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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Who doesn’t want to make more profits from their campaigns?
Every campaign you launch has the potential to make life-changing money.
But sometimes you’ll test and optimize to get a campaign profitable… and it only makes a few dollars per day.
What do you do?
Ditch the campaign, because $2.50 profit per day won’t turn you into Dan Bilzerian, or
Try to squeeze more from it?
It’s a tough call, but here are my thoughts on when to ditch a campaign to help you out.
There were some affiliates a few years back that made a killing with hundreds of laser-targeted campaigns on PoF.
They each brought in a couple of bucks a day.
I admire the dedication and ingenuity there, but creating and monitoring a million little campaigns would drive me crazy. It’s so fidgety, there’s no scale, and it sounds like it’d be a nightmare operation.
Having 2-3 campaigns pulling in $1k each per day versus 1,000 campaigns pulling in $2-3 each day?
Smart, successful affiliates would much rather build scalable campaigns.
Creating winning campaigns is tough, but it’s MUCH easier to improve the ROI of an existing campaign, than to start fresh.
It’s like that old sales quote: “It’s 5x easier to upsell an existing customer than sell a new customer”.
So don’t get disappointed that your campaign isn’t a home run yet.
You worked your ass off to get this campaign profitable, or near to break even. It’s time to make some decent profits on it.
1. Test Other GEOs
I can’t get over how many affiliates forget that there are other countries outside the United States (especially with adult dating).
Most people will only run traffic in countries that seem familiar to them – it’s a basic cognitive bias that you have to overcome.
The bids in most countries are a lot cheaper than US, since far fewer people are targeting them. Conversions are often much higher as well, since these neglected markets don’t have banner blindness by trigger happy affiliates.
If I’m exploring new GEOs, I try to keep everything exactly the same. The same lander, same ads and same targeting (except for the country and language). You want to isolate the country, so it’s the only variable that changes.
I also go broad when testing GEOs.
I’m not going to test Australia, Canada, New Zealand and United Kingdom as new GEOs.
They are too similar. They are English speaking, high incomes, high bid prices, high GDP, and higher payout offers.
I’ll test India, Brazil, Iran, Kenya and Estonia.
These countries are radically different from each other – language, custom, culture, income etc. One of these places might be a gold mine for any number of reasons.
Most affiliates are too lazy to translate and learn about new countries. This is an opportunity for you to take your already testing landers/ads and run them in a new GEO.
Here’s a bonus tip: you can create angles based on the region/culture to get more profits.
2. Commit to Continual Optimization
Affiliate marketing isn’t neatly split between profitable and unprofitable campaigns. Unprofitable campaigns can (sometimes) be turned around, and a profitable campaign can always be made better.
In either case, test new headlines, new images and new landers. The best way to boost your profit is to keep testing.
The BIG WIN is to test new offers.
If you’ve only tested 3 offers, you’re just lazy bro.
Go into your affiliate network dashboard and apply for 20 offers to test.
Don’t assume your current offer is the best because it has a slick landing page or requires fewer steps. You can’t tell what offers convert the best until you test them.
Testing new offers requires almost no extra effort on your part and can make a HUGE increase to your ROI.
It’s literally 30 seconds – clicking a button inside your affiliate network dashboard, and setting it up in Voluum.
Getting the campaign profitable is the hard part – now it’s time to have fun.
Get creative, test new angles, crazy headlines and weird images.
Think of it is this way – you have a campaign that’s making you $5 a day with a 100% ROI. If you keep testing it, you can boost it to $10 a day. Big deal, right?
Well, yeah, it’s actually a very big deal. You’re planning on scaling this campaign, remember?
Down the road, doubling your ROI won’t make the difference between having a $5 and $10 a day campaign.
It’ll make the difference between a $500 and $1,000 a day campaign.
3. Ask for Payment Bumps
If you’re driving quality traffic, your AM should be willing to grant a payment bump. They want to encourage you to push as much volume as you can (as long as the lead quality is good).
