Tag Archives: Online 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.

London Affiliate Conference 2011 (Part 1)

2008 was the last time I had a chance to make it out to the London Affiliate Conference where I had a lot of fun, so I decided it was time to head back, even though the idea of being in London in January didn’t appeal to me that much. Regardless, I had always wanted to go back to the iGB Awards, so decided to make the trip this year to catch up with some old friends and meet some new people.

Wednesday

I flew out on Tuesday night and arrived in London at 9am Wednesday morning. Since my hotel would not be ready for several hours I decided to head over to the main hotel (as I stayed at the Shaftesbury Notting Hill Hotel the first night, which probably had the world’s smallest hotel room) to meet up with Nick (from Casino Coins) and his girlfriend Jenna for lunch. Upon arrival to the hotel there were many familiar faces in the lobby. I ran into Riyaz from Bodog Affiliates, Mike Wittmeyer and Roger (2 PAL members) and we hung out for a bit, and grabbed Nick from upstairs. After lunch we Nick, Jenna and I decided to head over to ICE (another big more land based focussed casino conference) that was going on just before the LAC event. It was pretty cool to see some the “future of games” in land based casinos. I saw some of the coolest slot machines that I have ever seen, with a lot more focus on electronic chip management for table games. Still running on no sleep from the morning before, I had to head out as I had dinner plans with Odette from PKR. Odette took me on a tour of the offices at PKR which have apparently been expanding like crazy over the past few years. It was pretty cool to see what happens behind the scenes at an online gaming company. After the tour, we headed for dinner at Shaka Zulu, which was a really cool South African restaurant at the same venue as where the Fire and Ice party was being held that night. We tried some Biltong (a South African cured meat), had some curried shrimp, fish as the main course and of course some delicious cocktails. Odette ordered an Ostrich dish which she let me try, which was also really delicious! After dinner we headed upstairs to the Fire and Ice party where PKR had a table right in the best location of the club. The rest of the evening involved lots of champagne, vodka, and all sorts of mystery shots plus some excellent entertainment involving many painted naked ladies, midgets, performers and much more. All in all, it was a great night and I got to party with many other affiliates and affiliate managers (too many to list everyone). One nice parts of the night was I managed to work out some differences with Nick K., an affiliate who I had some issues with in the past but I think he might have finally started to see my side to the problem from the past ;)

Here is a picture of our table with some other affiliates (borrowed from Odette’s pics):


Thursday

After getting home late from the night before I managed to get a few hours sleep before getting told that I needed to check out by the Shaftesbury hotel, so I headed over to the Grange St. Pauls, and checked into my room there. I had always wanted to stay at the main conference hotel, as there is where most people usually congregate but in the past I typically booked my hotel last minute and it was always sold out, fortunately I did this time, as this hotel was quite amazing! The rooms were really nicely done and had tons of space (even though I hardly spent any time in there). Most of Thursday during the day was spent hanging out in the hotel Lobby with Nick and Jenna. I met lots of different people (affiliates and affiliate managers) and had a couple of beers to help overcome the hangover from the night before.

Thursday evening I was invited to the iGB Affiliate Awards with Martyn from Affiliate Edge (formerly CWC Affiliates). Martyn is highly regarded as one of the best AM’s in the industry, so this was an excellent opportunity to hang out with his team and meet some new casino affiliates since I am trying to learn more about the casino side of the industry. Affiliate Edge had 2 tables and I got to have dinner with several casino affiliates that I had seen on the forums such as CasinoMeister, Simmo (Ian), Christine (Streak Gaming / Affiliate Guard Dog), as well as several others. After dinner I decided I was going to call it a night and ran into Tony (belgamo on the forums) and hitched a ride back to the hotel with him and his wife. Right as I entered the hotel lobby I ran into Troy from Bodog who was with Dana Workman (the new CalvinAyre.com reporter) and said they were heading to Chyna White to meet some affiliates and asked me to join, so I decided sleep could wait for a bit. At the club Nick and Andreas were partying with a few other affiliates and balling out of control on several massive bottles of vodka. I only had a couple of drinks though but it was still lots of fun and finally around 2:30 or 3 Troy, Dana and I decided to call it a night and headed back to the hotel (our oringinal plan to only stay an hour quickly went out the window).

Here is a picture from the Awards (photo credit to the iGB Events Facebook Group):

Continued in Part 2

Balling Chair / I Love Online Marketing

Today I decided to ball-out on a chair and picked up the Herman Miller Aeron.  I figure I spend enough time on my chair to justify the high price tag, and lately my back has been bothering me a bit.

