline review control, and ultimate approval on content going out – you want them happy with the post. You can actually use content management tool such as Shareist for this as you can use the “Contributor” feature and assign them a login where they can review the content prior to it going out. The worst thing that YOU, as a blogger, can do is undervalue yourself.

5. Payment Make sure you have the Merchant deliver any payment directly to your ShareASale Account prior to writing any post. Not only is this part of the rules at ShareASale but you'll be able to feel confident that payment is already made.


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Five Ways to Comply with the New FTC Guidelines for Bloggers Last fall, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued new guidelines that require bloggers to “disclose material connections” for product or service endorsements. via: michaelhyatt.com

Some Further Reading and Resources What is a Sponsored Post? Are you a blogger looking to better understand what a Sponsored Post is and how much to charge for a Sponsored Post? Blog Advertising Rates answers. via: blogadvertisingrates.com

Are You Being Conned? Fair Sponsored Blog Post Rates and Best Practice Guidelines - Successful Blogging Looking for sponsored blog post rates? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying blogging is going to make you rich. Most likely it won’t. But money is useful and maybe, like many other bloggers, you dream of making money from your blog one day. via: www.successfulblogging.com


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#HowTo - How to Implement a Custom Coupon and Coupon Affiliate Strategy

By Matt Enders Matt Enders is the CEO of MGECOM, Inc. (www.mgecom.com | info@mgecom.com | 866.494.7183). Matt began his career in affiliate management in early 2002. He founded MGECOM in March 2006 and has driven its aggressive growth since then, to become a top ranked and leading outsourced affiliate program management firm. MGECOM specializes in clients of all shapes and sizes where only affiliate program management services are provided. The MGECOM team has a cumulative 110+ years of affiliate experience, and MGECOM clients enjoy an average year-over-year growth rate exceeding 300%.

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Coupons and coupon sites in your affiliate program: it’s a complicated topic with a lot of moving pieces. This article will not teach you how to find top coupon affiliates, how to get placement on their sites, how to negotiate for better placement and stronger promotion, or how to develop coupon site relationships; I’m going to make the assumption that you already have, at least, a theoretical understanding of how to do those things. So….How do you decide on and implement a strategy that fits your needs and helps you meet your goals? This article will focus on the nuts and bolts of how to define your goals, evaluate the contribution of your current affiliates, develop a strategy, and


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implement that strategy.

Defining Your Goals I am a big proponent of questioning yourself in a productive manner. I don’t mean second guessing your decisions or falling into a trap of inaction. I do mean that you should constantly ask yourself questions such as: What is my goal? What am I doing to accomplish that goal? Is my current strategy in line with my goal? And, What do I need to do to ensure my actions work to reach my goal?

If you are interested in top-line sales growth only, your strategy is simple: work with every affiliate site you can find (of all types), blast out new coupons every couple of weeks that are valid for at least a week, offer aggressive customer deals, embrace loss-leader promotions (sporadically), and keep the discount and coupon content fresh. You’ll find yourself receiving tons of placement on all types of coupon and even non-coupon sites. You will also find that the sales you are driving through your affiliate program are discount-focused (obviously). If you are interested in driving sales that are focused on ROI and of incremental value, you need to craft a more strategic (and yes, complicated and time consuming) strategy for working with coupons and coupon affiliates. If you continue reading past this point, I’ll be assuming you are interested in the latter answer to the above question.

Evaluating the Contribution of Your Current Affiliates Ready for the labor intensive part of this exercise? Here we go. First you need to login to your affiliate interface and run a report, by individual affiliate, for a good portion of time. Let’s choose YTD (if it is not yet late enough in the year when you are doing this exercise to run a meaningful YTD report, choose a different date range which will ensure you receive a significant amount of data in return).


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Now let’s organize this data according to affiliates who have generated at least one sale in this time period (affiliates who are driving clicks and impressions are important as well, but we will exclude them from consideration in this exercise only). Export this data into Excel (or whatever open-source version of it you use). You’ll want to keep columns to identify the affiliate, and for their YTD sales. Add a third column for percent of total sales and put in the appropriate formula to calculate this value (this also isn't an Excel How To article). Finally, add a fourth column for Type of Site. Now we need to do some manual digging. Locate each individual affiliate site from your reports and decide what type of site it should be classified as. Some of the more common classifications will be: Coupons, Deals (yes, there is a difference), Blogs, Content, Reviews (yes, there is a difference between those three as well), PPC, Email, Social Media, etc. There are certainly other types of sites and marketing methods used by affiliates - the list here is meant to be representative rather than exhaustive. Customize your site classifications based on what you find in your program. As you decide on what category each affiliate site falls into, note that on the spreadsheet you have been building. A few important notes: 1. This exercise is not about minute detail. Rather, you want to create the best representative list you can. Don’t fret over a site classification if there isn't a perfect fit. 2. Yes, this is a time consuming process. It is also an important one due to the amount of information, clarity, and insights you will gain about the actual workings of your affiliate program. 3. Some affiliates use multiple promotional methods, site types, and marketing tactics. See Point #1 above. Once you've classified all of your affiliates, add another column to your spreadsheet and total the revenue generated by each classification. Now, run another formula to tell you the percentage of total sales that is being generated by each classification. With these two formulas in place, you can now see which individual affiliates contribute the most revenue to your program, as well as which classification of affiliate contributes the most revenue. You can


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generate all the information you need just through this exercise. However, if you have access to more advanced analytics (such as Google Analytics, etc.), you can go a level deeper. Assuming you have access to this data, compare the affiliate sites from this exercise to those found as referral sources and revenue sources found in your analytics program. What you want to look for here is WHERE in the conversion process of your top performing sites interacted with the customer. Since we are focusing on coupon strategy for this article, you will want to find out if the customer is originating at a coupon site, if they are visiting a coupon site before coming to your site (even if they did not originate on that coupon site), or if they are visiting that coupon site during their purchase process with your site. (If you don’t have access to this type of deeper analytics, no worries! I have a hack to share with you towards the end of this article!) Now let’s go back to our original list of questions, only now we are doing so armed with a powerful combination of decisions and data. Now let’s go back to our original list of questions, only now we are doing so armed with a powerful combination of decisions and data. You already decided on your goal: to generate ROI and incremental sales. Now the data can show you if the reality of your affiliate program is in-line with your true goals. For the sake of this article, let’s assume that you find that your current reality is not properly aligned with your goals.

Developing a Strategy With the labor intensive step checked off, it’s time to start digging into strategy and options. There are a myriad of ways you can craft your coupon strategy, I’ll list a few of the more common methods below. Before reviewing that list, it is important to note that these examples all focus on changing the rules for coupon usage in order to keep in line with the examples and decisions illustrated in this article. Your research could, of course, show you that you are underutilizing coupon sites and need to expand your presence in that space. Remove 100% of coupon affiliates from your program and offer no coupons whatsoever Partner with a select few coupon affiliates and provide them with exclusive coupon codes Partner only with coupon affiliates who provide an easy two-way-street of communication between yourself and their site Reduce commission rates for coupon sites Make sales that use a coupon code non-commissionable events Change sales that did not originate at a coupon site, but that used a coupon code, to be non-commissionable Split the commission payment among multiple affiliates who were involved in the sale, if there were multiple different customer touch points Pay the commission to the affiliate who generates more long-term customers …and on, and on down the list.


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As you can see from the above, the coupon strategy you choose is limited only by your ability to clearly describe what you want (and some technical limitations which can often be worked around). The real question in this step is, how do you know which strategy is right for you? The real question in this step is, how do you know which strategy is right for you? It’s time to go back to the data and your original goals. Remember our assumptions as we progressed through this article: 1) Your goal is to generate ROI and incremental sales, and 2) You found that the lion’s share of sales through your affiliate program do not currently meet that goal. Through this article, I unfortunately cannot tell you if Option 1 is better than Option 5. Every scenario is different, every piece of data matters, and every choice will have a different effect on your program. You must think through the options, the strategy driving each, and ultimately, your decision’s alignment with your goal.

Implementing Your Strategy Now that you have decided on a new coupon and coupon site strategy, let’s talk about how to implement it within your ShareASale program. Don’t worry; this step is much easier than everything you have read up to this point! For the sake of having a workable example, let’s implement the following new strategy: 1)

I want to work with coupon affiliates

2) I do not want to pay a commission if they are involved only at the very end of the checkout process. The will be very easy to implement within your ShareASale program, but will go a long way towards ensuring that the sales generated in your affiliate program are aligned with your goals. Again, please note that this is an example only and I highly recommend doing your own research and coming to your own conclusions before implementing any changes to your affiliate program. First, let’s login to your ShareASale account interface. From there, click on My Account in the top nav. Now, Edit Settings. On the right of the page, you’ll see a hyperlink for “Manage Advanced Commission Structures”; click this and you will be taken to the command center (not it’s official name, but this is the page where all the magic happens!).

As a quick side note, ShareASale has programmed in a variety of predefined rules that you can implement with two clicks. Do you want to create an incentive where any affiliate in your


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program who generates their first sale earns a $50 commission bonus? Click on the link for “$50 First sale bonus” and it will appear as a new line item at the bottom of the page. Click Save Changes, and you are done. With only two clicks, you implemented a strong bonus campaign! Now just be sure to tell your affiliates about it…

Okay, back on track with our actual example…Click “Add New Rule”, found at the bottom of the page. You can now give your rule a name. We’ll call this one “Coupons”. Under “Commission Action”, select “Set to Percentage” and type “0” (that’s a zero) in the text field. I should also mention this example assumes you pay your affiliates a percent of sales and not a flat dollar amount per sale. Leave the “Stop Processing More Rules” selection set at “No”. Now, click the green plus sign next to “Add Condition”. This is where we will define our rules. From the drop down menu, choose “Commissioned Click Matches Pattern”. In doing so, a variety of new options appear. The first drop down should be either Greater Than or Greater Than or Equal To. For the next set of options, I would recommend fifty-nine seconds. Finally, leave the last drop down menu as the default of “use oldest contiguous click”. Ultimately, your new commission rule will read: Set percentage to 0 if Commissioned Click is not greater than 59 Seconds old. With only a few clicks inside the ShareASale interface, you have just updated your commission rules so that no affiliate will be compensated if they send a visitor to your site, who makes a purchase, within 59 seconds of their click-through. 59 seconds is simply a recommendation based on the examples used throughout this article, but that window should be long enough to permit a customer to reach your confirmation page AFTER having entered a coupon code. What we have done with this strategy is prevented an affiliate from earning a commission if the customer is mid-checkout, but pauses their process to search for a coupon code (likely because they saw an “enter coupon” text box in your shopping cart), and clicks on your link on an affiliate site in doing so. There are nearly limitless options and combinations for different coupon strategies you can implement. As mentioned previously, there are nearly limitless options and combinations for different coupon strategies you can implement. This exercise has been completely hypothetical, but is designed to show the ease of physically enabling a new coupon policy once you have decided to do so.


