What If Your List Building Broke All The Rules?

First, let’s talk about the “rules” of list building.

  • The reason to have a list is so you can SELL them stuff. LOTS of stuff.
  • You build the list by offering a freebie. It doesn’t matter what the freebie is, so long as it entices them to sign up and it’s vaguely related to your niche.
  • You build the list using a squeeze page because you don’t want to distract them with content.

Do you agree that this is generally (as in almost always) how it’s done?

Then lets see what might just happen if we BREAK these rules…

First, the “selling lots of stuff.” Of course this is why we have a list, right? Why else would you build a list if not to make sales? Well, what if you built the list so that you could build relationships, much like you do on Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media? What if all you offered to your list was great content and no sales promos – what would happen?

  • Your open rate would likely go through the roof.
  • Your readers might actually stay with you instead of unsubscribing. And they might READ your stuff.
  • Your readers might even forward your emails to other people, who then sign up to your list.
  • You can send people from your newsletter back to your website to soak up more of what you have to offer, thus increasing your web traffic.
  • People will learn to TRUST you and your brand more.

Pretty radical, right?

But what about selling? How are you going to make money? Simple. On the occasions when you want to sell, you send people to your website. Maybe you send them to an article about increasing conversions, and in that article you recommend a resource. Or you send them to a blogpost about fitness, and along with giving some great tips you also recommend the same fitness book you’re reading.

Because your open rate is through the roof and because your readers pay attention to what you say and they trust you, they are then far more likely to act when you recommend something.

Let’s tackle that second rule of list building – “It doesn’t much matter what the freebie is so long as it entices them to join.”

Really? Someone who probably has never heard of you before has just joined your list in exchange for your freebie. Let’s say it’s an ebook. So one of the first impressions they have of you and your work is what? You got it – the EBOOK. So what’s your ebook? Some PLR crap you threw together in about 10 minutes. Whoop-dee-do.

But what if you took some time and made a really high quality product with tons of great, usable information and even formatted it beautifully – what would their impression of you be then? Totally different, that’s for certain. Now they’ll think highly of you – highly enough to OPEN your emails, read them, go back to your website, and yes, buy the products you might occasionally recommend.

Last but not least, the third rule of list building – use a squeeze page. Why do we use squeeze pages? Because we’re holding the visitor hostage. Imagine the following spoken in a Gestapo-like accent: “YOU VILL FILL OUT DIS SQUEEZE PAGE OR YOU VILL NOT PASS!” (Yikes!) Do you know how many times I’ve been sent to a squeeze page only to close it as fast as I would kill a cockroach I found in my kitchen? And can you tell me you feel any differently?

Then it’s likely safe to conclude that many of the people who land on your squeeze page may feel the same way. Even those who do fill it out probably do so reluctantly.

Worse yet, tests have shown that leads generated from squeeze pages are worth far less in monetary terms than leads generated from opt-in forms on pages filled with great content.

Sure, you will indeed capture (notice that word “capture”) more emails from a squeeze page than from an opt-in form on your website. But one email from the opt-in form can be worth more to you than a dozen or more leads from the squeeze page.

Why? Because they don’t know you or what you can offer them at the squeeze page level. They are stone cold on you. And they tend to remain that way because next they’re sent to a SALES PAGE where you are immediately trying to SELL them something.

But when they opt-in to your list from your website, they’ve seen your work. They’ve seen your name. They’ve probably seen YOU if you have a photo or video of you there. They’re getting to know you. To like you. To TRUST you. They actually want you to email them. They’re not filling out the form because they have to, just to get to the next page. They’re filling it out because they WANT TO.

I know, what a concept, right?

So go ahead – I DOUBLE DARE YOU – start breaking the list building rules and see what happens. I will bet you will have a much better and more responsive list of people who know, like and trust you.

And yes, as an added benefit you might even make MORE money. Now what a pity that would be, right? 😉

5 Ways to Come Up With a Million Dollar Business

How many of you guys want to start a business, but you’re waiting for that one great idea?

I used to think that way. I thought me starting a business would require:

1. A genius business idea that no one’s ever thought about before. (And when I see someone else with a great business I think, “Why didn’t I think about that?”)
2. Me having to raise money or borrow a huge loan from the bank

The main issue I hear from people who want to start in business is:

“I don’t have a good business idea”.

I have good news: coming up with a business idea is easier than you think. And it’s also cheaper and faster than ever to start a business due to the internet / globalization.

I LOVE studying and reading about businesses. Even though I’m focused on the affiliate marketing industry, I’m coming up with great ideas all the time.

The theory that you need “one big idea” is a major cop out. There’s a quote I like: “Good artists copy, great artists steal”. This quote means that the best ideas are ones that you straight up jack from one place, and then use them in a slightly different way as your own.

Most of the millionaires I know didn’t make their fortunes from some crazy new idea, they used one of the 5 models I describe in this post to create a business.

There are other business models out there, but these are a good start.

Model 1. Bring an Existing Business into a New Location

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It seems like every street in major cities has a frozen yogurt shop. Either Pinkberry or Red Mango innovated the concept. The first movers must’ve made a lot of money.

But you know who else made a lot of money? The guys who saw the idea working well, and brought it to new markets and new countries / cities.

That’s why people who travel a lot tend to be great entrepreneurs – they are exposed to new business ideas constantly. When I’m overseas I crave things like Amazon Prime and Whole Foods. I always see massive opportunity for expansion of US businesses and their models overseas.

Here’s another concept: Some of the TOP iPhone games have actually been RIP OFFS of popular games from 20+ years ago. The developers just ported them to a NEW market (and a different time).

How many of you have parents or grandparents that play Scrabble on their mobile?. We’re seeing this in movies too, pretty much every 6 months a “new” Marvel movie comes out.

Scaling a campaign that’s profitable to a new GEO that’s just been released would be an affiliate example of this business model.

The Blue Ocean Strategy

blue-ocean-strategy

This first business model is linked with the idea of a Blue Ocean Strategy (BOS). If you’ve heard of Porter’s Five Forces, BOS is kinda the opposite. BOS focuses on low cost, and high product differentiation so it’s almost impossible for anyone to compete with you.

One example of a business that has executed BOS is Southwest Airlines. They discovered that a lot of people will drive long distances instead of fly just due to the cost. These people would fly if it were more convenient, but it was too expensive.

Southwest Airlines decided to target these people by making flights dirt cheap, having more frequent flights on the routes people would traditionally drive, and shorter check-in times to make it faster than driving all up.

Questions to ask yourself: What have you seen in another city/country that might work in your city? Can you test it cheaply and easily? Have you seen something that should be a lot cheaper, and there isn’t really much competition?

Model 2. Take an Existing Business MODEL and Apply it to a New Market

dollar-shave-club-dubin-blades-ad-01

Subscription boxes are all the rage.

I can’t believe some of the crazy shit people are making into subscription-based products. (You’ve gotta check out that link lol).  I saw them first in beauty. You spend $20 a month, and they send you makeup samples in the mail each month. Then other people took the MODEL and expanded it into beef jerky, shaving, perfume, etc.

Something I subscribe to is TrunkClub. I feel like I’m their perfect target customer because I love having new clothes, but I hate waiting in lines and trying things on in-store. They’ve kinda revolutionized shopping, here’s how it works:

You fill out a form with your measurements, then a stylist hand picks items for you. You can then approve them, and the ones you approve are sent to you. You can send back ones you don’t like for free.

