Tag Archives: affiliate marketing

How to Build a Rock Solid Internet Business

This guest post was provided by Michael Wittmeyer, a longtime Internet marketer and co-founder of www.jmbullion.com.

With over five years in the online gambling affiliate space, I know all too well the risks of running a business that relies heavily on third parties. After going through several Google penalties, having affiliate programs cut my rates or go out of business entirely, and constantly worrying about the USA cracking down on the industry itself, I decided enough was enough.

My main focus moving forward is to build a business that is as independent as possible, so that I can worry less about what others are doing and worry more about what I’m doing.

This article is going to discuss some of the main areas of dependence in the Internet marketing world, and explain how you can reduce this reliance to become as independent and rock solid as possible.

Relying Too Much on One Traffic Stream

One of the most common dependences in the Internet marketing world is having a business or offer that relies entirely on one traffic stream. Some examples of this includes an affiliate who runs PPC on only one network (Facebook, Adwords, etc), an Internet retailer who receives all of their traffic from one specific media buy, or a content provider who receives all of their traffic from one search engine.

Although running a profitable business with only one traffic stream to maintain seems very simple and desirable, it really isn’t. One traffic stream can be wiped out overnight, leaving your business in shambles. If you don’t believe me, look at the following examples that I’ve personally witnessed:

Example #1

In the early 2000s, gambling affiliates were raking in boatloads of money by running PPC ads (on Google) that were simple affiliate links leading directly to online poker websites or online casino websites. Affiliates with literally zero experience in the online poker world or even the Internet marketing world were making unbelievable amounts of cash, as all they had to do was run ads for the poker website’s name (think “Party Poker” for a key phrase), type a simple ad title and description, and put their affiliate link in as the destination URL. A $0.25 or less click would often result in a $200+ CPA.

Then, Google decided to change their policy so that PPC ads had to link to a landing page as opposed to directly to the affiliate’s tracking link. Any PPC affiliates that lacked experience in HTML or web design were instantly wiped out, as they lacked the ability to create a website to which they could send their PPC traffic.

Later, buckling to pressure from the USA government, Google decided to shut down Adwords for gambling terms entirely. Affiliates who never bothered to learn SEO or other ways to drive traffic were out of business overnight.

Example #2

A few years ago during the “acai berry” rush, affiliates who were ranking near the top of Google for terms like “buy acai berries” or “acai berry supplements” were doing extremely well by driving their traffic through affiliate links to retailers who actually sold the product.

Since these were such competitive search terms, affiliates would have to put up lots of cash and work long hours to get their websites ranking near the top. The rewards were certainly worth it, as you could make $XX,XXX/month once you reached the top for the better search terms.

However, Google kept a close eye on this market, and several of the more aggressive affiliates ended up receiving harsh Google penalties shortly after reaching the top, thus moving their websites way down in the rankings and cutting off their revenue stream.

Hypothetical Example #3

I haven’t done too many media buys throughout my career, but that is another situation where Internet marketers can get too reliant on a single traffic source. For example, imagine you were running a retail website and purchased advertising on a high-traffic website with visitors who perfectly fit your target demographic. Imagine that this media buy worked out extremely well, and ended up driving tons of traffic and sales to your retail website.

Many Internet marketers would become complacent in this situation and fail to seek out new traffic sources, as they have a proven stream of traffic with a relatively fixed month-to-month cost. However, what if any of the following happens?

- The advertiser realizes how important they are to you, and decides to raise their rates considerably, knowing that you have no choice but to pay them whatever they wish.
- The advertiser receives a Google penalty or loses a key stream of traffic, thus sending significantly less traffic and sales to your website.
- The advertiser’s traffic base is largely composed of repeat visitors, thus reducing your click-throughs each month as more and more of their visitors have already been exposed to your advertisement.

As all of the above examples prove, one traffic stream (no matter how profitable or seemingly “safe”) can be wiped out extremely quickly. As a result, any Internet marketer who relies too much on any given traffic stream is overly dependent on a third party.

How to Become Independent:

Ensure you never rely on any one traffic stream for 50%+ of your business. If you do, immediately focus more of your efforts on building new traffic streams. Even if you have relatively diverse sources of traffic, always seek out new traffic streams both to increase your revenue as well as to protect yourself from the loss of any one traffic stream.

Relying on Organic Search

Although I already touched on this a little bit, I wanted to talk more about Internet businesses that rely entirely on Google, Yahoo, or Bing organic search traffic. Having an organic, free, and targeted traffic stream is about as good as it gets, but unfortunately, relying entirely on organic search does have its concerns – namely penalties, injections, masked keyword info, and ever-changing algorithms.