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The Tracking Hack I Promised What if you want to have clear visibility into where coupons are getting picked up in the conversion process, but you don’t have advanced analytics installed on your site? Here’s a simple solution: follow the steps in the above example for changing commission structure when a coupon site’s link is clicked within a small window of order completion. However this time, we need to change two key variables: Instead of reducing the commission rate, pay a bonus of $0.01. Instead of choosing “greater than or equal to”, choose “Less Than”. Now, whenever your reports show a $0.01 bonus paid out with a transaction, you know that a coupon code was picked up within 59 seconds of the customer completing their checkout process. At a payout of a single penny per instance, you can track 1,000 redemptions for $10. Of course, once you have that valuable data in-hand, go back to step 2, analyze your data, and make strategic decisions.

In Closing… The key to any long-term strategy and any successful affiliate program is to grow by implementing improvements which align with your ultimate goals. There are numerous considerations to be evaluated, there are significant amounts of data to gather and analyze, and there are various potential outcomes to hypothesize over before making, and implementing, your final decision. I would also like to state that all affiliates have the opportunity to bring true value to your program. No blanket assumptions or actions should ever be implemented before considering the different routes you can take to reach your goals through involving both your current affiliate partners, and new affiliates. While it is of prime importance to make strategic decisions and follow the path you create for yourself, it is also equally important to forge partnerships, to work closely with affiliates who will help you reach your goals, and to always be furthering relationships in a positive manner. Affiliate marketing is a unique industry which allows you to grow with limitless potential through vastly unique partnerships. The opportunity to align those strengths and resources with your goals is what makes it so exciting.

By Matt Enders


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Matt Enders is the CEO of MGECOM, Inc. (www.mgecom.com | info@mgecom.com | 866.494.7183). Matt began his career in affiliate management in early 2002. He founded MGECOM in March 2006 and has driven its aggressive growth since then, to become a top ranked and leading outsourced affiliate program management firm. MGECOM specializes in clients of all shapes and sizes where only affiliate program management services are provided. The MGECOM team has a cumulative 110+ years of affiliate experience, and MGECOM clients enjoy an average year-over-year growth rate exceeding 300%.

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#HowTo - How To Perform an SEO Audit on Your Own Website

By Patrick Hathaway Patrick is the SEO Manager at Hit Reach, a web design and SEO agency. Hit Reach specialise in the integration of high-end SEO techniques with beautiful website design. Patrick carries out SEO audits and performs ongoing SEO and content marketing, both in-house and client side.

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Whatever platform your site is built in, if it is not optimised for SEO then you could be losing out on a large chunk of potential traffic. You could also be damaging your site in the long run and risking getting penalised by Google in the future. When your website is your lifeblood, neither of these situations are good. Most developers are not also SEO experts, despite what they claim, and many websites end up being built with issues right from the start. Many large corporations and brands mess it up, sometimes with disasterous results.

SEO Audits Tell You What To Fix If you commission an SEO consultant or agency to handle the SEO for your site, one of the first things they will do is carry out a full SEO audit on your site - exposing weaknesses and opportunities, along with a set of recommendations on how to improve your site performance. This post will teach you how to perform a basic audit on your site yourself, without requiring a vast amount of SEO knowledge. Hopefully, you won't find any glaring issues, but if you do then at least you can appoint a firm or consultant to do a more thorough audit and fix your issues.


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Self-Audit SEO Checklist 1. Indexing 2. Content 3. Page Speed If a consultant was doing a full audit for you, they would go into a lot more detail and cover more areas of the site. However, as we are simply trying to identify any major issues with your site, these 3 key areas will be sufficient.

1. Indexing In order for users to find your website in the Google search results, you must first have your site crawled and indexed by Google. When a user performs a search, Google queries their index and returns results from it. To find out how many pages of your site Google has indexed, simply search for this: site:http://www.yoursite.com (replacing for your actual site URL) Then note the number of results you see reported.

This should roughly match the amount of pages you have on your website, although Google doesn't always index everything so it doesn't need to match perfectly. When you should be concerned is if the results are significantly lower or higher than you were expecting. If they are a lot higher you may have issues with URL parameters and/or duplicate content which could be damaging your site, and is definitely worth getting checked out by a professional. If they are a lot lower then there is probably something wrong with your site architecture or URL structure, which means that Google isn't able to crawl your site properly. Again, get this checked out. In addition to making sure that your site is indexed properly, you also want to make sure that other variations of your core content are not accidentally indexed: IP Address Your site actually 'lives' on an IP address (e.g., which is translated into your domain name for human consumption. It is the domain that we want to see indexed in the search results, and not the IP address. You can find out the IP address of your site by pinging it (How To Ping an IP Address) then use the same site operator we used above: site: In this instance, you want to see 0 results. If you see that your whole site is indexed again under the IP address, seek professional help as they will need to clean this leak up. https Pages https is a secure protocol, used in addition to http, typically used in areas of websites that require a secure connection (e.g. payment pages). On most sites, it is only a few pages that require https and these are treated separately to the rest of the site. However, if your site uses relative links as opposed to absolute links (i.e. /product-page as opposed to


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www.yoursite.com/product-page) then potentially Googlebot could get into your site via an https URL and crawl and index the whole site again. This means you would have two versions of the site indexed in Google, one under http and one under https. You can check for this by using the site search operator again, along with an additional operator 'inurl': site:yoursite.com inurl:https -inurl:http Again you are looking for 0 results (unless you specifically want https URLs in the index) and you should get it checked out if you see otherwise. www vs non-www This is not strictly an indexing issue, but important nonetheless. Basically you need to choose if you want your site to resolve like this: http://www.yousite.com or like this: http://yoursite.com (but not BOTH). Whichever you decide, you should redirect the other one. If you are not sure which to use, try searching your site on Google and seeing which result they display - it will be the version with the most authority, and probably worth sticking with. If you decide to go with the non-www version, you need to make sure that the www version redirects to the non-www version, via a permanent 301 redirect. You can check this through a server header checker.

2. Content The content on your site is the main area that will enable you to: Attract links - good for SEO! Serve duplicate content - bad for SEO! Writing content that can attract links is a whole topic of itself, so I'll not go into that here (but this is a good starting point if you are interested). Where you can get yourself into trouble is through duplicate content. Google hates duplicate content. Avoid it at all costs. Duplicate content can mean the same, or highly similar, content on several pages of your own site, or on other people's sites. Typical cases include: Store sites that all use the manufacturers description (i.e. multiple sites using the same description) Cookie-cutter pages that all use the same basic text with only 1 or 2 words changed on each Syndicated content that is stored on your site but also pumped out to hundreds of other depositories Original content that you wrote initially, that is scraped, stolen or copied by other websites To check for duplicate content, you really need to examine your page types and content sources. You want as much unique content as possible. If you write all your copy yourself (or get your copy written), you should be fine for the most part, but if you pull in content from a feed and just republish it without adding any additional value, you may struggle to rank those pages.


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Content that gets scraped or stolen is an unfortunate byproduct of having good content in the first place. If you are a clear authority in the niche, it won't really impact you, but if you are not then Google may struggle to determine who the original creator of the content is.

Check this by taking chunks of copy from your pages, and searching for them in Google with "quote" marks around them. You want to only see 1 result for your site, any others show that the text has been copied or scraped:

Implementing publisher and Authorship markup on your site could help future-proof this, but the sure-fire way to fix this is simply to re-write your content.

Google Webmaster Tools Webmaster Tools is a free platform that Google provide, which gives you information about how they have crawled and indexed your site. Every website owner should verify their site through Google Webmaster Tools, even if they only check it infrequently, as it can be a source


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of really useful data.

There is a lot of data in there, and if you've never seen it before it can be quite daunting, so we'll just cover a couple of key areas, the first of which can help with identifying duplicate HTML content.

Navigate through the left sidebar to Search Appearance->HTML Improvements and you will see a table like the one below:

As with your site copy, you want your HTML elements, such as Page Title and Meta Description, to be unique for every page. As in the example above, this isn't always the case, and if you see a significant amount of suggestions on this page then it is probably indicative that something is wrong, and is worth getting a professional to address the issue. The other important area to check out on Webmaster Tools is Search Traffic->Manual Actions - this will tell you if Google has put a penalty on your site that will hinder it's ability to rank. 'Manual Penalty' refers to a penalty that has been placed on your site by a human tester at Google (rather than by the algorithm itself) - in some cases they can be extremely damaging to site traffic and very difficult to remove.

3. Site Speed By site speed, we mean, quite simply, how fast your websites loads up the content. The faster your site, the better. A faster site benefits is clearly a better experience for your users, and it is also a ranking factor for Google search, so it pays to make your site faster.


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Slower page result time results in an increase in page abandonment (Image Source). There are a variety of online tools to check your page speed: Pingdom GTMetrix Google PageSpeed Insights All three are worth trying, with GTMetrix giving the most useful results in terms of a 'score'. If you have a low score, speak to your developers and try to get them to implement the suggestions across the three tools. Another way you can improve your load speed, without needing to get developers involved, is to beef up your server. Upgrading your server to improve processing power and memory will pretty much guarantee an increase in site speed performance. As a starting point you can compare different hosting companies on whoishostingthis.com, who also offer a range of reviews to help you choose a new host.