The basic idea is that you don’t have to invent a business model from scratch.

Look at the DollarShaveClub business model. These guys killed it with their razor delivery service, but what’s to stop you doing the same thing with another industry? There are tens of thousands of items you could specialize in to replicate a service like this. Sites like Alibaba or AliExpress give you access to millions of products around the world you can import.

In affiliate marketing an example of this strategy could be being the first to try PIN submits in a vertical.

Model 3. Sell Valuable Information

ebook

Are you an expert at anything? Package it up into an ebook, online course, workshop, etc.

Don’t think you have to be THE BEST in the field. You just have to be BETTER THAN the audience.

Example: Lately I’m trying to improve my posture more. I don’t need to learn from the world’s best posture instructor. I could give money to a broke college student who had the same issues as me, but solved it.

Remember that there are levels to this, and you don’t have to start at the top. A posture coach could charge anywhere from $20 per hour up to $500+ if you’re one of the best in the industry. Same goes with information you sell. I always try to overdeliver on content, and undercharge, and then increase price when there there’s too much demand for me to satisfy.

For the first four years of my blog, I didn’t sell anything.

Don’t under rate your skills either. You don’t need to have a degree or industry certification for whatever you are an expert at. Your customers don’t about your qualifications, they just want THEIR problem solved. People only care about what you can do for them.

Do you think anybody ever asks me about my degree in marketing before they join my coaching Academy? All they wanna know is that I’ve made a lot of money in affiliate marketing and I can teach them to do the same. Nobody cares about my degree, or any other training I’ve done.

If you’re interested in this business model, here’s an interesting article: A guy wrote about starting a hotdog cart and made a million dollars in book sales.

Model 4. Solve Your Own Itch

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This is probably my favorite business model. A lot of businesspeople will tell you the same thing – if something is bugging you, there might be a business opportunity there.

Keep a notebook and write down any problems you experience in a day. I’ve started carrying an actual moleskin notebook and pen lately for these kinda ideas and thoughts. So many things go wrong every day, so try to see if there’s a way you could profit from these shortcomings of other businesses/software etc.

Challenge: Try this just for today: every time you catch yourself complaining, ask yourself “Can I make some money if I solve this problem?”.

  • Does a certain app always crash?
  • Are you struggling to find a certain type of person?
  • Is it impossible to find simple, easy-to-follow info on a certain topic?
  • Have you cracked the code to anything (getting A+ grades in college, nailing every job interview, becoming fluent in German in under 6 months)?
  • Is your city lacking a certain food, skill, or event?
  • Are people in your area always complaining about the same thing?

Most of us use the same things every day (chairs, desks, phones, laptops, food, beds, software, cutlery etc), and there are still new products being marketed every day that go on to make millions.

I see so many problems in software/apps that I use every day.

5. Out-Execute The Competition

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Ever thought of a great idea, but then you discover someone else did it first? You think, “Ah well, guess I’m too late”.

There were plenty of cellphones around before iPhone came onto the scene.

Yahoo / Alta Vista existed for years before Google entered.

There are plenty of great songs on iTunes, but every single year, thousands of new musicians make millions of dollars writing new songs.

There’s always a market for someone who can DO THINGS DIFFERENTLY. I’m a fan of 1000 True Fans by Kevin Kelly (it’s free). He goes deeper into the idea that people are always trying to find new things to love.

What about something as simple as board games?

Cards Against Humanity came in and crushed it in a market that was flatlining, and they’ve made $12 million + in sales. Why wasn’t this a thing before? Who knows, but it’s a crazy idea that was executed well by a bunch of guys who’d just graduated college.

There are a lot of guys out there trying to make millions from apps, but I’m guessing there weren’t too many guys trying to make money from board games or playing cards.

Out-executing DOESN’T mean you have to make a better product.

Sometimes the competition has a better product than you could hope to create, but their marketing is terrible. When a company has bad marketing, they aren’t selling much. After reading this blog, you probably know a LOT more about marketing and driving sales than most business owners… You could use your knowledge of marketing to get more sales than your competition, even though they technically have a superior product.

I’ve also seen guys with marketing skills consult to companies that are on the brink of financial collapse, in exchange for a small piece of their business if they can turn them around. Consulting is one way to make a lot of money in a short time.

How To Find These Business Opportunities

U.S. Army Sgt. Eddie Wilkins, Avenger Battery Non-Commissioned Officer in Charge, 263rd Anti-Air Missile Defense Command, South Carolina National Guard, visually searches for a opposing forces aircraft during Exercise Amalgam Dart, Camp Rilea, Oregon, June 15, 2009. (U.S. Air Force photo by Technical Sgt. Sean M. Worrell)

The main reason most people don’t find these opportunities is because they’re too busy. To think up, or recognize a business idea is one thing, but to go back home and research, plan and execute it is another thing.

The hardest thing about a business is taking that first leap of faith AFTER you get an idea. Whether it’s purchasing your first item for resale, launching your first affiliate campaign, sending your first email to your list, landing your first client or whatever.

Once you take that first step, your mind starts solving problems automatically, and it knows what steps to take next.

Common Mistakes After Having A Business Idea

Coming up with an idea is kinda fun, everything after that people label as “work”.

The biggest mistake I’ve seen people do is that they wait. They wait for the perfect business idea, or they want to wait until everything’s “in place”.

Let me tell you from my experience: the time is NEVER perfect.

When I started my business 8 years ago, I had every excuse in the world. I didn’t have money for a business, I didn’t have the time, I didn’t have connections or a network, and I didn’t have any experience.

There’s a quote I love:

“Entrepreneurs jump off a cliff, and build a parachute on the way down.”

The longer you wait, the more the odds stack against you.

You get the promotion that takes more time. You get married / have kids so now it’s HARDER for you to take risks. You have a nice car, a mortgage, so it’s harder to risk it all.

There’s a great article by Derek Sivers that talks about execution vs ideas. His theory is that ideas are a multiplier of execution, so even a weak idea executed well can make you a lot of money.

How to Master & Dominate Traffic Sources P3

Part 1 – Introduction
Part 2 – The Different Traffic Sources
Part 3 – The Bidding Process

Introductions are out the way and it’s time to dig into the good stuff.

I’ve tried to make the concepts as simple as possible, but it may still be confusing if you’ve never run paid traffic before. Take some action and re-read the posts later once you have some experience. I’m here to teach how to dominate paid traffic, not how to make $10 a day with adsense blogs.

Bids

Every network has their own algorithm for how they deliver traffic. The right bid price so that you’re profitable, getting the high quality traffic, and still getting volume. Bid too low and you won’t get any volume. Bid too high and it eats into your profit margins. It’s a balancing act.

The Relationship Between Bids, Click-through Rate, & Volume

Lets do some simple math to understand how some places work. Remember there are 1000+ places to buy traffic from and each one does things a little different; I’m trying to show you the fundamentals of how it should work.

eCPM

The ad world is rule by a metric called eCPM which stands for “effective cost per thousand impressions.” It’s a fancy way of saying how much the website makes for every 1000 times the ad is shown.

eCPM = (Total Earnings / Impressions ) * 1000

Imagine a real world scenario.

You have a small blog about how to make money online. It gets about 30,000 views a month (impressions). An advertiser offers to pay you $500 for a square ad on your size bar.

eCPM = ($500 total earnings / 30,000 impressions) *1000 = $16.67

Larger traffic sources and websites work off of an auction model which maximizes their eCPM. 