Anyway, back to online marketing.  Here are some of the things I love about it:

1) You can wake up whenever you want, though I still force myself to get up early.
2) Most days I work from home for half a day then head over to Starbucks and do work from there.
3) You can go out any night of the week, and if you stay out late it just means you work a little later the next day.
4) Watching all the people working the 9-5 with their half hour lunch breaks thanking god I am not one of them.
5) Freedom to take vacations whenever you want… no more 3 weeks per year.
6) The ability to work anywhere in the world, though I have yet to take advantage of this one yet.

There are some bad things though, and it is a bit of a struggle at times.  Here are some of the negatives:
1) Keeping yourself motivated is WAY harder than I imagined.  Its so easy to get distracted and not do anything all day.
2) Accounting sucks.  Even with an accountant you have to do a lot of stuff.
3) Creativity can drop – I feel that sometimes I am not as creative as I used to be as I get caught up in day-to-day work far too often.

Anyway, just wanted to post that I am so happy I made the leap from the corporate world and left IBM.  I have heard that my old job will probably be non-existant by next year as it is being off-shored to South America.  Its really a shame that big corporations are so short sighted and if they just figured out the problems they had where they were currently located, they’d probably never have to do these things.

So to end on a positive note, life is good :)

The History of Bankroll Boost

For those who don’t know me, let me give you a little history about how I became a poker affiliate.

It all started about a year and a half ago.  My friend and I were talking about ways we could make money online and he suggested promoting poker sites.  Considering we both loved to play poker, I thought this would be an interesting idea, so we gave it a shot.  We created a really basic site, where we planned to give away a portion of our commissions in the form of products (books, poker chip sets, etc.) to players in exchange for their signup.  This didn’t last long, because for one it took our site over a month to get listed in google, and we were wondering where all the traffic was. (thinking it would just come rolling in).  I posted on PAW that I NEEDED HELP, which is when I got some of the best advice I have ever received from another PAW member, offyourface.  His advice really helped me take the blinders off and make some drastic improvements to my site.  Without some of his amazing suggestions I probably would not be where I am today and much of the advice I received in that thread is still on the site today.  I started adding tons of content and all my free time was spent working on the site.  My friend was starting to lose interest because the site still was not making money, so we made a deal and I bought the whole site from him.

Then came one of the biggest turning points in my site’s history.  Just over a year ago I had the opportunity to attend the Casino Affiliate Convention in Las Vegas.  I won the trip package from a contest run by the Poker.com affiliate program.  Basically, I had to redesign my site in a way to give better exposure to Poker.com.  There were many entries, but my site was selected as the winner.  They gave me the money to pay for my flight and hotel, and being the deal savvy person that I am, I got my trip for around $800 (staying at the Hard Rock one night, and Bally’s (kinda ghetto) the other.  With the remainder of the money I invested in my site (bear in mind, my site was making peanuts and this was more money then it had ever made).  In Vegas I met and hung out with some amazing people.  Most of the time Brandon Berndt (now affiliate manager at Chan Poker) let me tag along with him and introduced me to many people, but I also got to hang out with Jeremy Enke, Kyle Healey, Greg Powell, Justin Goff along with many other great people that I still talk to all the time.  These guys were and still are some of the best in the industry and I formed some great relationships from that trip with all of them.  Whether we were at the Stinky Fish Poker (the site that never made it) party to hanging out in Greg Powell’s room at the MGM hotel I had a great time in Vegas and still remember it like it was yesterday.

I took home a lot of ideas from Vegas and (when I recovered from all the partying) I started to go really hard and work on my site.  I invested the money mentioned previously in a new design from my homeboys at Alance and also bought some advertising space on a few sites.  I continued to read up on SEO and studied other sites to see what they were doing well, then implemented these strategies into my own site.

Since then, my site has continued to grow and I am sure it has a lot to do with many of those mentioned in this post.  Thank you all!

I will end this post with some of the best advice I have received/can give to those starting up in online marketing:
Content is King – The more content you have on your site, the more easier it is for the search engines to find you.
Find a Niche – My site is a bad example, but I have several other tiny niche sites that make a fair amount of money.
Learn SEO – SEO is the single easiest way to advertise without spending any money…. well maybe a little
Design Your Sites for the Customer – This industry is very competitive so you want to attract your customers quickly, because the BACK button is only a click away.
It Takes Money to Make Money – Sometimes you’ll have to spend some money to make money.  If you invest early in your site it will make things move much faster.  But remember when spending your money, do it smart, and do some research.
That is all I can think of for now, and don’t worry, I will elaborate more on all of these later on.