It's Never Too Late Too Start Whether your site is a completely new build, or is a legacy site you've had for years, there is never any harm in performing a few checks on the health of your site. Although most web design companies may claim that they are also experts in SEO, don't take their word for it - at the end of the day it is your pocket that gets hit if they have accidentally messed something up. If you perform the audit and find you do have issues that need to be dealt with, just let me know in the comments and I can point you in the right direction.

By Patrick Hathaway


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Patrick is the SEO Manager at Hit Reach, a web design and SEO agency. Hit Reach specialise in the integration of high-end SEO techniques with beautiful website design. Patrick carries out SEO audits and performs ongoing SEO and content marketing, both in-house and client side.

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#HowTo - How To Stay Financially Responsible on Black Friday/Cyber Monday

By Rick Gardiner Rick Gardiner is the CEO of iAffiliate Management, a Minneapolis-based affiliate management agency that helps internet retailers increase the performance of their affiliate channel to drive customer acquisition and eCommerce growth. Rick has over 10 years of eCommerce and performance marketing experience working with leading internet retail brands. He is responsible for finding and developing partners that align with client needs and the agencies core values. Prior to iAffiliate Management Rick worked on the network side of affiliate marketing and was instrumental in growing oneNetworkDirect, Digital River’s flagship affiliate network that specializes in the distribution of software, games, and consumer technology products. His tenure with oneNetworkDirect gave Rick the opportunity to work with leading brands like Symantec, Microsoft Store, Uniblue, PC Tools, avast!, Targus, Roxio, Logitech, and Trend Micro

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There are not many occupational hazards working in the performance marketing industry. You might install a nasty toolbar or come across an objectionable website—that is about it. While affiliate marketing isn’t going to make the list of 10 Most Dangerous Jobs any time soon, there are a few things you should be aware of. Especially this time of year when internet retailers


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are slashing prices for holiday shoppers. If you’re not careful, it can be a very expensive time to work in performance marketing so it’s important knowing how to be financially responsible on Black Friday & Cyber Monday.

Acknowledge your work environment. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are two of the busiest shopping days and perhaps the Super Bowl of internet retail. One might compare working in performance marketing this time of year to looking at Sunday Circular ads 40+ hours a week. Marketers are using what they’ve learned from months of testing and conversion optimization, leading up to Cyber Holiday weekend, to win your business and frankly: they’re good. Understanding that you work in a unique industry where you’ll see killer deals from your favorite internet retailers is something to be cognisant of and will help you avoid those impulse purchases online.

Create your list of who's been naughty and nice. Judgment aside, creating a list that details everyone you need to buy a holiday gift for is a helpful little trick. Having a list will help you stay organized and understand where you need to go to buy what for whom. Once you’ve created your list, use it. Limiting holiday purchases to items on your list will help you stay on track and avoid buying items just because they are on-sale.

Set your holiday shopping budget. Having a budget is an essential element in being financially responsible during the holiday shopping season and figuring out your budget doesn’t need to be complicated. Michael Cohen who is the Content, Community, and Social Media Manager at myFICO suggests “taking a look at your monthly income - break down what you have to spend on bills, what you have to spend on necessities (food, transportation). Take a look at what you have left over, and try to save some. After that, consider how many people you want to spend gifts on, set a maximum per person, and do some research on where you can get deals for that friend or family member”. What’s important is that you stick to your budget not only during weekend retail outings but also during the work week as it’s easier to “forget” your budget when you’re at the office. Consider how many people you want to spend gifts on, set a maximum per person, and do some research on where you can get deals for that friend or family member.


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Maximize your purchase power. Checking to see which items on your list are eligible for coupon discounts or other special promotions is an easy way to save a few extra bucks and help an affiliate in the process. Most daily deal sites, even the local ones, may have a couple big internet retailers lined up with special offers so it may be worthwhile to comb through a few of your favorites. While it’s typically frowned upon to join an affiliate program purely for your own shopping agenda, our friends in the loyalty space to help you get more mileage out of your budget without any ethical implications. Signing up for a few of the larger loyalty websites is a great way earn some extra cash-back on your holiday purchases. Shopping through different loyalty sites also gives you an opportunity to learn first-hand about the consumer experience of those publishers. This may inspire ideas around how you can better work with them as an affiliate partner or even provide feedback they may not otherwise receive from another member.

Know your credit history. Monitor your credit score. While most of us aren’t thinking about our credit score during the holidays, understanding and monitoring your credit score is a good thing to do for many reasons—especially around the holidays. Increased volume of transactions during the holidays means increased exposure of our financial information, putting you at risk for identity theft. Monitoring your credit score with services like Score Watch will help you keep an eye on suspicious activities that might indicate your personal information has been compromised. If you’d like to help others learn about the benefits of monitoring your credit score over the holidays, you can join the myFICO affiliate program!

Stay organized and make the right choices. To ensure your holiday shopping doesn’t get the best of you, stay organized when it comes to payment methods. If you’re using a credit cards for any of your shopping, remember which card you’re using in the event it’s not one you use on a regular basis. Michael Cohen from myFICO emphasizes “make sure to pay your bills on time. Fortunately you may have already budgeted, so you should be able to pay these off. As we get older, we may get more bills, and having some form of reminder system is a key to paying them off on a timely fashion. A calendar, alerts, notes on your phone or fridge, requesting them all to be on the same day – whatever your favorite method to remember things can also apply to your bills. The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself financially because you opted for a sale over paying a bill.” The last thing you want to do is hurt yourself financially because you opted for a sale over paying a bill.


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Finish your work and take some time to unplug. Once you’re done with your Black Friday & Cyber Monday preparations at the office, take a moment to unplug. While you will want to keep tabs on how your holiday promotions are performing and answer any incoming affiliate inquiries, ensure you’re checking for work-related items only. Sometimes ignorance is bliss if you can limit your exposure to Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals.

By Rick Gardiner Rick Gardiner is the CEO of iAffiliate Management, a Minneapolis-based affiliate management agency that helps internet retailers increase the performance of their affiliate channel to drive customer acquisition and eCommerce growth. Rick has over 10 years of eCommerce and performance marketing experience working with leading internet retail brands. He is responsible for finding and developing partners that align with client needs and the agencies core values. Prior to iAffiliate Management Rick worked on the network side of affiliate marketing and was instrumental in growing oneNetworkDirect, Digital River’s flagship affiliate network that specializes in the distribution of software, games, and consumer technology products. His tenure with oneNetworkDirect gave Rick the opportunity to work with leading brands like Symantec, Microsoft Store, Uniblue, PC Tools, avast!, Targus, Roxio, Logitech, and Trend Micro

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#HowTo - How to Decorate your Home for the Holidays If you're anything like me, you'll walk into a department store around the Holidays and want to buy every single item in sight to decorate your home. Everything is so delightful and festive, it brings a smile to your face - I mean, how can you turn away adorable little snowmen globes to put on your shelves? Or what about the big red stockings that you hang by the chimney with care? My motto around the Holidays is that you can never go too 'over the top' with your decorations (am I right?) I am by no means an interior designer, but I do love to create an atmosphere for my Holiday visitors that's inviting, somewhat organized and tasteful. Here are some simple tips on how to decorate your home for the Holidays! I think that one of the most prominent Holiday decorations is the old fashioned wreath. Hang it on your front door to welcome guests or place it above the mantel to give your fireplace an extra touch.

Heritage Spice Artificial Christmas Wreath And Garland Everyone will be thrilled to come home for the holidays this season with our sensational Heritage Spice Christmas wreath and garland. These exquisite pieces evoke warm nostalgia, as they are lovingly laden with pine cones, apples, berries, pomegranates, and cinnamon sticks. via: www.balsamhill.com

One of the best things about the Holidays are the scents that come along with it! Be sure to light candles or have potpourri throughout your home, especially at the entry.

Colonial Candle Holiday Sparkle Jar Candle Shop Holiday Sparkle Jar Candle at Wayfair. Free and Fast Shipping at everyday low prices. Choose from tons of styles, colors, and more! via: www.wayfair.com

I am a huge fan of the tiny seasonal trinkets and ornaments. The best place for these are your bathrooms and study areas - they deserve some love too!


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Very Merry Ornaments Hand painted Winterland Ornaments feature playful animals frolicking and playing in a wonderful winter scene. Designed exclusively for us by artist Blanca G贸mez. via: www.landofnod.com

Don't be afraid to rearrange your furniture and tables to make the focal point of the room where you hang your stockings.

Green Tree Christmas Stocking The 24 Inch Green Tree Christmas Stocking brings warmth to Christmas decorations and reflects an elegant sense of style. Whether by the fireplace mantel or banister, it serves as a charming complement to the rest of your holiday decor. via: www.treeclassics.com

One last tip is to create a theme and switch it up every year. My two favorite themes are Winter Wonderland and Old Fashioned Christmas. Winter Wonderland can include any sparkly and silver decor. For Old Fashioned Christmas, I like to buy accessories that have natural red and green colors. Perhaps a leg lamp would look fancy in your window? (For all you Christmas Story fans out there!) You may end up with an abundance of Holiday decor to suite your theme, but they can be recycled through for years to come! The Holidays are all about the glitz and the glamour - so have fun decorating! Feel free to add any tips on how you turn your home into the perfect Winter Wonderland!


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#HowTo: How to Make a Bangin’ Holiday Playlist For many of us, music is a part of our everyday routine. I like to listen to songs and think, "This is what would be playing if I were to be dancing around a bonfire at sunset." The holiday season is no different, as we want to inspire our friends and family to have an excellent time with an appropriate it's-the-most-wonderful-time-of-the-year soundtrack.

Try different songs on for size The completion of a "bangin' playlist" stems from a lot of trial and error. If you like experimenting with building different playlists for any and all occasions, Rhapsody is perfect for this. You can stream the music you want to listen to online, and it lets you queue up the ones you want to save for later. Additionally, themed or genre-specific radio stations are a fantastic way to discover new songs. So, try creating various holiday playlists. Dedicate one to classics, one to Christmas pop songs (Mariah Carey, anyone?), one to Christmas rock songs, and perhaps one to songs that simply remind you of winter. You can always take your favorites and merge them all together!