There’s typically 3 ways to buy traffic: CPM vs. CPC vs Flat Rate.

CPM

Some places that work off a CPM model include media buying & a lot of adult-oriented traffic sources,

When we bid on a CPM basis, it means we’re paying for 1,000 impressions. With CPM, we take all the risk. What does that mean? It means if I pay for 10,000 impressions and no one clicks the ads, I still have to pay for it.

That’s why with CPM it’s important that you have ads with a very high click-through rate.

How do traffic sources allocate their volume? Whichever advertisers they can make the most money from. It’s pretty simple, usually whoever bids the most will get the most traffic.

Mr A bids .45cpm
Mr B bids .35cpm
Mr C bids .65cpm

Mr C will get most of your traffic because he’s bidding the most. If you’re selling a car, you’re going to sell it to the highest bidder right?

One X factor is some places will give you a “bonus” for a higher daily budget.

Mr A bids .45cpm and has a budget of $3,000
Mr B bids .40cpm and has a budget of $5,000

Even though Mr A has a higher bid, Mr B might get more traffic because he’s more valuable to them with his higher spend limit.

To get more traffic with a CPM bidding model, just increase your bids and up that daily spend limit.

Cost Per Click Bidding 

Things are a little more complicated with CPC bidding because they factor in your click-through rate in their formula.

It’s not as simple as whoever bids the most, gets the most traffic. Lets illustrate with some simple math. Imagine 3 advertisers are competing for the same placement.

Mr A is bidding $0.75 a click. His ad is shown 140000 times, but it only clicked by people 600 times. His click-through rate (CTR %) is .43. The website earnings is $450 from Mr A. 

Mr A eCPM = ( $450 / 130000) / *1000 =  $3.21

Mr B is bidding $0.50 a click. His ad is shown 100000 times, but it is clicked 700 times. His click-through rate (CTR %) is .7%. The website earnings is $350 from Mr B.

Mr B eCPM = ($350 / 100000) *1000 = $3.50

Mr C is bidding $0.45 a click. His ad is shown 100000 times, but it is clicked 900 times. His click-through rate (CTR%) is .9%. The website earnings is $405 from Mr C.

Mr C eCPM = ($405 / 100000) *1000 = $4.05

What’s the point of all the numbers and nerdy formulas?

You can see that Mr C was actually bidding the lowest, but because of his amazing click-through rate, the website actually makes the most money from him (he has the highest eCPM). They are going to give him more traffic even though the other guys are bidding more.

On a CPC bidding model, the high bids doesn’t matter if not many people are clicking the ads.

As a reward for his high CTR, the traffic source will give him a discount. Even Mr C though he’s paying .45 now, he might be able to lower his bids to $.37 cpc and still get traffic. This is their incentive for Mr C to keep split testing and aiming for a higher click-through rate. Everyone wins because more people click the ads and Mr C gets cheaper clicks.

This is a major part of dominating a traffic source. Learn how to be a better create better ads and get high click-through rates.

Flat Rate

Flat rate just means you buy all the impressions at a set rate. Website A has 10,000,000 impressions a month. You do a small test and see that it’s profitable. You could buy out the website or a certain placement for the entire week or month. When you do this, you can get a big discount.

There was one traffic placement that was insanely profitable for me a while back. How did I dominate? I bought every single ad on there by pre-paying for it a few months in advance.

If you’re using Traffic Source A and you see that a certain website is very profitable, is there a way to cut the middle man and go direct? You can get a significant discount.

Of course there are risks. One is you’re wiring a significant amount of cash. Another is what if your offer goes down or gets capped? Make sure you have backups ready. Also it’s always good to start small and build your way up.

Bidding Strategies

For bidding strategies it’s all about experimentation. There are no golden rules; what works at one place could be the exact opposite strategy at another.

  • Bid low first,  then raise your bids
  • Bid high first, then lower your bids
  • Bid exactly what their suggested bid is
  • How fast do you adjust bids?
  • Different traffic sources calculate your new bids at different times.
  • Bidding Cost Per Click vs CPM.
  • Run of network traffic vs direct placements
  • Some places give you a bonus if you have a high campaign limit. (Warning: Be careful. If you are going to create a super high spending limit on your account, watch it closely and make sure everything backs out).
  • Some places give you a bonus if you have a lot of $ in your prepaid balance.
  • Sometimes bidding higher can be more profitable because you get access to better placements. Think about it, it’s classic supply & demand.

Start small. Become profitable first before you try to get more traffic. Don’t set a higher spend limit than what you can afford.

Test. Experiment.

Going to War

I love this shit.

This is where you and another guy are the #1 and #2 guys and you’re fighting for the top spot.

My best advice is to really focus on increasing your profit margins. Higher CTR ads, better landing page, better offer, higher payout on the offer, better lead quality, etc. The higher your profit margin, the higher you can afford to bid.

There’s also some more advanced concepts to bidding like game theory. Lets say I am #2 with a $.35CPM bid. The top guy is at #1 with a $.40 CPM. If I try to outbid him with $.43, he might outbid me again to $.45. The higher the bid goes, we both lose. 

Another concept is what I call reverse engineering. I can see his landing pages, offers, get an idea of his payouts, ads, etc. and roughly calculate his profit margins. I can get an idea if my margins are higher than his and bid accordingly.

Also a lot of other strategies, but I’m going to keep those to myself.

Conclusion

Pick a traffic source and try to figure out what their algorithm is for the bidding process and find the sweet spot. Do you want massive volume or would you rather have a lower volume but more profitable?

Are there any tricks you can find to get the most traffic with the lowest bids?

This article took a lot of time and experience to write so sharing it is much appreciated.

How to Master & Dominate Traffic Sources P2

CHOOSE YOUR DESTINY! 

Part 1 – Introduction

Welcome to part 2 of my series. Hopefully I’ve convinced you it’s better to specialize in a type of traffic source instead of bouncing around. Before I get too deep into this, I want to talk more about the traffic sources themselves and get familiar with them.

The main differences in traffic sources depends on where the traffic’s fromoptimization variables. and offer matches.

Where the traffic’s from – Pretty simple. Is it from cell phones, social media websites, ads on Google. Different places have different audiences. 

Optimization variables –  Every single campaign has the same basic principles. Find the best offer, obtain higher payouts, test direct linking vs. landing pages, test which landing pages work best, etc. Optimization variables are the extra things to test which are specific to the traffic source. With mobile you have to see which carrier converts better. In Facebook you can test age and gender. Adwords brings something called quality score.

Offer Matches – Some traffic sources “fit” with certain offers better than others. Imagine you’re buying traffic from porn site. A large majority of the audience are guys so it wouldn’t make sense to try to send them anti-aging wrinkle cream. If there’s a gaming website with a large kid audience, advertising online casinos would be a very bad idea.

I can categorize most of the traffic sources into 7 different types and here’s a brief look at each of them and some of my experiences.

Traffic Sources

PPV

Introduction: PPV networks install toolbars on people’s computers (with their permission), and in exchange the PPV network advertises to their computer via pop-unders. Why would people allow these advertisements? Well the toolbars are things like wallpapers, weather, and other novelty things people install.

What happens is if Bob visits a site like bankrate.com, it could trigger a “pop under” from the traffic source. He won’t see it until he minimizes his browser. Another interesting thing to note is bankrate.com doesn’t receive any $, it all goes to the PPV network.

The beauty of PPV is the targeting. Advertising on a site like ESPN.com is very expensive, PPV allows you to target that demographic at a fraction of the cost.

Affiliate Marketing Example: An affiliate could have an offer for a free credit report. What kind of websites would people visit if they needed a credit report? Buying a home, buying a car, visiting personal finance websites, etc. Run traffic to those sites, eliminate the placements that don’t make money.
Traffic Sources: Traffic Vance, LeadImpact
Optimization Variables: Placements
Offer Matches: Credit Reports, Financial, Software downloads, etc. This type of traffic is very flexible and just depends on the placements you target.
Pro tips: You need a very strong server due to the amount of traffic you’re sending.

Mobile

Introduction: Advertising on cell phones. Super high growth, especially in Asian and Latin American countries. The downside is that the optimization process involves a lot more work than what most marketers are use to.
Affiliate Marketing Example: Promote a debit card offer. What kind of guys are most likely to convert for this offer? Young broke people. What kind of carriers does this demographic use? They’re probably not using iPhones /w a $100 a month contact – more than likely they are using a feature phone and pre-paid phone carriers.  
Traffic Sources:
 Mmedia, Airpush, Leadbolt, Tapit!, InMobi, Adfonic, admob
Optimization Variables: Types of ads (push vs banners), Carriers, Handsets, Operating System
Offer Matches: Sweepstakes offers (win an iPhone), mobile dating, mobile gaming, app installs, lead gens
Pro Tips: Proper Mobile tracking is a must. Mobaff & ImobiTrax are what the top guys use. Also for mobile, test all the ad sizes.


A great map of mobile traffic sources put together by the guys at IMGrind

Social

Introduction: The benefits of advertising here is we have never had so much specific information on people. While most places you target by a website someone visits, social sources allow you to narrow in on who they are. The users voluntarily fill in their real age, gender, what college they went, what are their favorite shows, etc.
Affiliate Marketing Example: Gaming is always a solid niche on Facebook that you can direct link. Get really aggressive with testing the images to get a CTR as high as possible so that your clicks are cheaper. Be careful targeting kids under 18 as it could be hard for the advertiser to monetize causing you to get kicked off the offer.
Traffic Sources: Facebook, PlentyofFish
Optimization Variables: Age, gender, interests. POF has a lot of unique targeting options such as login count
Offers that work: Dating dominates PlentyofFish. For Facebook gaming / dating are quite popular. They actually don’t allow a lot of offers on the platform to provide a better user experience, however with properly cloaking you can get a lot of things through.
Pro tips: It’s all about CTR. I would say for a social ad Image > headline > ad text > call to action text. Don’t forget to mess with effects in the images – make them sharper, add a border, photoshop some effects, etc.

pof
Plenty of Fish provides a lot of room for creativity due to their targeting options

Adult Traffic

Introduction: Some people estimate that 30% of all internet traffic is porn related. Things have exploded the past few years due to youtube-style sites that offer free porn. With this large amount of traffic, advertisers and affiliates have been able to figure out ways to monetize it.
Affiliate Marketing Example: Casual dating offer + tube site traffic.
Optimization Variables: Placements, Ad Format (Banner, In-Video, text, etc.), Site Targeting (Choosing specific websites vs. every site on the network)
Traffic Sources: TrafficJunky, Exoclick, JuicyAds, Adxpansion, Plugrush, etc.
Offer Matches: Casual Dating, Male Enhancement Products
Pro Tips: If you’re doing casual dating then focus on lead quality. If things are too competitive and expensive on the popular traffic sources, explore some less saturated ones. Also, go international.

PPC

Introduction: This is where Google makes all their money. If someone searches for “car insurance” then they have a buyers intent and more likely to convert if they click on car insurance ads in the search results.
Affiliate Marketing Example: Lets say you wanna go with my car insurance example. Most of the top car insurance keywords are wayyy out of your budget due to competition with Geico, Progressive, Allstate, and the rest of the guys with large war chests. You’re more likely to be profitable by focusing on long tail keywords such as “Car insurance in Atlanta” or “Honda Civic Insurance” that have less competition and cheaper bids.
Traffic Sources: Adwords, BingAds
Optimization Variables: Quality Score, bids / position
Offer Matches: Pretty much anything works here due keyword targeting.
Pro Tip: Google Content Network is amazing. Lots of traffic and you don’t have to deal with quality score. Bing has a lot of traffic and are more affiliate friendly compared to Google.

CPC Networks

Introduction: A combination of media buys / ppc. They feature either text ads or a image / text ad hybrid and you pay on a CPC basis. The main benefit of these networks is they have a lot of volume due to some of their placements.  
Optimization Variables:
Site placements, Ad CTR
Traffic Sources: Pulse360, Adsonar, Adblade
Offer Matches: Health & Beauty
Pro Tip: Not for the newbies due to higher CPC costs

Media Buys

Introduction: Purchasing display banners on websites. You can either do this through an ad network, or buy directly from a website for a flat fee. They always run on a CPM basis, and can have pretty high minimum deposits required. 
Optimization Variables:
Site Placements 
Traffic Sources: Sitescout, Valueclick, TribalFusion, etc.
Offer Matches: Health & Beauty, Dating
Pro Tip: Get brutal with split testing your creatives and removing non-performing placements.

What to Choose?

Each one of these places there are guys making thousands of dollars a day in profit. There’s no “best” traffic source.

If you’re brand new then I’d suggest: Mobile, Social, and Adult. I mentor a lot of people and those are the places I’ve seen newbies succeed a little easier in. Another consideration is they’re relatively friendly if you have a small budget.

Stayed tuned for part 3 next week! Don’t forget to comment and share this article if you like it

How to Master & Dominate Traffic Sources P1

What’s Your Target?

When I first read about internet marketing 6 years ago, it took me nearly a year before I saw my first profit. One of the biggest reasons was that I was kind of all over the place: I’d launch a campaign on Adwords, another one on Facebook, & then I’d work on my SEO sites. I was taking action, but it was spread out.

I wasn’t able to make a quantum leap until I forced myself to focus. By that point I had $3,000 in savings and told myself 100% of that money was going into Facebook ads. No chasing bright shiny objects, and no switching focus because of some blogger’s case study.

By focusing only on Facebook, I learned something new each day.

  • The best way to optimize bids at the time
  • The tricks and best time zones to get ads approved easier
  • Which niches Facebook allowed, and what made money
  • The most profitable countries

All the little “a-ha” moments started adding up. Within 3 months of this decision, I went from -$xxx days to +$xxxx days and was able to quit my job. I wouldn’t have been able to do this if I was fucking around on so many places.

Mastering a Niche vs a Traffic Source

A common question I see is if it’s better to focus on a niche or to focus on a traffic source. There’s no right answer because either way makes money. I’ve always preferred focusing on the traffic sources because a lot of the knowledge is invisible to competitors. People can easily take your landing pages, offers, & creatives. However, they can’t see your bidding strategies, optimization process, your understanding of the algorithm to deliver bids, & your relationships with the ad reps.

But what about diversifying? Keep in mind just because you’ve mastered Airpush doesn’t mean you’re stuck there forever. What works there probably works on Leadbolt or Sendroid, which are similar places. You can also test offers initially on Airpush, and then scale to other mobile traffic sources.

Once you felt you’ve “mastered” a traffic source, feel free to spend around 20% of your time trying out other places.

Picking a Traffic Source

I need to make something very clear: there’s no magic traffic source. There’s a thousand+ places to buy traffic from and people are making money on every single one of them. If you’re new, then I recommend sticking with the places that everyone else is advertising on. Once you get the basics down and start having a solid cashflow, you can start exploring the more obscure places.