Don’t just take the payment bump and use it as a bonus.
Think about how you can use your higher payout to get squeeze out more traffic. Maybe site IDs that weren’t profitable before are now. Or maybe you can now bid higher and see how your volume increases.
Maybe this means you can get the campaign profitable on a bigger traffic source with more volume.
Always be thinking like a businessman – how can you use an increased revenue to get even more revenue?
So the question is: How do you get a payment bump?
Let’s use some psychology. You have to ask and phrase it to benefit them.
“Hey John can I get a pay bump on my my iPhone offer?”
“Hey John, I’m losing money right now on the iPhone offer and might have to stop running it. I did some calculations and if I were to get $.50 more I could make money and scale this campaign.
I already talked to a few other networks and they’re willing to give me that payout. But I really enjoy working with you and your network.
If you can up the payout then I’ll do my best to increase the volume.”
Which answer is better?
Always be thinking from THEIR point of view.
They won’t give you a pay bump just ‘cause you want more money. But if you’re able to make it a win/win – why wouldn’t they hook you up?
4. Split Test Networks
This is yet another test that 99% of affiliates never try. They see the same offer on a couple of networks and just run with whichever one has the highest payout. Why not, it’s the same offer right?
Not at all. Even the SAME OFFER can convert very differently on different affiliate networks.
Why? Advertisers may scrub more harshly on some networks than others. Networks use different technology to track conversions or payment processing.
I can’t tell you the number of times I got a higher ROI with the network with the lower payout.
This is a really easy split-test that can give you 20% ROI.
5. Learn the Traffic Source Inside and Outs
Regardless of their chosen traffic source, successful affiliates have one thing in common.
They’ve learned to dominate it to get more volume, cheaper bids and higher conversions.
The single best way to master a good traffic source is to use ONLY that traffic source.
You’ll come up with your own little hacks that’ll help you create campaigns quickly and boost your ROI.
You’ll discover what offers and verticals work best on it
You discover the best placements/ad sizes
You can do some insider deals with the traffic source if you push enough volume
This is one of the biggest reasons behind a super affiliate’s success – they become a master at one traffic type.
6. Network with Major Players
Forming relationships is a great way to skyrocket your affiliate career. This doesn’t just mean building relationships with other affiliates. You want to build relationships with everyone that can help you turn your small campaigns into beasts.
The most successful affiliates thrive by building the following relationships.
Too many affiliates have almost no contact with their affiliate manager or other people from their top networks. They ping their AM once or twice a month to request a payment bump and that’s about it.
You’ll do a lot better if you recognize the importance of having strong relationships with these people. They can go to bat for you if you have a special request (like joining a private offer or asking for permission to run on an unapproved traffic source).
They can also give you the lowdown on the offers that are converting the best and the angles that work.
Plus if your AM likes you, they might give you automatic pay bumps just ‘cause you’re pals.
You may have spent $10k testing your chosen traffic source, but you still won’t know it nearly as well as the guys that manage it.
Make friends with them. They can give you a lot of tips to get more traffic and boost your ROI. They want to see you thrive, especially if you’re spending a lot of money with them.
The more traffic you buy from them, the more they won’t want to lose you.
Most affiliates only think of their AMs because you don’t often talk to your traffic source manager. Big mistake.
Shoot them an email, introduce yourself, and get on their radar.
I’d say that 99% of affiliates never meet the advertisers they push traffic to. You can open a lot of new doors by reaching out to them. Getting to know the advertisers lets you:
Get access to other offers that aren’t listed on your network
Push for better payment bumps
Go direct with them for more profits
Get insider tips on new angles and demographic targeting
Get approved for different traffic sources other affiliates aren’t given access to
Advertisers love their best affiliates. Give them a shout out and see how you can make them (and you) more money.
Where do you meet advertisers (the offer owners)?