Tags, Tags, Tags The great thing about using sites like SoundCloud, Hype Machine, and Last.fm for music discoveries is all the tags! Much like our own affiliate tags, users label different tracks or artists by genre or other relevant grouping. It's a neat way to search purely for songs that would be suitable for a given playlist.

Variety Variety is key, and is the best way to keep everyone interested and wondering what glorious tune will play next. Nobody wants to sit there listening to slow, traditional songs the whole time, so introduce some obscure tunes, whether it's a remix or cover of something they already know, or something they might not have found on their own. ShareASale recommends: Dave Matthews Band - Christmas Song Summer Camp - Christmas Wrapping The Killers - A Great Big Sled Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas


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Guilty Pleasures A little bit of shame will bring everyone together. Of course not all of us are bold enough to admit that we've exhausted NSYNC's "Home For the Holidays" album (guilty), or that the Brady Bunch Christmas record (yes, record) is a component in their musical collective (sorry, Dad)... but just give it a minute or so until everyone starts belting out the lyrics to "Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays." It typically starts out with silently mouthing the words to yourself, and by the time the chorus hits, everyone is roaring off-key. It's actually quite magical. ShareASale recommends: Savage Garden - Last Christmas Britney Spears - My Only Wish (This Year) TLC - Sleigh Ride

Some playlists are not meant to be shared, and may be for our own enjoyment. Thus for the solo-listeners, the symphonic journey gets better if you upgrade the sound quality. Luckily, DX has a plethora of headphones to choose from depending on your own style and preference. So whether you're putting together a soundtrack for a holiday party or for an evening of wrapping presents, I hope everyone has a wonderful season full of happy ears!


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#HowTo - How to Keep Your Social Media Channels Active in Just Minutes a Day

By Scott Jangro Scott Jangro is a co-founder of Shareist. He's an entrepreneur, an old school affiliate marketer, web developer, a dad, a cyclist, and golfer..

Other posts from Scott Jangro Follow @shareist !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0];if(!d.getElement ById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);js.id=id;js.src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js";fjs.parentNo de.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document,"script","twitter-wjs");

Do you have a hard time keeping your social media channels active and updated every day? Here's a quick routine for social media managers and content curators. By following it, you can keep your social media accounts active and fresh in just a few minutes a day.


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And, you'll end up with lots of great content to further develop into bigger content, like blog posts and newsletters. Here are the basic steps. Since my company Shareist develops a platform to do all this, I'll be illustrating with that. But I'll also list lots of other tools you can use for each step. 1. 2. 3. 4.

Read Capture Ideas Schedule and Share to Social Networks Repeat.

1. Read This may seem obvious, but the best thing you can do to be successful as a content marketer, blogger, or a writer of any sort is to read. You can sit there and wrack your brain for ideas for the next epic blog post, and probably come up with something mediocre that you're not proud of. Or you can let the ideas come to you. The best way to do this is to set up a place where you have a constant stream of content to read. Use Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. If your accounts are too cluttered for it to be concentrated enough to have good on-topic posts, set up lists in any of those networks. They all have features that allow you to group users and pages and just view them in a newsfeed or stream. Use RSS readers. Google reader is dead, but there are lots of alternatives. Feedly is a popular service, or you can Google "Google reader replacements" for lots of suggestions. In Shareist, we have an RSS reader built-in that you can use to follow your favorite blogs and other sources of content based on keyword.


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2. Capture Ideas ABC - Always Be Capturing. Whether you're deliberately reading for ideas for sharing over a cup coffee in the morning, or if you are just going about your day-to-day activities, when you find somehting great, you need to act. Why don't we act? Because it is probably just a little too much work to grab the content you just found. Set yourself up with a way to capture ideas when you get them, whether that's a blog post, a video, a tweet, or just an idea. There are lots of bookmarking tools, like Evernote, Pinboard.in, Delicious, Pocket, Kiipt, and others. Shareist has an inbox for your content as well, and a Chrome extension and bookmarklet to fill it up. Or you can email content into it. Once you've got stuff captured, you can either share it immediately, or come back later when you do have more time and do something with it.


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3. Schedule and Share to Social Networks Now that you've captured some great content to share with others, you don't need to always great blog content out of it. Some people feel like they need to only share their own stuff. Or they're afraid that everybody has seen that great post by your favorite blogger. Remember that your audience is not you. They're not reading lots of blogs and monitoring twitter streams for good stuff. That's work. They want to be spoon-fed. And even though you may have seen a video a dozen times in the past week. 90% of the people you reach with your own updates probably haven't, and will appreciate you for showing them. I like to follow this rule: Give. Give. Give. Give. Take. That means give at least 4 times by posting someone else's content before you take by promoting your own. So now that we're over that hangup of sharing other people's content, let's do it. Schedule three or four things to post throughout the day. The key is to do this with some sort of social media scheduling tool, like Hootsuite or Buffer. And yes, Shareist has this too. The benefit of doing this from a tool like Shareist is that the shared elements can also be turned into blog posts and newsletters.


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4. Do it all over again That was easy, right? Now just do it again the next day, and the next. While you do this, reading every morning, and sharing, you're becoming a thought leader and you're building an audience. Before you know it, ideas will come to you for topics that you want to write about and cover in a blog post. Instead of writing lots of mediocre posts, you can focus on writing fewer blog posts and make them epic. Follow these easy steps until they become automatic and watch your social media numbers grow.

By Scott Jangro Scott Jangro is a co-founder of Shareist. He's an entrepreneur, an old school affiliate marketer, web developer, a dad, a cyclist, and golfer..

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#HowTo - How To Brew Different Tea Varieties for Fall At ShareASale, I'm known around the office as the tea afficionado. Fall is the best season for tea-lovers, since so many unique flavors and varieties are released for just this time of year. However, unlike everyday coffee it's important to brew teas according to their type and style for best enjoyment. Here are some basic tips before you try your first Autumn cup: 1. Rooibos or "red tea" is not truly from the tea plant, camellia sinensis. In fact, the word means "red bush" in South Africa and the "leaves" you brew are almost needle-like. Since it's such a resilient plant you must brew it at a full rolling boil, 212 degrees Fahrenheit. Steep for at least 5 minutes for most rooibos blends, although in my opinion you can't really steep too long! Rooibos only gets better with time and doesn't burn like other true teas might, causing an undesirable astringent taste. Better yet, it's caffeine free so you can drink it at any time morning, afternoon, or night. Rooibos makes a great neutral base for both sweet and nutty flavors. During the Fall, expect to see flavor blends like chestnut, pumpkin, and chai. 2. Black tea is a totally oxidized (but not "fermented" like Pu'erh tea) version of tea leaves. It's probably the most popular tea of all with favorites like Earl Grey and English Breakfast. Did you know in the United Kingdom where black tea is most popular, the average citizen consumes about 4.2 pounds per year? Like rooibos, common black tea must be steeped at full boil. However, it's more sensitive to brewing times so an average recommendation is 2-4 minutes. Letting it steep longer could make it a bitter brew, overshadowing the intended flavors. Be careful drinking yours at night, as it can have almost as much caffeine as coffee depending on brew length and amount. Lastly, it's very common to add cream to black teas giving it that silky texture and body. Try yours with milk to see how you like it. For me, I prefer it straight-up without any extras. For Fall, you might find black teas in stronger flavors like chocolate, mint, or caramel. 3. Green and white teas are more delicate, partially or unoxidized tea leaves and buds. The latter are picked at very young stages of the plant to maximize freshness. As you can imagine, they naturally require lower brewing temperatures and steeping lengths to create the perfect cup. Did you know that human studies have shown green and white tea contain the most antioxidants, and can lower blood pressure, fight high cholesterol, and protect against certain types of cancer? I generally recommend 180 degree Fahrenheit water maximum when brewing either, for about 2-3 minutes. However, white and green teas can vary widely so it's important to consult the retailer instructions if available. Some white teas I've seen have as low as 30 second brew times at 140 degrees Fahrenheit! Usually white and green tea have the lowest caffeine contents of any authentic tea. White and green fall tea flavors are often fruity, sweet, and complex. I frequently see vanilla, spiced, and apple blends but there is no limit to retailer's creativity when creating their own versions. 4. Finally, Herbal teas or "tisanes" are like rooibos, in that they aren't from the tea plant at all. They contain alternatives like spices, herbs, flowers, and fruit. They're normally caffeine-free and have their own unique properties. Chamomile is one common ingredient known for it's soothing taste and calming effects. Hibiscus is another, created from the flower and has a tangy, even sour flavor. Most herbals I've brewed require longer steeping times and full boil to bring out the flavor. Usually 4-7 minutes covers the spectrum of herbal tea brewing, but since so many ingredients could be found in herbal teas it can vary. Fall herbal teas will contain a


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large range of flavors, but my personal favorite is pistachio and licorice root. 5. There are other brewed beverages out there like Pu'erh tea and Mate so feel free to explore the wide world of teas! If you're a ShareASale affiliate, we have some amazing tea merchants for you to promote. Login, and check out them out here.


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#HowTo - How To Prepare for Hosting a Big Thanksgiving Dinner and How It Relates to Your Affiliate Program in 2014 Anyone that has hosted a Thanksgiving dinner knows how much time and effort goes into the preparation. Your guests are expecting a great feast consisting of all of the traditional fare and if you drop the ball on just one of these items, your dinner could end up being a bust. It’s a lot of pressure and that’s why you really have to prepare ahead of time to pull off a memorable meal that sends your guests home happy and impressed with your hosting talents. Let’s run down the players in this game and find the connection to Affiliate Marketing when preparing for a big event like Thanksgiving dinner. Let's dive right in.

Turkey > Website. The turkey is always the star of the show. Whether it’s organic, free-range, or Kosher, you must do your homework and research before you buy. Check out some reviews and buy a trusted brand that has proven to be a winner over the years. Don’t just assume turkey is turkey. Your website is the star in affiliate marketing. At the end of Q4 2013, do an audit on your website and determine what about it worked and what didn’t. Take stock of all of the misfires and get them corrected for 2014.

Chef > Manager. Your turkey day dinner is almost guaranteed to be a success if you have a seasoned veteran working the kitchen and cooking the Turkey and essential sides such as mashed potatoes and gravy. If you’re not a seasoned veteran make sure you consult with someone who is so you can get tips on secret recipes and cooking everything to perfection. The person managing your affiliate program is crucial to your success. You’ll need someone who knows the ropes, has a secret sauce, and understands what it takes to bring your program to the next level in 2014. If you don’t have a person


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dedicated to this job in house, you need to consider getting someone in that role or hiring an agency/out-sourced program management firm to run the program for you.

Your Guests > Your Affiliates. You’re the host and your guests make or break your Thanksgiving dinner. Yes, I realize you’ll most likely have family over and things can get dysfunctional in a hurry with old family skeletons dragged out of the closet combined with all of the stress leading up to the big dinner. Just remember these are your guests and you need to treat them well and provide them with everything they need to go home satisfied customers. Try to think of your Affiliates as guests of your program too, and treat them as such in 2014. No two affiliates are the same so make sure you stay in close contact with your active affiliates and find out what they need. Ask them for feedback on how the program worked in 2013 so you know in 2014 what you should keep around, what needs fixing, and which additions to the program would be the most attractive.

Food Supply > Budget. It’s Thanksgiving. People are coming over to eat themselves silly. This is an obvious one but you want to make sure you have an abundance of food on hand so everyone can reach their personal eating goals for the night. And don’t worry about having too much. Many people feel the leftovers are the best part of Thanksgiving with day after turkey sandwiches and other creative ways to use them up. Review your affiliate program expenditures in 2013 and budget for bonuses, promotions, and advertising throughout 2014. Assuming you want to grow your program next year, you’ll need to allocate funds towards recruitment campaigns and special payouts to your affiliates based on performance and goals they reach.


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Football Games > Conferences. Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without football. If you don’t do it already, set up a game with family and friends and get a Turkey Bowl tradition going. Also, make sure you have the main TV in your house showing that day’s NFL games. It’s a tradition to watch the Detroit Lions get hammered on Thanksgiving Day every year. Affiliate/Online Marketing conferences are a must-do. You can’t attend every one so make sure you do some research now so you have a plan of attack for 2014 and choose the conferences that will provide the most value. Budget funds and time away from the office, and plan a strategy for each conference at the beginning of 2014 so that you’re not rushing to put something together last minute. These conferences will be a big waste of time and money if you just show up not knowing who you want to meet, what you want to learn, and how you’ll get a good return on your investment.

So there you have it. Preparing for Thanksgiving dinner is just like prepping your Affiliate Program for a great 2014. Happy Turkey Day everyone!


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#HowTo - How To Explain Affiliate Marketing To Your Friends Welcome to November - and in full swing of Q4! This month, we've themed our blog with a collection of "How To" posts, which will sometimes be about Affiliate Marketing... and sometimes be fun things (see Fun Friday). Hope you enjoy!

What is Affiliate Marketing? I will go out on a limb here and say that everyone involved in the Affiliate Marketing community has had difficulty answering this question at some point in their career. Seems like an easy enough question to answer doesn’t it? YOU know what it is, and it seems very straightforward to you now that you are so close to it. During my first few years in the Affiliate industry I often took the easy way out and would just throw out descriptions like “I work in online marketing”, or we help retailers increase traffic and sales.” It was a cop out and it didn’t always work because in most cases people would dig deeper and want to know more. ...I often took the easy way out and would just throw out descriptions like “I work in online marketing”, or we help retailers increase traffic and sales.” You probably have your own answer for this question, but for those of you out there that still struggle with, I wanted to throw out a few suggestions on explaining this concept to folks outside of the industry. My descriptions are almost always from the network perspective since I have worked exclusively at ShareASale throughout my career in Affiliate Marketing, but these descriptions can be easily spun so that they come from the Affiliate, Merchant, and OPM perspectives as well.

Describe Affiliate Marketing To:A Tech-Savvy Friend

We connect online Merchants with people that run content sites or blogs (We call them affiliates). The retailers or Merchants pay commissions to the bloggers, when a sale is referred from an Affiliate’s site. Our job as a network is to track the activity between the two parties and let the retailers know where their sales are coming from when referred by Affiliates. We then ensure that the Affiliates get paid the appropriate commissions. Example: Let’s say you’re an avid camper and you blog about the various camping trips you take with your family. On your blog, you can promote merchants with products related to your site and audience of readers. You might promote merchants that sell tents, grills, hiking shoes, etc. When you send over a visitor from your blog that makes a purchase on the merchant’s end, you receive a


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commission on the referral.

Describe Affiliate Marketing To: A Less Tech-Savvy Friend

When describing what I do to less tech-savvy folks, I will usually use the same description but combined with an offline example to drive the point home. Example: Let’s say you drop in your local library to find a certain book that you have been dying to read. It turns out the library doesn’t have the book in stock, but, Janet, the librarian, tells you to go over to the local bookstore and tell them that Janet from the library sent you and said your bookstore is the best thing since sliced bread. In this case, Janet is the Affiliate and the local bookstore is the Merchant. You head over to the bookstore to buy the book and tell them Janet referred you. The bookstore gives Janet a commission as a token of their appreciation for referring you.

Why It's Important

It’s important to be able to describe your industry and your role within it. The person you’re explaining it to might turn out to be a great connection for your business, or know someone they can refer to you as client or partner, so don’t take any short cuts. Giving a more detailed description will allow you to make a stronger first impression on a new potential contact, and you might even turn on a light bulb that wouldn’t have been lit up with a more generic explanation. Make sure you go that extra mile next time someone asks what you do. What are your methods for explaining Affiliate Marketing? I’m always listening to how others describe it to pick up pointers and fine tune my approach. I’ve been at this for 10 years and I’m still not sure that my wife understands what I do. I’m going to blame that on her listening skills! Make sure you go that extra mile next time someone asks what you do. What are your methods for explaining Affiliate Marketing? Or - just try this video!


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#HowTo - How To Negotiate A Better Commission Rate as an Affiliate Bloggers and Affiliate Marketers, both those who are experienced and brand new to the industry, should always have a plan to maximize their commissions from retailers. As earnings are almost always tied directly to pure commission relationships, I've put together a list of 3 tips to negotiate better (higher) commission rates with retailers. When your audience turns into the type of customer that most matches the retailer's idea customer - your chances for higher compensation is best.

When your audience turns into the type of customer that most matches the retailer's idea customer - your chances for higher compensation is best. One of the most common ways to accomplish this is to focus on sending new customers (or re-introducting an inactive customer). Obviously, you have very little control over whether or not a specific member of your audience has ever purchased at a specific retail store, but you can do a few things to optimize. 1. Ask the retailer specifically, what your historical percentage of new customers / returning. You may find that you have been sending a high percentage of new customers - which would put you in a much better negotiating position. 2. Use marketing methods that are conducive to new customer generation. Product reviews, emails to your subscribers or Facebook/Twitter followers, and content marketing. 3. If you utilize coupons and/or deals - make sure that those posts are accurate, up to date, and relevant to your audience. Focus less on SEO optimized "deal pages" and more on alerting your audience (through posts and emails) of the deals that the retailer is promoting at that specific time.


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Best Ways to Increase your Value as an Affiliate or Blogger | ShareASale Blog Posted by Brian Littleton on Jun 19, 2013 in #BestOf | 1 comment via: blog.shareasale.com

Bloggers often underestimate their value, and settle for low priced "Sponsored Posts" that don't account for the true value that a post has over the long run. No matter the size of your audience, it is your specific touch-point with them that the retailers seek. They need those long-tail markets to complement their own marketing efforts. Use that to your advantage when negotiating a commission a rate. Always include your reach numbers (# of email subscribers, Facebook followers, Pinterest/Twitter, etc... ). These individual audience numbers are critical to any increase in commission that you may be seeking.

How to Value your Blog for Sponsored Posts | ShareASale Blog Posted by Brian Littleton on Jun 3, 2013 in #BestOf | 2 comments via: blog.shareasale.com


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Even if you only send a few customers per month to a retailer, don't be afraid to ask for the value that you feel you deserve. If those few customers (or more in those cases) are new to a retailer, they represent a lot of value to that retailer. When negotiating with the retailer, focus on your connection to your audience. Specifically, detail the things that you can do to continue to bring that audience to the retailer AND continue to bring new customers. Remember, even if it is only a few per month - that is valueable!

How to Bring in New Customers | ShareASale Blog Posted by Brian Littleton on Dec 18, 2008 in Brian Littleton | 19 comments via: blog.shareasale.com


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#HowTo - Setup Future Promotions

As the end of this year approaches and you are thinking ahead to 2014, chances are you are going to be thinking of ways to grow your program and get Affiliates more involved. One of the best ways to accomplish this, is through Affiliate promotions. Here's a little bonus tip for you, did you know that ShareASale has a tool that allows Merchants to schedule future promotions? The program manager can essentially map out a years worth of promotions and have them automatically run. Set up your bonuses for the year and forget about it - brilliant! If you are thinking about putting together a promotional schedule for the year, all you need to do is roll out the barrel and remember to P.O.C.A.! Plan: First thing to do is to think about what your goals are going to be for the year. What are you trying to accomplish? The use of promotions can be a great way to attract attention and increase motivation for a specific purpose such as: Overall increased affiliate sales Diversify creative use Increase sales of a specific product Announce a new creative Drive sales to a specific deal/coupon Activate a specific set of affiliates Organize: Once you have figured out the promotional plan, the next step should be to take an inventory of what you might need to accomplish those goals and lay out how the plan is going to be executed. Planning on spending some marketing dollars? Be sure you have budget approval. Making new creatives? Have the deadlines and specs to designer. Rolling out new deals? Make sure to have all the details and dates necessary. Once you have identified all your moving parts, you can start mapping out the plan of what will roll out when. Below is an example of what a six month promo calendar might look like. For extra credit points, if you are preparing this for your own work, you may want to include rows below each proposed promotion for items such as budget, resources needed, number of qualified affiliates, actual spend, etc.