Imagine it’s the 1800’s and you’ve arrived in California for the gold rush. You have no clue where to start digging. What I’d do is start digging where everyone else is because you know there’s gold there. Even though it’s competitive, I’m focused on improving my skills. I can also observe and learn from watching my competitors. You could go off and start digging randomly in other places, but that’s completely based on luck. A lot of motivation is due to making steady, incremental improvements. 

Some Things I Like in a Traffic Source:

  • Volume – The most important. I’m not really looking to master a traffic source if the potential spend limit’s only $500 a day. What I’ve learned it sometimes a $500/day campaign and a $10,000 could take the same amount of work, the difference is how much traffic’s available.
  • They like affiliate marketers – This is probably why I haven’t worked with Adwords in years. The amount of traffic is amazing, but I don’t want to deal with the headaches of getting my accounts banned.
  • Good interface – Can I bulk upload ads? Is the interface clean and easy to navigate around?
  • Tracking tokens – Definitely useful if they offer dynamic tokens and conversion pixels to help me optimize.
  • Responsive ad reps – Are they knowledgable about the platform and can help me?
  • Payment Options – Not really a deal breaker, but the more options the better. Also I hate places that only take Paypal and pass on that 4% fee to me.
  • The Moats – The barriers to entry for new competitors. An example is some places require a referral or a large $ deposit to start advertising.
  • Accurate Traffic – This means if I want to buy traffic from Canada, I want 100% of the traffic to be Canadian. If my tracker shows 15% of the traffic’s coming from India, that means I’m already at a -15% ROI loss.

Newbie Recommendations

There’s literally 1,000+ traffic sources to choose from. I’ve highlighted these because they’ve been proven to be profitable over the years and are easy to start.

A large majority of guys start out with either Facebook or PlentyofFish. It’s probably because the optimization process is easier to understand: you’re focused mainly on creatives and demographics. Something like mobile might be slightly harder because you add in extra variables such as carriers, operating system, handsets, & requires a top of the line tracking system.

Also if you noticed all the places I recommend are self-serve (which means you upload the creatives and pretty much do everything yourself). Managed buys (where the ad representative handles everything ) can be very, very profitable. If you’re starting out though, you should have a solid base with self-serve platforms. They get you comfortable with the optimization process instead of relying on someone else. Also managed buys tend to require a large deposit.

But….There’s Too Much Competition

If there’s money in something, there will be competition. It’s the nature of the beast, get use to it. Don’t wish things were different, work on becoming better.

How can you compete as a newbie? You can always attack where they aren’t. If everyone’s advertising in USA, why not advertise in a smaller country? $200 a day profit in a small country is better than losing money going after a bigger country (if you’re on a low budget). If everyone’s going broad, then tighten your demographic and make your creatives more targeted.

Let the lions fight over the the buffalos. You can either be trampled by the lions hunting in the same area, or be somewhere else eating rabbits.

Going Forward

At the end of the day, keep in mind the fundamentals are always going to be the same everywhere. Lower your costs, find the best offers, find the best ads, find the best landing pages, & scale. My point is by focusing on mainly one traffic source, you shorten the learning curve and start building knowledge most of your competitors won’t have.

Keep a lookout on the next article where I’ll talk about the bidding process, analyzing the competition, building relationships, and much more.

Tips on Networking With More Successful People

A key part of growth is to improve your network.

Study the biography of any successful person and you can see how key relationships accelerated their growth.

Small problem though – Most of us aren’t born into great connections. You have to start from scratch and develop relationships with people you admire if you want them in your network.

That’s something I’m still doing to this day. There are people more successful than me in certain areas, and I want to learn from them.

On the other hand, I’ve had various people reach out and want to meet me in person. Most of these meetings I’ve had have turned out pretty bad from my perspective.

I’m not scolding anyone I’ve met in the past. I’m writing this article because I really want you to succeed. Being a good networker requires social intuition and that can only come from experience and time. I hope I can speed up your journey with some of the big learnings I’ve had over the past decade.

Lets say you’ve secured a meeting with someone. These tips could be the difference between a one-time meeting and a real friendship developing.

1. Respect The Person’s Time

Acknowledge that they are busy and thank them for their time. For example, “I know you’re busy, and I really appreciate your time today. I wanted to meet you because I really respect you and you’re definitely someone worth knowing.” Be humble and flatter them.

Keep the meeting short and concise. If it’s just coffee then 30 minutes is good.

DO NOT under any circumstances be late.

Also you want to make it as CONVENIENT as possible for the person. Schedule the meeting at THEIR convenience and at a location NEAR them. If you live an hour apart, then you’re commuting for 55 minutes to meet them.

Remember that they are doing you a favor by meeting with you.

2. You’re Paying

Having dinner or coffee? Pick up the bill.

It doesn’t matter that the guy is 100x richer than you are. The point is to show your appreciation for them taking their time out to meet with you.

If I find myself at a stripclub next to Zuckerberg, then you can bet he has unlimited access to my credit card.

Here what the god of Asia, Li Ka-Sheng has to say

Second set of funds: To make friends, expand your interpersonal circle. This will make you well off. Your phone bills can be budgeted at $100. You can buy your friends 2 lunches a month, each at $150. Who should you buy lunch for? Always remember to buy lunch for people who are more knowledgeable than you, richer than you or people who have helped you in your career. Make sure you do that every month. After one year, your circle of friends should have generated tremendous value for you. Your reputation, influence, added value will be clearly recognized. You’ll also enhance your image of being good and generous.

3. It’s NOT a Consultation Session

This is BIG.

I meet fans because I want to get to know them as a person, or I just want to hang out. The LAST thing I want to do is get grilled for an hour about affiliate marketing.

Put yourself in the person’s shoes. Lets say he’s a paid consultant whose time is worth $1,000 an hour. It’s rude to spend an hour ask non-stop questions as if you’re a client.

It’s ok to ask questions here and there, but be self-aware.

Also if you do ask questions, make them count. Don’t ask questions that the person has answered 100x on their blog already. When you ask really basic questions then it shows you haven’t really put the time in to learn.

4. DO NOT Make the Entire Conversation About Yourself

This is a rule from the book INFLUENCE by Dale Carnegie.

People love talking about themselves.

Don’t make the conversation about you. It should be 80% asking about them, and 20% about you. Make sure you really LISTEN to what they’re saying.

Show them you’ve done your homework. I like to ask questions that show I’m a huge fan.

Example: I met up with a reader and he just talked to me like an old friend. We talked about traveling, girls, bodybuilding, and philosophy.

He didn’t ask me anything about business or affiliate marketing. It showed me he valued me as a person, rather than just “extract as much value out of him as possible.”

We became good friends. When he finally did ask for help in the industry, I bent over backwards to help him out. The guys who spend an hour asking me for affiliate marketing help? I don’t really see a point of keeping in touch.

5. Ask What’s the Best Way to Stay in Touch.

The conversation’s about to be over and you probably want to keep in touch with this guy. Remember that you want to do it at their convenience.

Example: “Hey man this was an amazing 30 minutes and I learned a lot from you. Thank you. Is there anyway we could keep in touch? I’m not going to be those guys that messages you 10 times a day with stupid questions.”

6. Offer Value

This guy has just helped you. Is there anyway you can help them?

I have different skills I can offer people: optimize their landing pages, help them out with their paid campaigns, or even just promote their brand / product to my audience.

I offer my services to let them know I’m not a leech, and that I’m someone worth getting to know.

Is there anything you can offer the person? I know it can be tough if you’re a newbie and the guy doesn’t seem like he needs much.

That’s why it’s important to LISTEN.

Hey man if there’s anything you ever need just let me know. If there’s anyone way I could be of help to you don’t hesitate to ask me”

Zero Based Thinking

Make Better Decisions Using Zero Based Thinking

I learned an amazing thinking technique a few years ago thanks to Brian Tracy.

It’s called Zero Based Thinking.

Most of your decisions in life will be wrong. That’s how life works. We take action, we make mistakes, and we keep moving forward.

The question is, how do we know we’ve made a mistake? Unfortunately we have these things called “emotions” that can cloud our judgements.

You won’t recognize mistakes until much, much later. Even if you do recognize a mistake, emotions can make everything so much more difficult to. That’s why you’re probably amazing at giving advice to your friends, but aren’t that great at making decisions.

That’s where zero based thinking comes in.

It means “Knowing what I do now, would I still make the same decision?”

If the answer’s no, then it’s time to get out asap.

The easiest way to explain this would be by using a few examples.

Relationships

Many of my friends are at that stage of their relationships.

They’re in their late 20’s, and have been with their girlfriend for 2+ years. On one hand, their significant other is pressuring them for possibly marriage, but they’re not sure if they’re ready to settle down.

If they asked me for advice, I tell them about zero based thinking. “If she wasn’t your girlfriend, would you get into a relationship with her again?”

I’m not encouraging people to end relationships. I’m just telling you to think deeper.

Employees

If you’re a boss, then sooner or later you’re going to make a bad hire. No one bats 100%.

How do you know if you should let someone go?

Well imagine if this person wasn’t working for you. Think about how they fit into your company and all the work they’ve done in the past. Would you hire them again?

If the answer’s no, then you should let them go.

It happens. Maybe they were a GREAT employee in the past, but they can’t keep up with the company’s growth. Or maybe they’ve gotten lazy the past few months.

I’ve let go of employees before and it wasn’t easy. To tell you the truth, it doesn’t get easier the more you do it.

Minimalism

The New Year is coming up and I have too much “stuff.” (I blame it on Amazon prime). It’s so hard to be a minimalist when you love gadgets and technology.

It’s hard to throw things out because we spent money on it, or because we have memories associated.

I’m going to ask myself, “Would I buy this again?” Go through your closet and ask this question for each pair of clothing you bought. Whatever you wouldn’t buy again, give it to charity.

You’ll be more organized, cleaner, and the Salvation army will have a bunch of shitty t-shirts that affiliate networks give away at conferences.

Business

A friend of mine developed an iPhone app.

He poured tons of money into it, and spend over half a year developing it. It never took off.

A tremendous job opportunity came in and he had to make the decision, should he keep focusing on the app or take the job?

Deep down he knew it was time to call it quits but he couldn’t do it. He put in too much time into the project – it was his baby. Also how would he feel if he quit?

I taught him zero based thinking. “You pursued the app and gave it your all. If we could go back in time, would you start the app again?”

He said no. He killed the app and took the job offer.

Is he a quitter? Hell no. Sometimes quitting is the best decision you can make. Now he has cash coming in, and is working on another app in his spare time.

You’re not a quitter because you stopped a failing project. You’re a quitter when you stop pursuing your dreams.

Sunk Cost Bias

If you study psychology, you can see that Zero Based Thinking is similar to sunk cost bias.

A sunk cost is a cost that you’ve paid already, and you can’t recover it. You now shouldn’t let the cost affect future decisions.

I was in Vietnam last year and I bought non-refundable tickets / hotels to Bangkok. I was ready to go, but I got sick the night before. I wanted to force myself to go because I already spent $600 on the hotels / tickets. If I didn’t go then I would “waste” my money.

That $600 is gone. I can’t get it back no matter what. I realize that it’s a sunk cost.

Now I had to make the best decision now. I’m sick, should I go to Bangkok? I didn’t go. I didn’t feel like it, and I’d lose way more than $600 if I traveled and made my sickness worse.

This is why some people are such horrible gamblers. They’ll be down some money, and insist to keep playing in order to “get their money back.” The money’s gone.

Using Zero Based Thinking to Improve Your Decisions

Don’t be tied down to decisions you made before. Life changes. You become smarter. You gain more wisdom. And sometimes that wisdom will tell you that you made a mistake.

We can’t change the past, but we can make better decisions for our future.

Basics: Mastering Angles

Back to Basics: Mastering Angles

1. Back to Basics: Statistical Significance

Back to Basics is a series where I take fundamental concepts in affiliate marketing and make them easy to understand for beginners. 

How does BMW market their cars?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gMLjMTOs-Ok

Their entire marketing is centered on how Bimmers are designed for a great driving experience. It doesn’t focus on the luxury, safety, or value; it markets itself as “The Ultimate Driving Machine.”

We call this the angle. It’s how companies approach marketing on a creative level.

Angles in Affiliate Marketing

Angles are one of the most important aspects of a campaign, but most guys don’t understand or know how to implement them properly.

When affiliates think about ads, they think about

  • the image
  • headline
  • ad description
  • call to action

Angles are how you approach a campaign on a higher level.

A newbie affiliate might skip the angle process and just gather 20+ images and hope that one of them sticks. But if you test angles first, it gives you greater insight into why that image works, and gives you a way to replicate the success.

It’s easy to get caught up with clicks, optimization, etc. But remember at the end of the day, this is affiliate marketing.

Remember that the core of each campaign is marketing.

An Example

Let us explore the female dating niche.

Promoting to guys is simple. Men are visual creatures, so it’s a cat and mouse game of sneaking in images showing skin. Women on the other hand are much more emotional so the angle plays a bigger part.

Here’s an example of angles in action.

What kind of men would women find attractive? Results of a quick brainstorm

  • Men with beards
  • Men with tattoos
  • Men with glasses
  • Shirtless men with abs
  • Men next to fancy cars

All of these seem reasonable, but which one’s the best? Remember the higher the click-through rate on our images, the cheaper we pay.

Launching a campaign with 1 image of each wouldn’t work because there’s not enough statistical significance. Maybe the men next to fancy cars is the best angle, but you chose a horrible image to represent the angle.

One way to test angles is to test have them all represented by 5 different images. If you test 25 ads, then you can take the average CTR of each angle.

We can conclude that guys with fancy cars are the best angle because they have the highest click-through rate.

One exception I would make is if there was an outlier image in another group. If there was an image in the shirtless men category that did a crazy CTR such as .70, I would keep the angle in rotation as well.

Remember there are no rules in affiliate marketing, these are just hints for you to discover your own methods.

Expanding the Angle

So women like men with money. YOU HEARD IT HERE FIRST! How can we make money with this revelation?

  • Let the angle affect the landing page. Test out a picture of a woman next to a fancy car on the landing page. Test out the headlines and make it reflect the angle.
  • Test a More Targeted Offer. Instead of eHarmony, maybe an offer that’s more oriented towards meeting wealthy men?
  • Hammer the ads. Now that we know women like pictures of men next to fancy cars, test out 20 more images.
  • Test out more angles. We only tested out 5 angles, there are much more.

One key point I want to bring up is the concept of synergy. The components of your campaign become more powerful if they match and strengthen each other.

The components of your campaign should come together like Voltron, not Frankenstein.

How Do You Come Up With Angles?

I don’t have a process for coming up with angles because I can just sit down and churn them out. But that doesn’t really help you now does it?

Put Yourself in Their Position – Use your imagination and pretend you’re a 40 year old woman. What kind of men would they desire? It’s cool, no one thinks you’re fruity.

I guess for female dating it’s not as easy. But If I were to come up with angles for the battery app niche it would be super easy since my phone dies all the time.

Go Where They Are – Research and try to understand the mindset of your target audience.

Years ago I was in the “exercise / weight loss niche.” My office use to be across from Lenox mall so I had my employee go to the mall and offer overweight ladies $20 for a 30 minute interview. I would get countless $$$ angles because I got ideas straight from the source.

Go to forums where they hang out at. Listen to the audience and understand what they want.

Look at Bigger Companies for Inspiration – For the female dating example, most of the niches were from other companies. There are offers focused on meeting wealthy men, men in uniform, muscular men, etc. These guys have done the research for you and you can piggyback off of it.

Life Force 8

Cashvertising  good book. Read it, you’ll learn

Is there a way you can align your angle with any of the Life Force 8?

Why would men with fancy cars be the best angle? Because it aligns with #1, #3,#4,#5,#6,#7,#8

More Angles

I don’t want to leave you today with just one angle. Lets brainstorm some more. I gave myself a fun challenge and making the angles relevant to current events.

  • Credit reports – Target just got hacked and its all over the news. Use fear as an angle
  • Weight loss – Summer’s coming up. Tell people they can get a sexy body for the summer with your system.
  • Holidays – Holidays and seasons make great angles.  The few weeks before Valentine’s day are great for the dating niche.
  • App Development Training Course – Teaching people how to make apps? Maybe you could entice them with how to create the next Flappy Birds with dreams of making $50k a day.

Become More Systematic

Hopefully the article helped you understand what angles are and the importance of them. I have had campaigns of mine go from breaking even to literally 300%+ ROI due to the angle changing.

If you noticed in my example, I have a system for the way I  run campaigns. I don’t just run a few tests and cross my fingers that it’s profitable.

If I’m not making money in a campaign, i can pinpoint the exact step where I’m messing up. From there I know what I have to do to improve. It works the other way around as well. I need to know WHY a campaign is successful so I can replicate it to future campaigns.

The best part is I can pass the system on to an employee, or I can teach it to anyone I want. There’s no “feelings” involved.

With a system I don’t let emotions cloud my judgement.

Life Force 8

The Life Force 8 are the eight basic human instincts hardwired into every person:

  1. Survival, enjoyment of life, life extension
  2. Enjoyment of food and beverages
  3. Freedom from fear, pain, and danger
  4. Sexual companionship
  5. Comfortable living conditions
  6. To be superior, winning, keeping up with the Joneses
  7. Care and protection of loved ones
  8. Social approval

In other words, these are the eight things that people really want…more than anything else. We’re literally biologically programmed to follow these eight desires.

So, how do you apply them for better selling?

Well, it starts with internalizing them. Read them over, hand copy them a few times, and really let them sink into your memory.

Because if you can hit on one of these desires at the right time, they can change everything in a sales call.

But you shouldn’t just internalize them – you should also mold them into your sale message and pitch.

Let’s illustrate with an example…

One of my former colleagues was a door-to-door marketer for a windows and roofing company when he was younger, and he told me all about how his “pitch” aligned with many desires in the “Life Force 8”.

Once the homeowner opened their door and he greeted them, he started his pitch. Let’s see if you can point out the different “Life Force 8” desires in action.

“I’m John with XYZ company. We just finished up a roofing project down the street, and as I was walking by, I noticed you have some wear and tear on the roof. While we’re in the neighborhood, we’re giving you and a lot of the neighbors free estimates on roofing. We’ll be around all day today and tomorrow if that works better for you?”

Could you point them out? There are a few packed in there. Let’s look again.

“I’m John with XYZ company. We just finished up a roofing project down the street [Keeping up with the Joneses, social approval], and as I was walking by, I noticed you have some wear and tear on the roof [Comfortable living conditions]. While we’re in the neighborhood, we’re giving you and a lot of the neighbors free estimates on roofing [Keeping up with the Joneses]. We’ll be around all day today and tomorrow if that works better for you?”

As you can see, the “Life Force 8” really is threaded into the pitch – the main desires being social approval and the “Jones effect”.

To make his pitch even stronger, when homeowners seemed uncertain about signing up for an estimate, he’d point to some of the houses where he’d already talked with homeowners.

“We’ll be meeting with John and Cindy across the street at 6pm, we can swing by right after that if that works for you.”

This just made the Jones effect even stronger. If everybody else in the neighborhood was getting a free estimate, even their friends, than they’d be left out if they didn’t get one…at least, that’s how they might feel.

You can test different desires to see which have the biggest impact for your product. For example, maybe the weather forecasters were predicting an active hurricane season, or harsh winter. My friend could have changed his pitch to include this forecast, and thereby appeal more to the care and protection of loved ones.

You never know what will resonate more with one prospect over another, so having multiple Life Force 8 appeals in your arsenal can be quite powerful.

So now, let’s ask an important question…

How can you incorporate “Life Force 8” desires into your sales pitch?

Keep in mind, you don’t need to hit on all of them. That’d be pretty difficult to do. But even just hitting on one or two of the desires can make a big difference. Go through the list and see what you can come up with.

The Jones effect worked well for the window and roofing company, and maybe it can work well for you too. Perhaps you sell B2B and you can talk about how all the businesses in the industry are updating to a particular software (like yours).

Or maybe you sell life insurance B2C. In that case, think about the best ways to hit on the “care and protection of loved ones” desire or “survival, enjoyment of life.”

No matter what you sell, there’s always some sort of “Life Force 8” desire that you can hit on. So, figure out which desire (or desires) it is, and start crafting it in into your pitch.

What do you think are the most prevalent “Life Force 8” desires in your industry? How can you apply them for better selling? Let us know in the comments below…

Affiliate Networks vs Going Direct: Which Is Better?

When you’re starting off in the industry, you should sign up for and run through a few affiliate networks first. It’s convenient, and you’re at the stage where affiliate managers can be very helpful.

But as you mature in the industry, a time will come when you’ll have to start dealing with your advertisers directly, bypassing your affiliate network.

Let’s look at the following example. Who has an advantage in this situation?

  • Affiliate A is running an offer and getting paid $6.50
  • Affiliate B is running an offer and getting paid $5.00

Most people will say affiliate A because she gets paid more per lead. But what if she ends up not getting paid at all from the advertiser? She loses over 5 figures. Affiliate B gets paid because the affiliate network ate up the costs. Now it’s affiliate B who won.

As you can see, it’s not as clear as black and white when it comes to deciding whether to be with an affiliate network or to deal with advertisers directly. Each option has its own distinct advantages, and a good affiliate is able to tell which is better for each situation.

In this post, I’m going to explain the benefits of each and give you some advice on how to go direct.

Direct vs Network

Payouts

Payout is the main advantage of going direct.

Since you’re bypassing the affiliate network, you get its cut. Sometimes, it can be significant (someone has to pay for those fancy offices and affiliate trips).

A few years ago, I was running a dating offer at a network, and the most I could get paid from any network was $5.50. By going direct with the advertiser, I increased my payout to $6.50.

Here is another example. I ran a supplement on a network, which paid me $52.00 maximum. By switching to the advertiser directly, I started getting $60.00 per sale.