Conferences – big advertisers will be at Affiliate Worlds and Affiliate Summits
Email them – you might be able to find their details on offer page
Get your affiliate manager to point you to them (although they probably won’t want you to go direct, so they may not do this)
You should also network with other marketers who us your traffic source. Affiliate marketing may seem like a profession for lone wolves, but it’s much more powerful to have small masterminds.
7. Day Parting
I get a lot of questions about day parting.
It seems like a popular way to optimize campaigns. Possibly too popular, which is why I didn’t put it at the top of my list.
Don’t give me wrong – day parting has its place. It can turn some of your “meh” campaigns into real winners. But overall I don’t recommend it very often.
The problem is that loads of affiliates think day parting is a silver bullet to turning break even campaigns into ones with 100% ROI. They start messing with day parting features without enough data and often end up tanking otherwise good marketing campaigns.
So when do you start day parting?
Answer: After you’ve tested everything else to death, OR, if you’re on an ULTRA tight budget and you can’t afford to run traffic for full days.
For example, if you’re trying to run a RON campaign on mobile, some traffic sources don’t let you spread your budget out through the day.
You might decide to run at night when people are home from work and in a more relaxed (buying) frame of mind. This can give you a better chance of getting profitable, especially if you bid high and your budget gets used up quickly.
You need to be certain you can’t get a positive ROI during certain hours before pausing your ads.
Suppose you’re running a dating campaign with the following data:
You got 22 leads between 5 AM and 6 PM.
You got 45 leads between 6 PM and 5 AM.
Most affiliates with this campaign would pause their ads between 5 AM and 6 PM. This could actually be a really bad move.
But why? Aren’t you getting fewer leads during those hours?
Yeah, but that could just be because there’s less volume during those hours. If bids are lower and conversion rates are almost as good, you may even be getting a higher ROI and more profit during the hours you get the fewest leads.
You don’t want to day part based on when you get the most leads. You need to factor for the amount of money you spent during those hours. Never pause your ads during hours they’re profitable.
8. Build a List
You’ve probably already heard this a million times: “The money is in your list.”
While so many people emphasize the importance of list building, new CPA marketers don’t do much with it. It’s a lot of work and many CPA networks don’t allow email traffic from most of their offers.
Yet, for many niches, building a list can be a powerful way to monetize your traffic.
Why not kill two birds with one stone? You’re already pushing traffic to your landers. Sometimes you can capture emails from your leads before referring them to the advertiser.
Now you can upsell those leads to higher paying offers or push lots of other offers to them.
You can also look into directing people to an opt-in page if they aren’t interested in your offer. If you’re good at coding, or you’ve got a good tech contractor, this is something to consider.
Start Squeezing Your Campaigns
Successful affiliate marketers got that way because they’re never satisfied. They see a positive campaign ROI and, rather than sitting back on their asses, they think, “How can I get even more out of this?”
Be that guy. Be the guy who isn’t satisfied with mediocre profits or a few dollars a day trickling into your accounts. Use the tips above to take even your most successful campaigns to the next level.
Which one of these tips will you commit to trying this week?
Leave me a comment below with the action steps you plan on taking:
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Take a lesson from the Kraft marketing handbook, add you own twist and see what happens. Kraft ran a Twitter promotion in which the company identified pairs of people tweeting about Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and then contacted them, awarding prizes to the first to respond. This simple campaign garnered 1.5 MILLION tweets, yet it only cost the company awards of t-shirts and boxes of Mac and Cheese.
Now the company is trying something new: Turning the best Macaroni and Cheese tweets into commercials that run the same evening as the tweets were sent.
And while you might not be ready for prime-time, these ideas can easily be adapted to your own business. In the case of the first campaign, simply offer free downloads to the winners, or physically mail them CD’s or DVD’s.
As to turning tweets into same day ads, why not put the best tweets about your products on the home page of your website and make the tweeters “famous” for a day? You could even incorporate your favorite tweets right into your sales materials, videos and books. Lots of people want to see their name in print, and it will cost you next to nothing to create your own viral tweeting campaigns.
For more information on the Kraft Macaroni and Cheese Twitter campaigns, click here: