The Men’s Gift Guide – Affiliate Marketing Blog Example

Justin Consuegra of The Men’s Gift Guide sent a ReviewMe request to have his blog reviewed. In his request, he asked me to review the overall blog. However, I’m going to give him more than his bargain for. I’m going to expose his entire business model.

Back in 2005 Consuegra started an eCommerce store call The Round Table. The online store, based in Midlothian, VA, sells unique gifts for hard-to-buy-for men. You’ll find all the cool toys for boys at The Round Table.

It all started when I stopped believing in Santa. Since then, each and every October my mother has asked me the exact same question: “What do you want for Christmas?”. And every October I have given her the exact same answer: “I don’t know.”. I believe that it is universally accepted that men are the hardest people to buy gifts for. Some men may be easier than others. If they have a strong hobby or interest, with infinite accessories available, gifts can possibly flow easily. Even in this case, gifts can get predictable and boring. I decided it was time to do something about it.

The problem with the The Round Table is the same as most eCommerce stores – Google won’t rank you. Google gives preferential treatment to content based sites/blogs and will push eCommerce sites out of the index in order to force them buy their position with Google AdWords. Of course, Google will never admit to doing this but ask any eCommerce stores trying to get to the front of Google’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page) how hard it is to outrank a blog and you’ll see that Google is every bit as evil as me. To get around this Google sandbox, Consuegra did what many eCommerce stores are doing – start a blog and have the blog link to the store.

More Than Just A Promotional Arm

The Men’s Gift Guide is more than just the promotional arm of The Round Table store. The blog has turned into a pretty cool gift blog. And it looks like it makes money on its own right. While many of the gifts listed in New Stuff are from The Round Table store, there are just as many (if not more) gifts from other online merchants. The Men’s Gift Guide list 21 merchants in their resources page.

The Men’s Gift Guide is divided into eight sections: Home, About Us, Gift Ideas, New Stuff, Product Reviews, Resources, Thoughts, and Stuff To Check Out. The guide isn’t updated that often. There’s been 14 posts this month and only 6 posts last month. I guess new gifts for men doesn’t come out at the same rate as new dresses for women. The current gift on the front page is a Super Mario Bros. Sound Block. I love Super Mario so I think I’m going to pick one up. The same goes for that High End Rubik’s Cube.

A Great Example Of An Affiliate Marketing Blog

The Men’s Gift Guide is a great example of an affiliate marketing blog. While the blog does have sponsored ad buttons, AdBrite and Google AdSense ads, I would say a fair chunk of the blog’s income comes from affiliate sales. Many of the gift links are affiliate links or direct links back to The Round Table. The Men’s Gift Guide either signed up for the affiliate program directly with the merchant or used a 3rd party network like Linkshare or CJ. No disclosure is made about the affiliate links but that’s how affiliate blogs work. Most readers wouldn’t care. They’re reading the blog to find gift ideas. I doubt they’re concern the blog owner is making a cut of sale.

What Consuegra should do however, is hide his affiliate links. In the past year, Google and other search engines has gotten a lot better at detecting affiliate only websites and removing them from the search index. The Men’s Gift Guide is not an affiliate only blog but there are a fair amount of affiliate links so Google may place less trust in it. The easiest way to prevent the detection of an affiliate link is with a redirect. You can find out how to do that in my Hiding Affiliate Links For Better SEO post.

It’s Really Targeted For Guys

You would think The Men’s Gift Guide is targeted for women looking to buy stuff for guys. However, from reading the blog, I can see it’s targeted to guys who want to give their girlfriends/wives ideas on what to buy them. While the blog is about gifts for men, I’m sure just as many women would love to receive a Iceberg Lettuce Safe. I’m going to add that to the shopping list.


71 thoughts on “The Men’s Gift Guide – Affiliate Marketing Blog Example”

  1. Ali says:

    Yeah, it’s a great blog, did a review of them on one of my other sites (fashion related) through payperpost. Of course they didn’t pay me $250 there, hey but maybe one day someone will, right John!

  2. Ali says:

    damn those bananas are annoying!

    1. Matthew says:

      Do you mean the ones above with the love hearts in between?