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Create: Once you have figured out what promotions you want to run and when, you will go to your advanced commission rules page to create the various promotions. My Account > Edit Settings > Manage Advanced Commission Structures Below, I have created the custom commission rules that would coincide with the six month example promos. As you can see, you will use the condition "transaction date matches pattern" to input specific date parameters for transactions that the rule will be applied to. Also, be sure to un-check the "enabled" box while you are drafting your rules. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have as you build out your various rules.

Activate: Once you have looked over your rules and double checked all the conditions the ensure that they reflect the actions you intend, you can enable or activation the rules. You will check the Enabled box and click the "Save Changes" button. Once the rules are enabled, there will be an automated email that is sent to your approved Affiliates. If you build all your rules first as drafts then enable everything at once your affiliates will receive one email with all the updates. This is most likely going to be preferred by the Affiliate rather than one new email


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each time a new change or rule is made.

There we have it, you now know that you can build future promotions using our custom commission rules. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions about this or any other custom commission build you are thinking about implementing with your program.


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#HowTo - Plan A Great Trip In my opinion, the best way to set yourself up for a great trip is to do a little research before jetting off so you know exactly where you need to be when and what you're going to be doing. I'm not suggesting you have every minute of every day scheduled out; you do that and you will need a vacation from the vacation. On the flip-side, for me, there is nothing worse than getting to a great location, checking into the hotel, and then saying, "ok, now what?". You have come too far to waste the precious time off twiddling thumbs in the hotel. Before I travel anywhere, I like to look up the local attractions; the must see and must do of the area. I always like to have some idea of what the location has to offer and where the sights are that are not to be missed. I jot down a lot of ideas of places to go, typically more than I know will even be possible to tackle. This allows me to be flexible depending on weather, jet lag, etc.

Viator.com | Tours, sightseeing tours, activities & things to do I've used this travel tour site to book tours in advance. Especially helpful if you are planning on traveling overseas and want to visit attractions that will book up in advance. via: www.viator.com

Smart Destinations | Visit all the Best Attractions for One Low Price This is the company behind the Go City cards, a great resource for tackling a city when you know you want to see a lot of the major sites. The ability to jump the line is also a huge plus if you are traveling during peak season. I recommend always doing the math first. If you are only going to see one or two attractions, you most likely will be better off buying a single ticket. via: www.smartdestinations.com As I plan a trip, I put all the details into one document that will serve as the master itinerary. For each day listed, I like to break it up into two distinctions - travel days and trip days. Travel days have all the details for the mode of transportation getting me from point A. to point B. and trip days list out all the details for the sandwich meat portion of the trip if you will. By laying out all of the details you will not only save yourself the frantic dig through numerous travel documents while in line at the airport, train station, hotel check-in, etc. I like to have one document with all the pertinent information listed so I can easily reference everything I'll need for the trip without having to location individual confirmation emails, tickets, and so forth. Plus you never know if you may need to pass along the duties of "tour guide" to your travel companion who may not have been involved with the planning process.


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Below are some of the key points I put into my travel itinerary template:

Did you notice how I have "directions" listed on there? I know it's 2013 and there are these fancy machines called "cell phones" where you can download mobile maps direct to your palm. But there is something to be said about a printed map with wi-fi is no where to be found and your cell provider doesn't quite reach you like it does at home. There's no shame in old fashioned paper maps when it comes to being prepared. So, using the template, you can put together a single document that has all your trip details in an easy single document format that you can print for yourself and all your travel mates. When it's compete, it will look something like the example below. This is a snapshot of what two real travel days may look like.


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Even if travel isn't in your agenda for this year, you can always bring home a souvenir from far away exotic land from one fantastic site - ProjectBly.com. I love the concept of this site where they feature goods from different markets around the globe every two weeks. You can feel like you are walking the streets of a distant land without ever leaving the comfort of home. The photos alone will whisk you away to travel bliss.

Travel Far. Live Well. | Project Bly In there own words, Bly is "dedicated to marrying travel with design, we shop the world’s markets—from Bombay to Bukhara, and everywhere in between—curating collections of interesting objects, textiles, art and jewelry...we believe in the journey, in adventure, and coming home to a place where you can rest, reflect, and put your feet up (preferably on a handmade Moroccan ottoman)." via: www.projectbly.com Join the Viator Affiliate program Join the Smart Destinations Affiliate program Join the Project Bly Affiliate program


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#HowTo - How To Tie A Tie


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The Trunk Club runs their Affiliate Marketing Program on ShareASale, which means YOU can earn $3, plus 5% of any purchases that you refer to them. If you have friends that need a little help becoming the best dressed man in the room - join their program at ShareASale here...


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#HowTo - How To Instagram With Photoshop The instant accessibility of Instagram and its fabulous selection of pre-set filters can be a lot of fun to experiment with on the go. But what about those awesome pictures you want to spruce up from your photo library that are not on your phone? All Instagram filters are based on and modeled after some very stylish techniques that the pros often use to process high end photography. If you love photography like me, this is a great little tutorial to get you started with recreating one of Instagram's most popular filters: Earlybird.


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Here is my original image, some cute pink flowers I found a couple weeks ago.

Step 1: Crop into a square The easiest way to crop your image into a square is to set your crop tool to the 1x1 (Square) mode. It automatically goes by the rule of thirds, where you can put one of those grid crosshairs over or around the focal point of the image. I choose the biggest flower. You don't always have to use these guides, but it can often make for a more interesting composition.

Step 2: Add Tilt Shift (aka: blur) Tilt shift is a great way to blur a portion of your image, which creates a sense of depth around your focal point. Make a duplicate layer of your original. Select your duplicate in the Layers palette and select Filter>Blur>Gaussian Blur. Set the blur to a 4 pixel radius.


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Select the Eliptical Marquee Tool and while holding down the shift key, drag a circle shaped selection around your focal point.

Press Alt+Ctrl+R or click on Select>Refine Edge to adjust the gradual fade of your selection. In the Refine Edge palette, set your Smooth to 20 and your Feather to 100. Feel free to adjust the Shift Edge to narrow in on your selection even further. Press delete to reveal a portion of the unblurred layer underneath, bringing back the crispness of that focal point.


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Step 3: Lighting Effects Merge the original layer with the blurred layer and duplicate the merged layer. Label the merged layer "1" and the duplicate layer "lighting effects" Select Filter>Render>Lighting Effects. Set the light source to Point in the drop down menu. Drag the edge of the green circle to the edge of the photo. Set the Intensity to 31 and Metallic to 59. Set the lighting effects layer to 40% opacity in the Layers palette.


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Step 4: Levels In the Layers palette, click on the adjustment layer icon (black and white half circle) to create a Levels adjustment layer. Set your black levels to 12, your midtones/grey to 1.38. Set your white Output Levels to 240.

Step 5: Photo Filters Click on the adjustment layer icon and select Photo Filter. In the drop down menu, change the filter to Yellow. Adjust the density to 25%.


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You might nail the results you want in one Photo Filter, but in my case I needed one more. We're going to add one more Photo Filter, but this time with a specific color. Make another Photo Filter adjustment layer. In the Photo Filter palette, adjust the density to 48. Select "Color" instead of "Filter" and double click the color swatch. The Color Picker window will pop up. In the field labeled "#", enter the value fdd846. In the Layers palette, adjust the Photo Filter layer opacity to 41%.

Step 6: Vignette 94

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Make a new blank layer. Label it "Vignette." With the Eliptical Marquee Tool, while holding down the shift key, start from the upper left corner and make a circular selection. The selection should come pretty close to the edges but not entirely. Go to Select>Inverse to invert the selection. Click on Refine Edge and set the Smooth to 20 and the Feather to 100.

In the tool palette, change the foreground color swatch to black. With the Paint Bucket Tool, click one of the selected corner areas. Change the Vignette layer state to Overlay and adjust the opacity to 80%.


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Step 7: Screen Color Create a Solid Color adjustment layer. Double click on the color swatch and in the "#" field, enter the color value 2f0015. Set the layer state to Screen and the Opacity to 53%.

Step 8: Spot Highlight Make a new blank layer. Change the foreground swatch color to fdecfc or a complimentary tint of the focal point color. Select the brush tool and set it to 1600px or about half the width of the composition size, the Hardness to 0% and the Opacity to 42%. Tap the brush tool two or three times over the focal point of the image. Set the layer state to Lighten and the Opacity to 39%.


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Step 9: Saturation Create a new Hue/Saturation adjustment layer. Push the Saturation down to about -8. Presto. You have just made yourself an Earlybird Instagram photo!

The Results 97

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The original image with no filters.

The final image: my version of Earlybird


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Instagram's Earlybird


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Give these techniques a try using the recommended values. Every photo is different and results may vary, so experiment and make minor adjustments as you see fit. Above all else, have fun with it!


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#HowTo - How to Wrap Presents Like A Boss! Who doesn't love to receive a gift?! But how many of you actually know how to properly wrap a present? No worries, I'm here to teach you how to wrap a present like a boss! First, I want to quickly explain why. Why is wrapping gifts so important? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

It's pretty! It's personal! It's festive! It creates anticipation. Conceals the gift.

Think twice about handing someone a gift unwrapped or wrapping in a plastic bag. Spend an extra 5 minutes to give that person a wrapped, appealing gift.

So let's get wrapping! (disclosure: I am showing you how I do it, however, there are many different methods.)

First things first: Gather your supplies. You will need: scissors, tape, wrapping paper and your present.


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Measure your wrapping paper. Lay your box flush against the edge of the paper and “roll� it across the paper. Once you have flipped each flat edge, leave an extra inch and cut the paper all the way across. Then measure the short edges. Bring the wrapping paper to touch the top of the each side edge of the box and cut.


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Bring the two long ends together. Wrap the paper around the box, meeting the two ends in the middle and securing with piece of tape. Start with the present upside-down. Give one of the ends a seam by folding it. (gives it a clean look) Crease along the box’s corners for easy folding.

Now it is time for the tricky ends.


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Fold two smaller edges towards the center of the box in such a way that the longer ends’ flaps become triangular. Then bring those remaining flaps into the middle and secure with a piece of tape. Crease the folds well and it will make it easier to tape. Again, give the top layer a small fold for a cleaner look. The top layer should be the one that goes towards the bottom of the box.

Repeat on the other end.


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Finished product..............ALMOST!

Add a bow, ribbon or any other pretty nonsense to your gift! Simple Bow Ribbon Curling your ribbon Add stamps Name of recipient (an important one!) The options are endless - be creative!


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Think outside the box when decorating your present! (pun intended)

Happy Wrapping!


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#HowTo - How To Wear A Blazer With Jeans Fall is officially in swing - which means jackets, blazers and vests! Today we are going to touch on a few different ways to wear your standard black blazer. A good blazer is very versatile - so play around with fun outfit ideas! Here are a few suggestions to get you started. All of these pieces were pulled directly from Merchants on the ShareASale Network! Click the images to see the product, or view more information about their Affiliate Program by clicking "Affiliate Program Details".

First - Start with a Blazer. Fine and Sandy Blazer in Noir - ModCloth.com Is that big project at work keeping you extra busy these days? You needn’t worry about projecting your best self at the office, so long as you’re wearing this tailored one-button blazer! via: www.modcloth.com

Shawl Collar Black Blazer - OASAP.com This blazer has been crafted in polyester, featuring a shawl collar, one button closure to front, jet pocket to each side, studded cropped sleeves, in a regular fit. via: www.oasap.com


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Slim Fit One Button Blazer - OASAP.com This blazer has been crafted in cotton and polyester, featuring a turndown collar and one button design, leopard print to the sleeve cuff, long sleeves and medium length cut, in a slim fit. via: www.oasap.com

For an Evening Out Pair your black blazer with a pair of dark skinny jeans, colorful pumps, an embellished top and some stunning earrings. Dakota Blouse @ HumbleChic.com (Affiliate Program Details) Bellini Micro Suede Pumps @ DesignerShoes.com (Affiliate Program Details) Aqua Stone Earrings @ StellaDot.com (Affiliate Program Details) Lucky Brand Jeans @ DesignerStudioStore.com (Affiliate Program Details)

For Business Casual Pair your black blazer with a pair of dark bootcut jeans, a flowing chiffon top, classy neutral earrings, a simple black belt and a pair of comfortable Mary Jane heels.


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Science of Chic Top @ ModCloth.com (Affiliate Program Details) Snake Skin Belt @ DownEastBasics.com (Affiliate Program Details) Corner Office Heels @ ModCloth.com (Affiliate Program Details) Kendra Scott Earrings @ LaylaGrayce.com (Affiliate Program Details) Hudson Jeans @ DesignerStudioStore.com (Affiliate Program Details)

For Around Town Pair your black blazer with a lighter pair of relaxed skinny jeans, a casual button up, riding boots and your favourite scarf. Command Utility Blouse @ BrooklynIndustries.com (Affiliate Program Details) Lexi Riding Boots @ LilyBoutique.com (Affiliate Program Details) Birds of a Feather Scarf @ Scarves.net (Affiliate Program Details) 7 For All Mankind Jeans @ DesignerStudioStore.com (Affiliate Program Details)


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For the Big Game Pair your black blazer with your team jersey, straight leg jeans, comfortable sneakers and polish it off with a little team flair. Broncos Jersey @ Fanatics.com (Affiliate Program Details) Converse All Stars @ ShiekhShoes.com (Affiliate Program Details) Broncos Accessories @ Fanatics.com (Affiliate Program Details) Mavi Jeans @ BrooklynIndustries.com (Affiliate Program Details)


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#HowTo - How To Make The Best Holiday Cards 1. Get Personal! With the advent of sites such as TinyPrints.com, Shutterfly, Minted and others - you are now able to personalize your cards with family photos, messages, and anything else you can think of! If you need some ideas - take a look at this amazing collection of over 100 photos that you can use as inspiration for your own holiday cards!

100 Photos to Inspire Your Holiday Cards Harvard Homemaker This collection of 100 photos will inspire your holiday cards! Family and sibling poses, wording and theme ideas, props, clothing, etc. Get creative with your Christmas cards this year! via: www.harvardhomemaker.com


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125 Family & Sibling Photos: Posing Ideas & Inspiration - Harvard Homemaker More than 125 photos to help give you inspiration for your next family photo session for Christmas cards or just because. Clothing, scenery, poses, lighting, etc. via: www.harvardhomemaker.com

2. Make a Book! If you are up for something even more personal - try a photobook from Blurb.com - take a look at this quick video below detailing how you can make your own professional photobook with ease!

3. Get Creative If your cards are intended for business use - I love the personalized attention that so many companies put into their holiday cards. While it can sometimes be quite the undertaking to send personalized cards to all of your customers, it goes such a long way that it is well worth the effort. Make sure you remember to sign those cards! Personalized signatures are so much more effective than stamps or pre-signed cards. Take a look at this great example from Schaaf-Partnercentric from a few years ago... always one of my favourites every year!

Best and Worst (Not Really) Holiday Cards of 2009 | ShareASale Blog Posted by Brian Littleton on Dec 24, 2009 in Brian Littleton | 3 comments via: blog.shareasale.com


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#HowTo - How To Make The Best Baking Decisions For The Holidays

When I think of the holidays, one of the first things that comes to mind are yummy yummy treats! It is no secret that during the winter months, it is easier for us to 'let ourselves go' a bit by devouring in the cream filled what-have-you's and chocolate everything... but little did you know that you don't 'have' to gain the extra lbs in order to enjoy some delicious treats. I know what you're saying, "how is that possible to do and still have them taste so incredibly good?" I'm not here to preach on portion control (although important in any diet), but rather I'm here to provide some Holiday Baking Tips so you can enjoy the cookies, pies and cakes this season without taking in all of the calories. You know it's a good recipe if it starts with a stick of butter.

Cutting Down on The Fats Butter, Margarine, Heavy Cream, Pure Oils & Whole Milk Cheeses may make that cream puff or fruitcake just a bit more delightful but if you're looking for the same taste with less fat and calories, here are a few substitutions: Instead of using Butter, Buttermilk, Margarine, or Sour Cream Plain Greek Yogurt Instead of using Butter, Margarine, Oil, Eggs, Sugar or Shortening Applesauce (typical ratio 1 to 1) Instead of using Buttercream Frosting


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Frost your cake/brownie/cookie with nonfat whipped topping For a lighter spin on cream cheese frosting, which is usually made with full-fat cream cheese & butter, use an 8oz block of reduced-fat cream cheese, 1 cup of powdered sugar, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract Instead of using Heavy Cream Evaporated skim milk Instead of Ricotta & Sour Cream Low Fat Cottage Cheese Instead of using Eggs & Oil in spiced cakes, breads or chocolate desserts Canned pumpkin Sweet Potato Puree

Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin pie.

Cutting Down the Carbs & Misc. We've all heard our Grandmothers utter the words "more flour" & "more sugar". Without disappointing their tastebuds, try some of these substitutions! Instead of using White Flour Whole Wheat Flour (adds 10 g of heart-healthy fiber)


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Almond Flour Instead of using Sugar Vanilla Extract Honey Maple Syrup Applesauce (as seen above!) Instead of using Vinegar Lemon Juice Instead of using Eggs Use two egg whites or a 1/4 cup of egg substitute in place of one egg

Bake/Cook Smart & Have a Delicious Holiday Season! ...and Don't Forget to Share ;)


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#HowTo - Tight On $$? How To Make Your Own Holiday Gifts

The Holidays can be a crazy time. No matter the celebrations you take part in, most center around the idea of being around family & friends, enjoying delicious food/drinks, laughing & reminiscing about the 'good ole days' as well as the acknowledgment of love through giving gifts. All of that is wonderful! However, aside from the few extra lbs you might put on from one too many venti white chocolate peppermint mocha's from Starbucks with a side of 1-5 slices of Grandma's apple pie a la mode... You also risk burning holes through your wallet with all of the expenses the Holiday's tend to hold. As Linus van Pelt from Charlie Brown would say, "Fear Not!". I'm here to help you out by putting together some ways to save a few bucks and make your own meaningful Holiday Gifts for anyone!

Fudge When I think of the Holidays, one of the things that always comes to mind is CHOCOLATE FUDGE! Who doesn't love chocolate?? (If you said "I don't", you can also take part in this gift with other flavors like caramel, assorted fruits, butterscotch, peanut butter, coconut etc) Homemade fudge is a simple gift to make that can be made for larger groups or several individuals due to the fact that a little does go a long way as it is very rich. It can also be frozen and saved! It's easy to make, has only a handful of ingredients and can be easily gifted in a colorful holiday tin or saran wrap with a ribbon or bow.


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Chocolate Fudge Recipe | Cooking | How To | Martha Stewart Recipes Make Martha Stewart's Chocolate Fudge recipe. How To and Step-by-Step Instructions from Martha Stewart. via: www.marthastewart.com

Body Scrubs

No one should need a special occasion or excuse for any spa treatments. You also shouldn't have to pay $100+ for a day at the spa or $50+ on over priced spa essentials from your local beauty retailer. Believe it or not, it's very simple to create your own Body Scrubs for yourself or to give as great gifts! The essential ingredients include: Salt or Sugar Oils (olive, coconut, almond, vegetable, baby etc) Optional: Essential Oils (Examples Here) Optional: Floral Optional: Herbs Most of these can be easily mixed in a jar and decorated with a colorful bow. There are hundreds of 'Do It Yourself' (DIY) Body Scrub recipes online, all you need to do is search! Give


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your friends or family the gift as good as a day at the spa (that they can use more than once!)

Fleece Blankets After your long bath, what a better way to stay all warm & snuggly than in homemade fleece blanket! Another easy to make and inexpensive gift that can be personalized in any way you'd like. I personally received a Chicago Bears themed homemade fleece blanket from a very good friend of mine and use it all the time. May be one of the best gifts I ever received that keeps on giving. All you need are 2 large pieces of fleece fabric, a ruler, scissors and the ability to tie a knot!

DIY Gifts - Make a Fleece Blanket - Seventeen Make a super cozy blanket for everyone on your holiday shopping list! via: www.seventeen.com

Mason Jar Treats My best friend, Courtney, introduced me to Mason Jar Treats! Basically, you measure out all of the dry ingredients in a recipe and layer them in a jar. Then you can attach a colorful fabric or bow with a gift tag that explains what it is and how to make! For example, you may create a Dark Chocolate Brownie Jar that states on the tag "Just Add x amount oil and 2 eggs". It's simple, thoughtful and delicious! You can find unlimited amounts of recipes by just Google-ing "Mason Jar Recipes" or "Mason Jar Cookies".


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One of my ultimate favorites is Hot Chocolate & Baileys! Include in the jar the hot chocolate mix with some marshmallows and tie a 50 ml (1.7 oz) "mini" bottle of Baileys Irish Cream to it. Delicious!

Photo Memories I wanted to end on something I've done my whole life for family and friends... create an assortment of Photo Memories.


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Putting together a collage, photo books, multiple frames filled with memories or a scrap book is one of the best gifts you can give, in my opinion. A cell phone, tablet, flash drive or a computer is not where photos should live. They should be able to be displayed to cherish forever! Memories are meant to be cherished, and this is the simplest way you can bring those memories back to life for someone.

One of My Favorite Tools to Help Create Memories ~ Shutterfly Also a Merchant in ShareASale, Shutterfly is one of TinyPrints stores (MID:12808)! Create photo books, personalize photo cards & stationery, and share photos with family and friends at Shutterfly.com. via: www.shutterfly.com These are just a few ideas of the many Do It Yourself (DIY) gifts that you can do on a low budget that are meaningful and put together with love. The holidays shouldn't be about feeling broke or stressed so hopefully some of these might help put your mind at ease. For more ideas, I recommend Pinterest! Wishing you all a beautiful Holiday Season.


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#HowTo - How To Survive Holiday Travel I am sure I am not alone when I say I really hate traveling during the holiday season. But I do love the end result of being around my family and friends who I see quite infrequently due to the distance between us. As such, I have gotten to the point where I am pretty good at planning my holiday travel plans in such a way that causes me the least amount of headaches. I am able to accomplish this less worry holiday travel by always following a few steps. I first plan way ahead. My partner gets annoyed with me but in August I begin discussing plane fares and the optimal times to travel. I also keep an eye on blogs, newsletters, and other sources to see what deals might be out there. Lastly, I am always willing to use any transportation source to execute the travel.

Plan Ahead When planning your trip, it is important to plan ahead. This includes not only looking at airline sites but also ensuring you are aware of the trends airlines use. For instance, usually around the 3rd or 4th week of October airline, bus, and train fares will begin to increase. This is because they realize that you will make the reservations regardless of the cost at that point. To foil the transportation "machine," as I sometimes call it, you must employ several tactics to beat them. Because honestly it's us versus them during the holiday season. 1. You must use flexible travel dates. This is one of the easiest ways to find the most economical flight or train ride to your destination. 2. Choose off peak Travel Days. I often travel back the Saturday after Thanksgiving versus the Sunday, because it is far less common, cheaper, and often less stressful. 3. Forget about nonstop flights. While it is nice to have nonstop flights, it is much easier to catch a good deal on on flights with layovers. 4. Bookmark every travel site. Travel sites really do often have far better deals than the actual airline or train site. This is because they often get package deals. 5. Don't be afraid to buy one way tickets. It has historically been excessively expensive to fly to my hometown Memphis. I have found that buying one way tickets usually saves me a decent amount of money. 6. Travel early. I am definitely not a morning person, but I am always willing to depart early during the holidays. The early morning departures are generally open and far cheaper than their later counterparts. 7. Check flights for cities near your destination. I have found that it is often cheaper to fly into some smaller cities around my destination, and then I ask a family member to pick me up. It saves you money and you get a mini road trip. In addition to finding the most economical means for your trip, it is important to plan out certain aspects of the trip. These are:


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1. Pack as efficiently as possible. If you are taking gifts, ship them versus packing them. Also, try to keep everything you are taking to 1 carry on suitcase and a small bag. It is imperative that you travel light to make the trip much easier. 2. Pack snacks. I am someone who has to have snacks with me. I have also found during the holidays that there is often a higher chance for delays, resulting in a much longer time between meals. The snacks keep me happy, energetic, and in the zone to ensure I know what is happening. 3. Charge your various devices. I see it in the airport all the time, where someone is trying to communicate after landing and their phone is dead. It definitely is no fun to be incommunicado when attempting to secure a ride to your destination. 4. Hydrate. I recently read an article that expressed how a lot of illnesses people get while traveling are a direct result from not adequately hydrating. Don't let that be you because there is nothing worse than being under the weather during the holidays.

Resources There are a huge number of websites out there to help you find deals on travel. These are my favorite.

KAYAK - Cheap Flights, Hotels, Airline Tickets, Cheap Tickets, Cheap Travel Deals - Compare Hundreds of Travel Sites At Once Compare hundreds of travel sites at once. Find a deal on the flight, hotel, car rental or vacation you want. via: www.kayak.com

Airfare Deals - Cheap Flights - Airfarewatchdog Airfare deals, cheap flights, & money-saving tips from our airfare experts. via: www.airfarewatchdog.com

Yapta | Track flight prices and check for airline refunds Track flights and hotels, with real-time iPhone alerts. via: www.yapta.com

Transportation Options 124

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Although it is normal to travel via flight, I highly encourage you to look at alternative options. I am a fan of both travel by bus or car in addition to flights.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car - Rental Cars at Low Rates Reserve a car rental from Enterprise Rent-A-Car at low rates. Choose from more than 6,000 rental car locations at major airports and neighborhood locations. Rental car classes include economy cars, luxury car rental, cargo vans, pickup trucks and more. via: www.enterprise.com

megabus.com | Now serving over 30 million bus customers in North America The number of passengers shown below includes all standard passengers, mobility aid passengers, special requirement passengers, PCAs, children and infants. A special requirement can range from a request for assistance boarding, a seat downstairs or for a wheelchair or scooter. Need assistance with your trip? Click here Is your luggage within limit? Click here Posted: Thursday September 12, 2013 The Megabus stop for all arrivals and departures in Sacramento has moved to the University/65th Light... Read more via: us.megabus.com

Train & Bus Tickets - National Railroad - USA & Canada | Amtrak Š2013 National Railroad Passenger Corporation via: www.amtrak.com


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#HowTo - How To Get The Best Deals on Black Friday/Cyber Monday It is well documented at ShareASale that I have a true affinity that some might call an addiction to shopping. I literally absolutely love scouring through various websites in search of the best deal for an item. Because honestly, that daily deal site throws the 40% off sign up there, making you think it's a great deal, but often you can find it far cheaper somewhere else. That is one key to shopping generally. Big shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday are completely different creatures. This is because you really have to plan ahead and strategize. You will also want to make sure you have the right tools to assist you and finally you have to budget accordingly.

Strategy This is one of the steps that I feel so many people miss due to the excitement around Black Friday. Most people arbitrarily go shopping at a Big Box chain or hop online at some point on Cyber Monday and buy things as they interest them. These methods are ok, but utilizing those types of strategies means you may not be getting the best deal. I have worked at companies like Target, The Sports Authority, and Clark's shoes through numerous Black Fridays and they were almost always under stocked for those "Doorbusters." So customers showed up for those items and ended up staying to buy items that could have most likely been purchased on any Friday. This is why I believe online shopping for Black Friday and Cyber Monday is the only way to shop on those days. There are a few reasons for this: 1. Most online sites give you a decent idea about what might go on sale before it occurs. For instance, Amazon actually puts descriptions of the items and when they will go on sale hours before the sale occurs. 2. It is much easier to get the products home, especially since websites often do shipping offers around that time so you save a lot of $$$ 3. Price comparisons are much easier when you shop online as well. I often do a quick online search to see average prices for the item to determine which store has the best price and also as a means to ensure the discount is worth the purchase price.

Tools I use a number of websites and apps to also assist me in my shopping strategy. They are listed below. Shopkick, The Find, and FatWallet also have their own apps which are really awesome when shopping.


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Black Friday Ads - The Official Black Friday 2013 Website for Black Friday Deals! Black Friday Ads is home to Black Friday 2013, featuring Black Friday ad listings and ad scans, hot deals and coupons. via: bfads.net

Black Friday 2013 - Black Friday Ads and best Black Friday Deals Welcome to BlackFriday.com, the official site for all of the Black Friday 2013 Ads and Black Friday deals from your favorite stores like Walmart Black Friday and Best Buy Black Friday. via: blackfriday.com

Black Friday 2013 - Black Friday Ads, Black Friday Deals & Sales Complete Coverage of Black Friday 2013 Ads, Black Friday Sales & Black Friday Deals via: www.TheBlackFriday.com

Black Friday 2013: Deals and Ad Scans Shop ALL the best Black Friday deals, ads, leaks and exclusives for Black Friday 2013 and Cyber Monday. via: www.fatwallet.com

Black Friday 2013 - Black Friday Ads and best Black Friday Deals Welcome to BlackFriday.com, the official site for all of the Black Friday 2013 Ads and Black Friday deals from your favorite stores like Walmart Black Friday and Best Buy Black Friday. via: blackfriday.com

TheFind - EVERY PRODUCT * EVERY STORE Find every product from every store, every coupon and every review. Everything you need when shopping to quickly decide what to buy and where to buy it. via: www.thefind.com


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shopkick shopkick is the first mobile app that gives you rewards and offers simply for walking into stores. You can collect kicks and bonuses at nearly all places around you. via: www.shopkick.com

Budget The last but not least aspect to shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday is budgeting. This is something that I know can be hard to do when there are so many amazing offers but it is important. It is important to set maximums for the overall spending that might occur and more specifically on each individual item. For instance, last year I really wanted to upgrade to a wireless printer that was compatible with my iOS devices, but I set my maximum to spend at $100. Throughout the day on both days, I saw numerous printers that fit every requirement other than the $100 after waiting until the end of the day on Monday I found the perfect printer in my price range. Having strict guidelines on the budget is not only good for you fiscally, it also makes finding the right item for the right price that much sweeter. So before spending a penny, sit down and really consider what you can afford and then plan accordingly.


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