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Monday, June 30, 2008

Tracking Affiliate Links in Google Analytics

One challenge you will face as a poker affiliate (or really any affiliate for any product) is tracking when people click on links that go to the sites you affiliate with.  If you are an affiliate with UltimateBet for example and someone clicks on one of your UltimateBet links that click won't be tracked because the destination page is not on your site.  Even by using the redirection technique I described in this post Google Analytics won't track the page because the page is a redirect page.  Fortunately for us, Google has added some new tricks to its latest urchin javascript code which allow you to tag links and track them at the moment they are clicked.

For example let's say you are affiliated with Doyle's RoomDoyles Room Your link might look something like this:

<a target="_blank" href="http://www.lowlimitholdem.com/goto.php?target=DoylesRoom">

So when someone clicks the link it uses goto.php to redirect them to Doyle's Room with your affiliate code. This link won't be tracked. To track it change it to this:

<a onclick="javascript: pageTracker._trackPageview('/goto.php?target=DoylesRoom');" target="_blank" href="/goto.php?target=DoylesRoom">

The javascript inside the onclick event calls new Google Analytics code which will put whatever is inside of _trackPageView() as the page name to be tracked. For simplicity you can use the same page you're actually calling to track your outgoing clicks or you can create fictitious page names (like doyles_room_click.html) to track. The advantage of keeping there real page redirect is that you can filter inside of Google Analytics for "goto.php" and group all your outgoing clicks together.

For this to work you must be using the new urchin code we described in the previous post.

Good Tracking!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tracking your site with Google Analytics

Ok, so you have a web site (or a blog) and you've created some great original content. How can you get information about who is visiting your site? Well there are a lot of options which range from using tools that are built into your site provider (including log analyzers like Webalizer) to systems costing several thousand dollars like ClickTracks pro. One of the nicest and most powerful tools, though, is completely free and provided by Google: Google Analytics.



After you create your account by signing in with your google account (or creating one if you don't have one) you will be able to add your site to your analytics dashboard by clicking "Add Website Profile"



From here you first enter your site's domain name and select the radio button for "Add profile for a new domain" which means a new Google Analytics domain, not necessarily that your domain itself is new. On the next screen is the first "gotcha".



By default Google Analytics has the legacy tracking code selected. You should click the tab for "New Tracking Code" (as we've done in the image) to use the most up to date tracking code. This is important because it allows you to track links that go offsite (like affiliate links!) and without using the new code you'll have no way to quantify how many people are clicking on your advertisement links and banners.

This tracking code needs to go in the HTML of every page on your site, right before the </body> tag. We recommend that you set up the html files on your site with a php extension (even if the content is not dynamic--yet) so that you can use php include files to encapsulate code like the tracking code above. So you could paste the Google Analytics code for your website into a file called ga.php and then in your site files you can put right before the </body> tag. Again this will only work if you are using a file with a php extension, so you'd set up your index page as index.php. Don't worry you don't need to know a lot of php programming to do this, in fact you can put 100% html in this file and it will work just fine, but it will allow you to add bits of php into your HTML like the include above which are VERY nice.
Also, if you decide to add other tracking to your site (e.g. Quantcast) you can simply add the extra tracking code inside the ga.php file and all of the pages that included that file are instantly updated.

Ok, so you've got your tracking code set up in all the files you want to track in your site and you've clicked finish on the Google Analytics screen.


Now you have to wait...  Google Analytics processes data once a day, usually in the late-night/early-morning hours.  The next day when you log in you can click view reports and get the actual reporting screen.


And you can start seeing who's coming in, what pages they are visiting the most and lots of other information.  We'll go into more of all that in future posts, but for now you've got some real data on your site and it didn't cost you a penny!

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Master of your Domain...

If your goal is to really make a living as an affiliate, as opposed to making some extra spending cash, then you will have to move beyond the free sites like blogger and run some full featured domains. For example to use the PHP redirect technique we described a few posts ago you pretty much have to be running that php file on a hosted account. It just won't work on blogger, etc.

Once you've decided to host your domains you then have to decide whether you want to have them hosted individually or to get a dedicated server for hosting. We use Liquid Web Dedicated Hosting for our Low Limit sites. This isn't the first place we went but they provide excellent support and very reasonably priced Windows Server 2003 hosting. Which brings us to...

Windows Hosting or Linux Hosting

We used Linux hosting for the first six years we were up. To its credit the hosting is usually cheaper because the operating system is free and most internet applications run on a Linux server without problem. In fact many need one. On the down side there are a lot of hackers out there, especially in countries like China who are able to find holes in your version of Linux and mess with your pages in a myriad of ways. In our case we had a bit of JavaScript inserted one time which tried to force people to go to a web site in China which auto-downloaded malware. Not good. After spending FAR too much time with our ISP trying to fix this problem we eventually decided to try Windows Server hosting with the idea that, at a minimum, the operating system is less accessible to financially challenged hackers with lower end computers. For the last two years we haven't had one successful external hack so it seems to be working.