Penalties

Between algorithmic filters and manual penalties, you always run the risk of losing a sizable portion of your organic search traffic overnight, even if your site follows the search engine’s guidelines to a T. This isn’t a common occurrence, but I have personally had three or four (very good) sites that were hit by filters, which cost me a lot of money, as I didn’t have any other traffic streams in place.

Search Injections

Even if you do sidestep penalties and maintain your rankings, most organic rankings are becoming less and less valuable as Google pushes their own agenda with bigger (and more) PPC ads, comparison ads, local injections, news injections, video injections, image injections, and social injections.

I have personally seen several search queries where the first organic listing was actually below the fold, as it was pushed down by expanded PPC ads and a Google comparison ad. I expect this to only get worse as Google adds more and more features and continues to meddle with their search results.

Masked Keyword Info

Another detriment to running a strictly SEO-focused business is that Google no longer allows you to see the search keywords that many visitors used to find your website. When you are reviewing your analytics, analyzing visitors who searched “Not Provided” doesn’t really tell you much about where to focus or reduce your efforts.

Changing Algorithms

Even if your site is doing great today, who knows what the next Panda update or other major algorithmic update might bring? You could go from hero to zero overnight, and if you don’t have any other traffic streams in place, you are in a lot of trouble.

How to Become Independent:

Make SEO a piece of your marketing strategy, not the entire strategy.
Include PPC, which is more stable and provides more keyword information.
Focus on user experience first, and SEO second. This will improve your on-site metrics, increase your repeat visitors, and increase your natural mentions, all of which will lead to better search rankings as well.

Relying on Partners

As an affiliate or online retailer, you are almost always relying on several partners to keep your business running smoothly and profitably.

Examples of an affiliate’s necessary partners might be: your affiliate programs, your ad networks, and your link partners.

Examples of a retailer’s necessary partners might be: your affiliates, your wholesalers, your payment gateway, and your merchant account provider.

The risk of relying too heavily on any single partner is that they could go out of business, change their terms and conditions, decide not to work with you anymore, etc. A perfect example of this is as follows:

I was a partner in a precious metals affiliate website, and we were doing well promoting APMEX.com through their very favorable affiliate program. There weren’t really any other viable precious metals affiliate programs at the time, but we weren’t concerned with this as we were making good money with APMEX.

We decided to buy a few more expensive precious metals domains to build out and expand our traffic base. Shortly after we had put a lot of time and money into these new affiliate sites, APMEX abruptly shut down their affiliate program for reasons we never really understood.

We scrambled for a bit to find a new retailer we could work with, but there were very few options, and none of them came close to converting like APMEX. Had we not decided to start our own precious metals retail site, we would have been totally out of luck.

How to Become Independent:

As an affiliate, make sure your traffic stream is general, as opposed to partner-specific (think ranking for “bonus code” or “promotional code” terms), and work with several partners to ensure that if one stream of revenue disappears, you’re still ok.
Consider starting your own retail site to avoid relying on affiliate programs.
As a retailer, make sure you have backup plans in place in case your payment processor changes their terms or closes your account. Also, don’t rely too heavily on any one affiliate or search term, as it could go away quickly.

Relying on New Customers

Affiliates that earn all of their revenue from one-time CPA payments, or businesses that earn all of their revenue from purchases by new customers, both run the risk of losing their traffic/new customer stream and thus, losing a huge chunk of their forward revenue.

How to Become Independent:

Focus on visitor/customer retention – capture visitor names/emails by offering a “freebie” or giveaway, send automated “reminders” to customers who haven’t visited your site or made a purchase in XX days, push your RSS subscription, offer coupons to existing customers, keep newsletter subscribers updated on the happenings at your website, etc.
Utilize ad retargeting to pull back customers or visitors who have been to your site before. This makes your new customer marketing go much further at minimal expense.
For affiliates, consider negotiating for a recurring % of revenue instead of a one-off CPA payment. This ensures that even if you lose your traffic stream, you will still be paid for your old referrals’ new purchases.
For retailers, consider adding a membership sort of service or product that produces recurring revenue every month or year. This ensures that even if you lose your traffic stream, you will still have forward revenue.

I hope I’ve convinced you by now that dependency on any specific partner, traffic stream, or revenue stream is less than ideal for an Internet business. If you felt any pangs of worry as you read this article, focus more of your efforts this year on spreading your dependencies to ensure your business can survive losing any individual traffic source, partner, or revenue stream.