      1. Ali says:

        yep those bananas with the hearts…

        1. I just saw one site with a dancing carrot…. :mrgreen:

    2. Jonix says:

      lol, i must agree with the bananas 🙂

    3. John Chow says:

      I can’t believe you guys don’t like the bananas! 😯

      1. Marc says:

        I love them. I don’t know what’s wrong with these people John.

        1. Zach says:

          the bananas are def. one of the better icons :mrgreen:

      2. Those bananas are one of the best features of John’s blog. Too many people drinking hatorade today 😆

      3. Mark Shead says:

        The bananas remind me of when the BLINK tag first came out.

  3. Tyler Ingram says:

    Hey they have some pretty cool things on their site.

    I’ve seen more and more of these type blogs popping up and they are interesting to see.

    Though I think I want one of these:
    http://themensgiftguide.com/blog/2007/03/15/unique-gift-for-men-the-drink-tender/

    🙂

    1. Jez says:

      There is a plug in for Joomla! / Virtue Mart that allows you to squeeze WordPress into an E-Commerce / CMS system, its a neat trick, though it doesnt support permalinks 🙁

  4. HMTKSteve says:

    That is the way to do it. If you only link to one store you seem spammy. If you link to several stores you seem more legit.

    Good review!

    no, GREAT review because you reviewed the site and informed your readership on a few key issues in affilliate marketing!

    1. Jez says:

      But some stores are more equal than others 🙂

      I will shortly be doing this for a friends online store…

      I dont think the points on Google are quite accurate, the reason blogs do better is because they have a structural advantage over E-Commerce sites. Google can index the site by category, archive, author. The front page link pretty well guarantees all new posts get indexed imediately…

      There are google sitemap builders available for open source E-Commerce apps that work well, but ultimately Google does not like product codes and short descriptions. Also it is hard to theme the content an E-Commerce store the way you can a blog.

      Amazon do a good job of bulking out their content, and seem to do well in google, though, not as well as they did. Once upon a time it seemed like you could not do a search on google without a book of similar title being returned….

      1. Jonix says:

        Is it possible to do the same with a e-commerce script, but it depends on the script and of course, most of them need much tweaking and seo.

      2. Mark Shead says:

        A lot of stores are using the same descriptions. So they don’t rank because of duplicate content.

  5. Maybe we can request to have the bananas changed…

    1. Marc says:

      You can request, but I’m sure John will deny it 😉 The bananas rule!

  6. Nathan Drach says:

    Those are interesting comments on how eCommerce sites have indexing issues. Also, the fact that Google seems to shun affiliate links. Might be time to do some redirects to the URLs.

    What if you have a commerce site with custom content for each item? Would that get the site around the “eCommerce Filter”?

    1. Jez says:

      You can get E-Commerce sites fully indexed with a sitemap generator, and how well you do depends to a large degree on how well you describe your products. Commerce sites are harder to get rank for, but I never considered it may be a deliberate move on the part of Google, and to be honest, I dont think thats the case.

      1. John Chow says:

        Getting an eCommerce site indexed and getting it on the front of the SERP are two different things. Sure Google will index any eCommerce, but how often will they show up on page 1 of a search for key terms? 😈

        1. Marc says:

          Bah conspiracy theories…

      2. Marc says:

        It’s more of a case of many e-commerce site lifting the same text that everyone else uses to describe their products as well as mediocre to poor internal linking structures. Google loves fresh text that it’s never seen before and gets very bored of the same old same old rehashed again and again. I also find most commerce sites to be overly templated with a very small percent of the page differentiating it from other pages on the site.

        1. Mark Shead says:

          I think ecommerce sites are more likely to show up in Froogle than Google.

  7. Nice review for a read, plus some great tips in the package as well. 😀

    1. Kanwal says:

      Maybe this is John’s response to the recent criticism he has got for selling out with too many ReviewMe reviews. Then again, maybe not. As always its quality content, advertising at its finest.

      1. Marc says:

        If this is an attempt to quell those complaints, it’s a grrrrrrreat one!

  8. This makes more sense than the conventional wisdom I have heard for nearly a year now … Google loves blogs. Google loving selling AdWords seems a more likely explanation. Again, I’m learning, I really think the folks who complain there’s no value in these reviews just aren’t reading.

    And I vote lose the bananas also … bt then the lines across the comments that make them looked crossed out have been around for months and months so goodness knows how long the bananas will be waggling….

    1. Jez says:

      That depends on the review, there have been a couple of good ones and some very poor ones… you cant base an interesting review on rubbish…

    2. Marc says:

      Google doesn’t love blogs. Google loves unique, fresh content. Blogs just happen to be the current leader in that area.

  9. Harry L says:

    I actually think the no 1 market for this blog is guys wanting to buy something for themselves!
    I don’t know any gals that would buy their guy a cigar cutter, but lots of guys would like to have one. ( I can’t believe there is a more expensive model!)

    1. Mark Shead says:

      I think you are right. It would be interesting to see their demographics.

  10. stubsy says:

    I’m learning some good stuff from this blog.

    Hope I’ll be able to put it into practice and get rich like you John

    Cheers

  11. Aris says:

    Out of curiosity, I clicked on Technorati link trying to see, what will it say about this blog so I cut and paste this link:
    “http://technorati.com/search/themensgiftguide.com/blog/category/Fstuff-to-check-out/”

    As of this writing, there were only two links there. Guess who is the first one? A site with 3850-blog links.

    Yes, it is the root of all evil 😆 :

    The Men’s Gift Guide – Affiliate Marketing B…
    1 hour ago in Make Money Online with John Ch… by MotoTTZ · 3,850 blogs link here

    By clicking that link, here is what I got:

    Make Money Online with John Chow dot Com
    Search this blog Rank: 103 (62,725 links from 3,853 blogs)
    URL: http://www.johnchow.com
    Updated: 22 minutes ago

    3 more jump and you’re in Top 100 of Technorati John.

    I don’t know if they are still freezing you John, but here is what I found in your profile:

    Make Money Online with John Chow dot Com
    Rank: 103 (62,725 links from 3,853 blogs)

    http://www.johnchow.com

    John Chow, a damn fine person, friend of the community, Ultimate Fighting Championship contestant, member of the Save the Whales, the man who controls the black market on baby seal pelts and member of the “probably yo’ daddy” foundation.

    With this rank, I think Justin will share what Mitch has enjoyed now after being reviewed by the numero uno evil in the world. 😆

    1. Michael Kwan says:

      So, he’s out of the “huh?” phase? That’s awesome.

      1. Michael Kwan says:

        Well, John just put up a post proclaiming that not only is he out of the “huh” basement, he’s broken into the top 100!

        1. Mark Shead says:

          The HUH phase is very bad. 🙂

  12. Bryan Baker says:

    Hmmm. I checked it out, and it’s an interesting site. Well, another $250 for John 😀

    1. Aris says:

      It’s worth it though. I think $250 well spent. 😆

      1. Marc says:

        It certainly is, a significant majority of John’s commentators seem to be male and most are earning extra cash from their websites. What better target audience could you find 😉

    2. Michael Kwan says:

      Well, John doesn’t get all of the $250. ReviewMe gets their cut too.

      1. Tyler Ingram says:

        It’s 50-50 right?

        1. Michael Kwan says:

          For a normal user, yes, it’s 50-50, but I think John has some sort of special deal.

          1. Marc says:

            Yeah, John mentioned once that if you’re a bigger player you can renegotiate those numbers and he did. Never mentioned where it ended up though, but I wouldn’t expect him to disclose that 🙂

          2. Mark Shead says:

            I would expect that part of the negotiated agreement is to not say exactly what he is making.

      2. Mark Shead says:

        So can John offer reviews directly. So if someone offers $225, they are getting a deal and John is probably getting more than he would normally get.

  13. Joseph.C says:

    After this post JC, I think you will soon have more new e-commerce store Reviews…Are you ready? 🙂 …. great post as always JC

    1. Mark Shead says:

      I’d like to see how much actual revenue this review drove. I think it got some attention, but not dollars.

  14. James says:

    That is one terrific review!
    Nice presell at the end too.

  15. Alvin Phang says:

    You are seriously the real deal.. =) nice post =)

  16. Stephanie says:

    Nice site – definitely found some good ideas for The Boyfriend’s upcoming birthday… and there were just as many things that I want for myself! But being a girl-geek means you tend towards the guy-gadgets, I guess.