Dedicated Hosting or Shared Hosting

Usually you'll start off with a shared hosting option. This means that your website is running on someone else's server and that server is also running other shared websites for other people/companies. The single advantage to shared hosting is price. The place we used to host from has an excellent basic hosting deal - LunarPages Basic Hosting which right now is about $5/month and is almost impossible to beat. If you want to take full control of your sites and if you will be hosting 20+ domains then you will want to have get dedicated hosting. For this we can definitely vouch for our current hosting company Liquid Web Dedicated Hosting where you can get a server to host all your domains for about $150/month. That may sound like a lot but consider you can host hundreds of domains on this server, which means you can really grow your online presence and business almost without bounds.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

You Are The Wind Beneath Our Wings...

If you are interested in becoming a sub affiliate under us (Low Limit Webs which includes the web sites listed in the first blog entry) then please contact us directly and let us know what you're doing and we will come up with a partnership that will benefit both of us. That means link exchanges, free advertising form us and more to help you succeed. Contact kmslogic@lowlimitholdem.com for more information on that.

Thank you for watching this brief advertisement, now onto our regularly scheduled content :)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Setting up a Blogger account using your own domain name

Let's say you want to create a poker or casino content site in blog form on blogger. There's a few advantages to doing this because the blogging accounts are free at www.blogger.com and it is fairly simple to create a professional looking layout in a matter of minutes leaving you free to supply the important stuff-namely content!

By default your blog's name will be something like myblog.blogspot.com which is ok, but it's much more professional to use your own domain name so your blog becomes www.myblog.com. The blog you're reading now is lowlimitaffiliate.blogspot.com but you are reading www.lowlimitaffiliate.com most likely.

Regardless of where you want to register your domain name the first step is just to go through the normal blog creation process at blogger.com. Now you need to purchase a domain and then make some minor changes to your DNS settings on your registrar. If you use GoDaddy then you should log in there and click on your purchased domain name (under My Domains) and you'll be taken to the following screen. Now click on "Total DNS Control and MX records"



From here you'll see a screen with a bunch of DNS lines in it. For the most part you will delete all of them except for the following two:



Under CNAMES (Aliases) you should edit the www entry to point to ghs.google.com and under the A (Host) settings you should change the @ entry to point to the IP address listed above. Every other line should be deleted from the total DNS settings. Although it won't hurt to leave them people who go to those addresses will land on a GoDaddy page and you don't need to give them TOO much free advertising.

Once your blog is created and you've set up your domain name you can go to the main blogger control panel:

Click on settings, and on the next screen select the "Publishing" tab.


And enter your domain name (with www.) under ADVANCED SETTINGS (click the Advanced settings link if it isn't already showing advanced settings). Also check the box to redirect your domain without www. to your blog as well. Don't ask me why this is even an option...

At this point you are good to go. Domain propagation is very fast and although some remote sites may take a couple of days you should be able to access your blog via www.yourblog.com within an hour (and most likely within minutes).

One last thing: It's not necessary to have your blogger domain name match your custom domain name. The first thing you should do is find an available www. domain at a registrar and then purchase it. After that you can call your blogger account X9233932 or whatever you want and just redirect it to your purchased domain name.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Web Site Coding Tip: Use a PHP "redirect" for affiliate links.

One thing that we came up with after years of being a poker affiliate was the concept of "hiding" your affiliate codes from people when they click on affiliate links. The human nature reason for this is there are a number of people that will avoid clicking on something if they think it will make YOU money (even though it costs them nothing). Many people will look at the address of the link (which will often include an affiliate id, like www.fictitiouspokersite.com/?affiliateid=90210) and just type www.fictitiouspokersite.com in their browser bar to avoid signing up with your affiliate information.

Why? Why ask why, but trust me it's the truth. Maybe you yourself have done this.

When Internet Explorer 6.0 was out you could write some quick javascript to rewrite the status bar so your visitors wouldn't see the affiliate code, but in IE7.0 and in the new version of Firefox you can no longer do that (to help avoid phishing attacks).

The solution to this is to create a simple php file on your web site which will redirect people to your various affiliate sites. The links end up looking something like this:

http://www.lowlimitholdem.com/goto.php?target=GoDaddy

which is what your visitor will see on their status bar. Notice two things: One, your actual affiliate code is hidden from the visitor--they have no idea if you are even using one and Two, you are not even revealing the site address of the place you are sending them. In some cases it may be obvious but it makes for extra work if your visitor wants to Google the site and then go there to avoid clicking on your link.

So how do you do it? Here's the sample code:

File goto.php

<?php
$webroot = $_SERVER['DOCUMENT_ROOT'];
$s_target = $_GET['target'];

switch ($s_target)
{
case "GoDaddy":
header("location: http://www.tkqlhce.com/click-3061995-10378494");
break;
case "UltimateBet":
header("location: http://www.ultimatebet.com?ubAffilID=72855");
break;
}
?>



You can expand this file with more header(); break; pairs for all of your affiliate codes. Then just change your links from http://www.ultimatebet.com?ubAffilID=72855
to http://www.yoursite.com/goto.php?target=UltimateBet

This technique also has the added advantage that all your affiliate IDs become centralized in one file so if (when!) you need to change your affiliate code you can do it one time in one location instead of hunting through perhaps hundreds of pages on your website and changing it in each location.

Try it, you'll like it!

Get a domain, Get a domain, Get a M@&# domain.

Even if you decide to use one of the free services on the internet to create your site (this site is running on Blogger) you should get a unique domain name and not use the default name given to you. For example you can access this blog at lowlimitaffiliate.blogspot.com or www.lowlimitaffiliate.com.

When picking your domain think ahead to try to include one or more
keywords relevant to the content that your site will have. If you are going to be creating a site that reviews poker books, for example, you will want to get as many of those three words in your domain name as possible. This will help a LOT with search ranking in the future and you may regret choosing the name of your dog, etc. as your site name. Yes, it worked for Amazon, but Amazon had about a billion more dollars than you to market.

In our case, we created Low Limit Holdem Strategy and Tactics (www.lowlimitholdem.com) first and then later added other low limit websites (this site is by far the most recent). If you plan on creating a group of related sites you may want to use a similar method so the sites can cross-promote each other.

Take a moment to Google "low limit"...

For registrars we exclusively use godaddy.com... Although they do like to push extra features and options during signup they also have very reasonable prices and frequent discounts. Their domain manager allows you to make easy changes and renewals to dozens of domains at the same time and it's beyond simple to set your domains to private for an extra fee.

Why Private?
Originally, Low Limit Holdem was created with a public registration in 2000. This worked out fine for a while but shortly after the most recent internet poker boom started by the World Poker Tour we started to receive the equivalent of phone spam with gambling and poker sites calling us up and asking us to promote their site on our site at all hours of the day and night.

Obviously this is not a professional way to start a business relationship and so we now use contact forms for link exchange or affiliate suggestions for the Low Limit sites. When you are starting a new site we
highly recommend you get a private registration. People can still contact you through your domain proxy, but only via email and without revealing any personal information about you.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Your Money for Nothing and your Chicks for Free...

The last eight years since the first Low Limit poker website started have been bumpy to say the least! Before the World Poker Tour started the biggest explosion the poker industry has ever seen we were there writing about playing in low limit (small stakes) poker games. Now that that explosion is starting to calm down you may think that there is no opportunity to make money as an online poker affiliate.

Nothing could be farther from the truth. There is still plenty of money to be made if you are willing to spend the time to create and maintain a high quality site (or sites) which provides value to the people who visit it. This means, among other things, that you have to have a heck of a lot more than a bunch of keyword spam and a list of poker rooms to sign up at! The purpose of this blog is to help you with your goal of creating a high quality, content rich poker site and to give you "insider information" on the various affiliate programs that are available.

So should you take the plunge and start a poker or gambling related site? The answer depends on the following:
  • Are you willing to spend a lot (20+ hours a week) of time building, maintaining and promoting your site(s)?
  • Are you able to think and act long term? You may not see much or even any money for several months after you start your site.
  • Are you willing to deal with uncertainty? All of these affiliate programs are outside the United States and if they decide to treat you unfairly there's little or nothing you can effectively do about it (the good news is that they are ALMOST always quite fair)
  • Do you have to money to invest in web hosting and tools (like an HTML editor, image editor, etc.) necessary to create, maintain and publish your sites?
  • Do you have something to contribute to the Gambling or Poker visitor (this could be strategy or other information, trip reports, etc., but something they will find value in)? This one is critical.
If you answered YES to all of those questions then you can make some very decent extra income (the sky really is the limit, but with a dedicated effort you can definitely add a few thousand to your monthly income month after month).

We have some of the best affiliate programs listed on the right link bar and by signing up under us (as a subaffiliate) you gain some additional advantages including automatic links and supports from ALL of the Low Limit web sites, which include:

http://www.lowlimitholdem.com
http://www.lowlimitomaha.com
http://www.lowlimitstud.com
http://www.lowlimitforum.com
http://www.lowlimitblog.com

and of course this site.

Whether you sign up under us or not you can benefit from the experience we've had creating, marketing and maintaining our sites and promoting online poker, so read on!