One Easy Way to Diversify

After Black Friday, almost everyone in our industry is getting more serious about diversifying and getting some eggs out of the online gambling basket. One hiccup that gambling affiliates have had with diversifying is finding an idea that is not only interesting, but profitable. This post is going to give you one easy way to find new, profitable niches outside of gambling.

Flippa.com

Flippa.com is one of the most popular marketplaces for buying and selling premium domains as well as existing, profitable websites. One of my favorite ways to find new website ideas is to check out Flippa.com once a week and see what is up for sale.

When I arrive at Flippa, I like to look at High End Websites (this is a preset search that shows websites priced at $5,000+) that have a profit of at least $500 per month. This weeds out all of the ridiculous domain auctions that are listed at a high price but have no profit or potential.

From here, I will take a look at the ongoing auctions as well as the recently ended auctions. Whenever I see something that catches my eye, I open up the auction in a new tab to review it later. When I am searching through the auctions, I am usually looking for affiliate-type businesses that have at least $500/month in revenues (so I know the market actually has some financial potential).

Once you have a few promising auctions opened up in new tabs, start looking through them to see what you’ve got. A quick way to whittle down the auctions are to close any auctions that are for websites that require a live presence, inventory, credit card processing, shipping, customer support, etc (unless you actually are interested in/capable of handling those tasks).

Once I find something that seems promising, rarely do I actually buy the website that is listed for auction. If I can get a good price on it, I will go ahead and buy it, but oftentimes I would rather seek out a good domain to go after a larger segment of the specific market.

For example, if I found an auction for an affiliate site selling candles that ranked in the top ten for “large scented candle” and was making $500 a month, I would try to find a good domain to purchase, such as scentedcandles.com. Then, I would start my own affiliate website on the exact match domain with a much higher ceiling than the smaller, non-exact match website.

The Flippa auctions often include the dropshipper’s or affiliate network’s contact information, so you don’t have to look too far for someone to work with. Also, the

Google Analytics are often right there for you to look at and gauge the market potential.

Sometimes you may determine that it makes more sense to buy the existing website and improve it than to start fresh, but oftentimes you are going to want to go after a larger segment of the market than the site for sale originally did.

A lot of the stuff on Flippa is not going to be relevant, but if you keep monitoring it for a couple weeks you may just find a great new niche with available exact match domains.

This article was provided by Michael Wittmeyer of BusinessCards.org, a business card print shop.

3 Cool Tools For Tracking Visitors On Your Website

Reading Justin Goff‘s latest facebook status update kind of inspired me to write this post…. So without further adieu, here are 3 cool tools for affiliates to use for cyber-stalking the visitors of your website that you might not have heard of:

ClickTale – Last week my friend John told me about this cool tool. Basically you add a couple of lines of code to your pages that allow you to see everything people do when they come to your site. By everything, I really mean EVERYTHING! ClickTale creates a video for you that tracks what every visitor is doing on your site including mouse movements, heatmaps and when they are scrolling down on the pages. This allows you to determine how effective your pages are at driving a sale and what aspects of the page are actually getting the visitors attention the most leading them to click (or not click) through on to your offers. There is a very small delay in the time it takes to create the videos (probably like 5 minutes) but it is pretty much live data. The free version allows you 100 free recordings per week or you can pay like $80 per month for the bronze package which allows multiple sites and something like 20,000 recordings.

HitTail – This is another live stats system that allows you to see how people are getting to your site from referral sites or search engines. It shows you exactly what they searched to get there or the specific page where they clicked a link to your site. I know most of this information is available in Google’s Analytics but its nice to have this info live so you can see what is causing traffic spikes on your site. It also helps you understand where the visitors are coming from (ie. Google.com/Google.es/Google.ca etc.) to reach your site.

hittail

Woopra – This is a cool tool that allows you to track the people on your website live. You can see what pages people are on, how they got to your site, and how they have moved about while on your site. One of my favourite features of Woopra is it even allows you to send a message to the people on your site if you want to “help them out” or ensure that all their questions have been answered to help drive the sale better. (Shout out to Cheryle for telling me about this one)

woopra

Of course Google Analytics is also one of the best, but I left it out of the list because I assumed everyone already was either using it, or knew about it. Hope this helps and if you have any other great tools you want to share post a comment below.

No Way That Is Her!

