For those that have been doing affiliate marketing for a while, you may find this name similar to a program called Fresh Store Builder. They are both actually from the same company, except that Fresh Store Instant is the new platform moving forward. The main function of the software is to build Amazon affiliate stores, a marketing subject that is becoming popular nowadays.
In today’s review, we’ll have a look inside the back office of the software and most importantly, find out if their stores will perform well online.
Fresh Store Instant – Facts and Fees
Basically, FSI is a store builder, hosting provider and community platform designed specifically for Amazon Associates. It is owned by Carey Baird and has been in existence since 2007. They offer 3 types of pricing plans which can be paid monthly or annually.
- Hobbyist (1 store) – $16/month or $160/year
- Entrepreneur (5 stores) – $37/month or $367/year
- Tycoon (25 stores) – $97/month or $964/year
Each plan comes with a bundle of marketing features and every store is pre-built with some basic content and eCommerce solution. What is required on your end is to tag your associate ID and to drive traffic to the site.
So I experimented with the builder and here are my thoughts about its overall functionality.
Plus Features That I Like
Affiliate marketing has a lot to do with niche selection, product choices and optimizing for conversion. What FSI has created is easy access to these three points using their software.
1) If you don’t know what to promote, the wide-range of pre-built stores (they called it the 10 Second Store) can give you some ideas as to what type of niche is profitable out there. It also gives a really good idea just how many products can be involved in a particular category.
2) Since the software is already integrated with Amazon’s product database, finding a product to promote is fairly easy by just entering the keyword terms. For example, when I search for ‘cream’ under the ‘beauty’ category, I get to see a comprehensive list that shows each product’s sales rank, pricing, and customer reviews.
3) The store feature comes with a remote shopping cart system whereby when a customer place a product in the cart, the Amazon cookie length extends from 24 hours to 90 days. This is always something that appeals to affiliates as longer cookie duration can improve sales conversion online.
Negative Features That Will Not Benefit You
1) While most hosting companies offer free custom domains for the first year in their package plans, FSI gives away subdomains and there’s one problem with that. Subdomains almost never rank on the search engines because they are merely an extension of core domains so I don’t see the point of getting one, even for free.
What you will need is a custom domain, preferably a dot com and this can be purchased from various domain registrars. They are much easier to remember and only cost about $15 (or less) per year. This is one of the few investments you must make if you are serious about building an online presence.
2) The next thing I want to comment about is the store design. In the extremely competitive eCommerce industry, I find that the template selections are more or less the same orientation. Here is one example.
It kind of reminds me of how online stores looked like some ten years ago. Personally, I am not impressed and I think you shouldn’t settle for something less than mediocre if you want better user engagement on your site.
3) Having a blog is important to drive free traffic from the search engines because it produces content that can help with ranking. But guess what? There’s no blogging feature within the store builder. There is provision to create a few pages here and there, but they don’t count as blog posts which are published more regularly.
In order to incorporate a blog, one needs to use an external resource such as WordPress and connect it as a subdomain to the store. I find this rather cumbersome because the process is a bit technical. Plus WordPress by itself can be customized into an affiliate store (and a better one at that) so I don’t see the need to go back and forth between the two platforms.
4) Earlier, I mentioned about pre-built content and as convenient as it may sound, it is usually comprised of manufacturers description and product feature information. The danger of using them out-of-the-box is that they are often duplicate content because the suppliers, as well as other store owners, could potentially have the same thing on their sites.
This can lead to Google penalty and loss of traffic as a result. In fact, I need not search very far in order to prove this. Within the FSI forum, members are already selling off sites that aren’t profitable.
This is definitely one scenario you want to avoid when running any type of online business.
5) The feature that baffled me the most is the use of the content spinner. It claims to produce high quality and human-friendly articles using Emulated Natural Language Spinning technology and is being heavily promoted within the platform. Its use is advocated by Carey himself and can be seen integrated into the builder software.
I don’t know about you, but I have used a content spinner and didn’t like it one bit at all. No matter what type of technology name they called it, there’s nothing unique about spun content and it’s a total waste of time.
I know we can all use some help with content writing, but here, you are getting a machine to churn out content for human readers. How can this even be a natural thing? A few might escape Google, but I doubt if the audience would ever resonate with automated content in the long run.
6) Lastly, a few words about the forum area. It’s not a very robust community. There are a few bad advice being given like encouraging the use of content spinning (again?!) and promoting blackhat marketing services such as buying traffic/backlinks to improve rankings.
Honestly, if you learn how to do good SEO, there’s no need for all these as those techniques have shut down countless sites and will continue to do so in 2018 and beyond.
Will FSI Rank on Google?
Based on what I see, I think any site built on the FSI platform will not rank well on Google if they ever get ranked at all. The absence of a blog and the use of content spinner are some red flags that this platform does not practice the standard marketing techniques.
Yes, some affiliates have been very successful using it (as can be seen from the success testimonials in the forum), albeit the number is very small. My other concern is that they approach the Amazon associate program as if it’s like building an online store, which shouldn’t be like that.
Affiliate marketers are essentially reviewers (first) that gathers information from all over and deliver them in the best interest of the readers. When the number of recommended products grows, then we can talk about building an affiliate store (second) for the shoppers’ convenience.
People read reviews online because they want to understand the experience side of things from a human perspective, and you better not be using a content spinner for that. If they are decided on what product to buy, there’s no need to go through reviews. They can just visit the eCommerce site and purchase directly from there.
Therefore, it’s totally pointless to stuff your site with over 100 product links since you are not an online retailer. Your site will only be surpassed by larger eCommerce places (think Amazon, eBay) and reputable niche blogs, as proven in my article here on why affiliate stores don’t rank as good as you think.
The Affiliate Business Moving Forward
At the point of writing this article, it seems that Fresh Store Instant is working on a makeover for its brand. Carey mentioned that a lot of changes are underway to improve the software and template designs for better SEO execution and user experience. Soon, we may see some eBay model integration, reseller program as well as an affiliate program for the platform itself.
Hopefully, this is a sign that the company is moving away from things that aren’t working and embracing a forward-thinking mindset that’s more wholesome for the affiliate marketing industry. When the bar is raised, I wouldn’t be hesitant to come back to this review and give them a better rating.
Meanwhile, if you are looking to get a good start at the Amazon Associate program, I highly recommend that you check out the training at Wealthy Affiliate instead. It has all the tools and resources you need to get your site ranked on Google – no gimmicks whatsoever.
I hope this piece of information has been insightful and you now know better on which route to choose. If you have any questions or thoughts regarding affiliate marketing, just drop me a line below and I’ll get back to you as soon.