    I really love your reviews John – most reviews, I don’t even bother to read, but I always seem to enjoy yours!

  17. Nice review. I wonder how much value they get back from your constructive criticism alone without even considering the link and publicity.

    You could ask for $250 for a review just for the consulting fee to help someone build a website.

    1. Michael Kwan says:

      I think John can very easily demand the top rate of $500 on ReviewMe AND get a bigger than 50% cut.

  18. The thing I’ve wondered about a blog like that is how do you write about it without actually owning the product or getting it for a review/evaluation?

    Otherwise you’re just looking at it on another website and talking about what you think about it without knowing whether it’s really any good or not. Ya know what I mean?

    Vic

    1. Justin says:

      I would agree, as the writer, that this is one of the key problems. I’ve noticed a few other similar blogs that are often “reviewing” items. I don’t feel right about this unless you do have the item in front of you.

      You’ll notice that in my “product reviews” section, I only have one item. I really want to add more here, but I will only do a “review” if I have the item to try.

      The rest of my posts are simply ideas. Granted, much of the content has to come from the other site’s description. However, I try to put the item into context in a man’s life. Most e-commerce sites, including my own, tend to stay to the facts when it comes to product descriptions. I try to include the important points here, but then explain why, or what kind of man would like the particular item.

      Furthermore, the posts are intended to put them all in one place, obviously.

    2. Marc says:

      You’re definitely right, but I don’t think most bloggers pretend to be reviewers in the traditional sense. Bloggers are generally opinion based creatures that try to back up their opinions with links to various “facts” on the net. So if you read a few blogs that have an opinions piece on a product you’re interested in, you’re still going to get tons of information on it, just from a different perspective.

      You might not know if the product can survive a tumble down a flight of stairs, but you may find out that the company has received several published complaints about feature x, as reported over at blah.

    3. Michael Kwan says:

      I think it’s perfectly fair to “review” a blog, because the only product is the text and graphics in front of you. John didn’t review the Mario Bros. music blocks; he reviewed the blog. 🙂

  19. Michael Kwan says:

    Nice review John, and it’s particularly timely, because 1234 Pens is trying to do something similar, in a sense, by creating a promotional pens blog. The thing about running Adsense on a blog like that, though, is that wouldn’t ALL the ads be from competitors? It’d take far too long to go into the competitive ad blocker and put in each and every url, wouldn’t it?

    1. Mark Shead says:

      Are they running adsense on their blog? That would be very strange, you really don’t want to provide that many options for people to leave.

      It also make it seem like they are barely going to stay in business.

  20. I didn’t realize that Google wasn’t playing nice with stores online but it would make sense that they only give them special treatment if they pay. It isn’t like Google runs the search engine out of the goodness of their heart…

    I have to agree that the dancing bananas (or anything else dancing) is a bit distracting. 😕

    1. Nathan Drach says:

      One has to wonder what effect taking the time to write custom content for the items would be. In reality, isn’t that what an affiliate blog is doing?

    2. Mark Shead says:

      Don’t forget about Froogle and Google Base. There you compete on price not on having unique text.

  21. Sonia says:

    John:

    Don’t be hard on yourself. You are a root of all evil and evil is a bit different 🙂

    1. Mark Shead says:

      The root of all evil is the love of money right? So John is “the love of money”.

  22. IndoDX says:

    John, the example blog is rock. You give the right thing in the right place.

    Thanks

  23. jhay says:

    Wow, I never thought Google does that to eCommerce sites. No wonder some Pilipino bloggers who outrank such sites for certain keywords, even if they did not optimized for it, gets the flak from those eCommerce sites that also don’t know about this yet.

  24. Josh Rives says:

    Best ReviewMe you have had. I was fooled into thinking it was a non-paid post. I learned something from a paid post, imagine that.

  25. I agree with your review with one exception: I think people do notice and care that affiliates/merchant members or whatever their particular moniker is. They click and read, etc in spite of that fact because they generally don’t have an alternative choice. I understand that these sites want to earn income but I am convinced it dilutes the sincerity of their review or message.

  26. I go to that site a lot — really helpful. I hear that Iceberg Lettuce Safe is pretty cool, too!

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