I was just on facebook when the following ad caught my attention:

fatloss-hotchick

No way that is her in the after!!!  I actually thought this was a great ad though because it caught my attention and I clicked the link to see if there were more pics of the hot girl.  Unfortunately there were not :(  They did have a cool site though with a bunch of good affiliate links in it and am sure they probably make some money from this.

Anyway, this just goes to show that sometimes the best ways to grab people’s attention is to make them not believe you.

/end of weird blog post

What Are You Selling?

Whether you believe it or not, the affiliates role is very similar to that of a salesperson but looking at many affiliate sites you wouldn’t think so.  Many new affiliates focus so much on the content, that they forget to actually promote the product at hand (whether it be a poker room, poker software, books, or whatever).

When you look at your site or any article on it, you should be working to close a deal in every peice of content.  Whether it simply be a banner on the side, or a link to a poker site in an article.  Look at your site from a visitor’s point of view and if you don’t see any reason to sign up under one of your offers, then you probably aren’t doing a good job.

Since I have really been lacking on tips for poker affiliates, let me end this post with a great link to some really good videos.  I suggest you watch them all, but if you don’t want to use up 5 hours, watch the one on conversions.  Its called the stompernet scrutinizer and there is a link in the bottom right corner to pull up the playlist of videos.

Good luck!

Welcome to 2008!

I hope everyone enjoyed their holidays and New Year celebrations, but now its time to get back to work. I have been really lazy with work over the past few weeks (mostly due to all the rich food, and good wine), but all that has to come to a stop now. Its 2008, a new year full of tons of amazing opportunities. All the mistakes I have made are now in the past, and I can only look towards the future.

I think this is gonna be an exciting year for me, and I expect it to be a crucial year for me in my overall life. I plan to stop being so complacent in my life and start DOing a lot more!

I have already bought a few books, which I plan to have completed by year end. I will write more about them as I read them, but right now I am on The 4-hour Work Week.

I plan on working on all my sites even more, including a few redesigns and reviving some projects that were put on the side.

I plan to start responding to my emails more, as I have been getting pretty lazy responding them all. To accomplish this, I purchased a new Blackberry.

I would like to start giving back more. This idea still needs to be worked on how I will do it, but hopefully I can inspire some people on this blog.

There are probably a few more things that I am leaving out, so I will add them later as I think of them.

Its a new year, and I can’t wait to play this one out!

Happy new year everyone!

How To Win An Affiliate Contest

As you may know, I have been asked to judge the PAP Contest where a lucky affiliate will win a trip to CAP Euro.  So far I have not been very impressed by several of the entries so I thought I would share some tips in my blog for those that really want to win this thing.

CAP Euro Contest
As a former affiliate contest winner, here are some tips to make it easier for you to win.

1) Stand out from the competition - Make yourself memorable.  When the judges are looking back on all the entries, if yours was very similar to all the others it may get lost in the mix.  Check out Jeremy`s entry for the Shoemoney competition.

2) Sell yourself – Tell the judges why they should pick you, and what makes you better than the rest.  Pretend its a job interview and let them know you REALLY want this job!

3) Make Use of Technology – Similar to the first point, why not make use of current technology.  Video is hot, and everyone likes videos… why not try that!  Some other things you could do is make a flash movie, a comic strip, a song, anything to show how bad you want this thing!

4) Go Overboard – When I won the Poker.com contest to go to the CAC I completely overhauled my site and put Poker.com as the main sponsor of the site.  I had their logos all over the place, and banners where appropriate.  This all goes back to showing how bad you want to win this thing!

5) Be Entertaining – If you make the judges laugh, then you are one step closer to getting their vote.

6) Use Pictures – The last thing the judges want to do is read a 1000 word boring essay on why you are so great.  Mix in some pics to keep them interested.

7) Easy to Read – Make your key points stand out.  I like the format of this list where I state a main point, then explain it in detail after.  It keeps the reader`s interest much longer.

The winner of this V.I.P. Challenge will enjoy the following:

  • Free roundtrip airfare to CAP Euro
  • Paid Hotel at the Olympia – Jan. 24th – 28th
  • A killer dinner and night on the town courtesy of PAP (could get crazy)
  • Entry to and Dinner at the prestigious 2008 CAP Awards Dinner
  • Full Admission Pass to Affiliate Boot Camp 2008 by CanAffco

I will judge this thing very seriously as I have the power to essentially give someone a package worth between $3000-$4000!!!  Only those that truly make an effort will get my votes!

Good luck everyone!