What happens when you have a 25% margin advantage over your competition?

  • You can outbid them for more volume
  • You can scale to other traffic sources that they can’t

There’s also one more pay bump no one ever mentions: click loss.

The click you buy from the traffic source goes through many redirects. A typical funnel looks like this:

Traffic Source -> Tracking software -> Affiliate pre-sell page -> Affiliate network offer link -> Advertiser’s landing page.

That’s a lot of redirects, and you will always lose clicks along the way.

By removing the affiliate network, you could potentially see 5-10% more clicks. 

Another consideration is scrubbing/shaving.

Some affiliate networks scrub/shave leads (aka stealing from you).

Here’s a common example

Newbie John threatens to stop promoting the offer if he doesn’t get a pay bump on his $5.00. Affiliate Network X can’t give him a pay bump because their margins are thin on this offer. How can they make Newbie John happy if they can’t give him a pay bump?

They bump Newbie John to $5.50, but they use their software to scrub/shave leads from him. If he sends 100 leads tomorrow, the network might keep 10 of those leads, and John only sees credit for 90.

That’s why it’s important to always split-test affiliate networks, even on the same offer.

 

Getting Paid

Some advertisers are slow when it comes to payments.

Maybe they have a policy of paying only once a month or every 2 weeks. That’s where affiliate networks come in and act like a bank. They take the risk, float you the money, and pay you every week. Faster cash flow is always good!

When you run with an advertiser, you have a higher risk of not getting paid. Let’s say their merchant processor goes down, and they decide not to pay. What are YOU going to do about it? You can’t do much. You’re a single affiliate without any power. Good luck suing a corporation located in a weird offshore country.

That’s where an affiliate network comes in. Even if the affiliate network doesn’t get paid, they will pay the affiliate out of their own pockets (if the leads are legit, of course). Nothing can sink an affiliate network faster than rumors that they’re not paying their affiliates.

Affiliate networks can put pressure on advertisers because they send a lot of traffic and they have lawyers, stronger relationships, and  access to Russian hitmen.

Advertisers have various risk levels. Be smart, and do your research. I find that going direct with dating advertisers who are backed by large companies is very safe. But if you’re doing nutraceutical trials, then you are assuming a significantly higher risk.

Make sure to use common sense. If someone ever misses a payment, stop traffic immediately. Don’t keep sending traffic for the next month, hoping that you’re going to get paid. You’re just increasing the amount of money you could potentially lose.

One last benefit to using advertisers is you can get more cap space. If an offer is good, there’s a chance the advertiser can only accept so much volume. If they have 500 leads a day in total, the advertiser has to be strategic about to whom they allocate the cap. They might want to give most of it to affiliates with whom they work directly because they have a direct line of communication with them.

Privacy

Let’s say you take a risk on a new offer, and you’re destroying it. If you have a good affiliate manager, he or she is not going to tell everyone to run whatever you’re running. They value your business and relationship.

But what about the other affiliate managers on the network who can see what the top offers are? They’re going to tell their affiliates what you’re running, and maybe even share your landing page. There’s no honor when you work on commission.

I hate to say this, but sometimes affiliate managers go rogue. It means after work, they go home to run their own campaigns, using data and resources of the existing ones. Why reinvent the wheel, when you know x offer works and you have a working landing page?

Some networks also have internal media buying teams. These guys can be tough to compete against because they have higher margins to work with and they can see some of your data. But let’s keep it real. If they were that good, they would be running campaigns on their own.

I run a large majority of my campaigns direct because I value my privacy. In general, advertisers are much, much better at keeping your privacy.

I’m not saying all affiliate networks are shady, but take some time to educate yourself about the networks. Keep your guard up, and never reveal more information than necessary about your campaigns.

Exclusivity

I don’t like to compete against other affiliates. I’m fighting for the same cap, and sometimes it feels like a race to the bottom. Being a super affiliate is about having an edge and having competitive advantages.

I spend a lot of time building strong relationships with proven advertisers. They stop seeing me as just another affiliate, and they start seeing me as a business partner.

Some of my best offers ever weren’t on networks. I worked with my advertiser to create exclusives just for me. It could be as simple as an exclusive landing page that I created/optimized. Or it could be a completely new vertical that I helped design from the bottom up.

If I have the exclusive, I don’t have to worry about other affiliates taking my cap space or stealing my pre-sell pages.

If you’re stuck at the intermediate stages, then re-read this section.

Information

It’s always tough communicating with the other party when there’s a middleman involved. You can ask for a quality check, and it’ll take days before you get a report.

That’s another reason why I like going direct. I get real information and much better communication.

There was one vertical last year where I was breaking even. No matter how many split-tests I did, I could not make it profitable.

Then the advertiser took a look a my funnel and gave me a few suggestions to optimize it. They had 5 years in this vertical compared to my 5 days and could identify the following problems and solutions:

  • The offer had absurdly low conversion rates in certain states. I stopped sending traffic to those states and saw an immediate ROI increase.
  • I got detailed demographic information on their customers.
  • Apparently, my translations were not that great even though I was using onehourtranslation. They had their guy translate it properly.
  • They provided me with detailed reports on the higher converting times/days of the week. I used this information to day-part my campaigns.

The campaign went from breaking even to 75% ROI because of their help. Once I researched and understood the vertical more, I was able to optimize it to over 150% ROI. If it wasn’t for them, I would have given up the campaign and the potential profit.

Affiliate managers can be a great source of information when you’re starting out, but the quality of them can differ drastically. It can be tough for a beginner to get help from a good affiliate manager, since they rather spend their time on proven affiliates.

Ways to Go Direct with the Advertiser

There are two main ways you can go direct with an advertiser.

Google

Google the offer to see who owns it. For some verticals, such as dating, it’s really easy. Just look at the bottom of the page for a link for affiliates.

If there isn’t one, you have to do some more work. Find the contact form, and send an email. See if there’s a phone number, and call.

Ask Other People

This is where the power of networking comes in.

If I can’t find out who owns the offer, I ask the experts. If I need to go direct on a certain dating offer, I know that Ben at PlentyofFish has the connection (he has to help me because we’re Asian brothers).

If I want to go direct on a mobile offer, I get in touch with business developers – and I know plenty of them – who have the right connections. They help me because I’m going to get to the right person sooner or later, so it makes sense for them to provide value to me and strengthen our relationship.

I also have good connections with other affiliates. Some of you might be wondering: why would affiliates help each other out? Aren’t we competition?

Not really. I’ve discovered that I always make more money by helping others and providing value. What you’ll find as a super affiliate is that the competition isn’t you vs other affiliates. The real competition is against yourself, trying to outperform yourself, and against the traffic source (Google, Facebook guys).

Another way to meet more advertisers is by going to conferences. I was just at Affiliate Summit East, and I met more advertisers than I can handle. Go to parties, hang out with social connectors who can introduce you, and take the initiative to walk around, meeting people.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are different pros and cons to going direct with an advertiser.

This post is NOT meant to bash affiliate networks, but rather to educate my readers.

There are many affiliate networks out there, and most of them aren’t special. They are running Cake and brokering the same offers everyone else is. I’ve been hearing the same “highest payouts, exclusive offers” pitch forever, and it’s not a competitive advantage if everyone says it.

Start thinking higher on competitive strategy. How can your network offer value to affiliates? If I could go direct on your offers, and 10 different other networks are offering the same offer to me, why would I run with your network? It’s time for networks to evolve.