Becoming an affiliate - how I started, what mistakes I made.

Everything relating to affiliate programs and merchants.
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Becoming an affiliate - how I started, what mistakes I made.

Post by maz » Fri 13 Jan, 2006 1:10 pm

Just a little about myself and how I got started. I currently have established websites of my own, am an affiliate for merchants and manage pay per click accounts for business clients.

By the way, if you are ever looking to become a merchant, I would recommend first starting as an affiliate, even if it's for a month. It doesn't work the other way around. You will learn what your most important assets - your affiliates - go through promoting you, and you will learn not to be stingy in reporting and paying on time. You might even learn what product sells and what doesn't. All very very helpful stuff, and worth one month of your life.

Back to becoming an affiliate. The first choice to make is to decide whether you want to have your own website that does the promoting, or whether you want to run ads on search engines or other webpages, or a combination of both. Unless you have an existing website already, go for pay per click (AdWords etc). Then either send them to your own website, or directly to the merchant. Getting a website ranking highly in Google from scratch is a fine art these days; the days of putting the keywords in the domain name are long gone.

If you have a website, you can place small ads on them from merchants. A good place to start is a 'portal' such as <a href="" target="_blank">Check My Stats</a> which feature hundreds of merchants. Traditionally these ads have been banner advertisements, however these days text ads are better. You can also run Google's AdSense, which automatically selects which ads to place on your website. There are some people making a packet on AdSense but it can look quite ugly, and the ads served often don't relate to your site at all unless you're really lucky. To put it in perspective, one of my sites gets 3000 visitors a day. If I plastered AdSense over it I might make a $1 a day out of it. Again, it all comes down to the luck of the draw as to AdWords being available to fit your site's contents. With that amount of visitors I am far better off writing an article or something much more targeted, or even putting up a Valentine's Day gift ideas page - as boring as it sounds, it's much more profitable.

Many cry: niche, niche! If you have a site about how to make your parrot talk you will get less visitors but they will be of higher quality, so always aim for niche sites if you can. The key lesson I have learnt here is: keep the ad relevant to the website. So many people abuse this concept, for example putting ads for DVDs on a site about cooking. Don't do it, as tempting as it seems! Every part of your website is valuable real estate, and the best you'll achieve is annoyed visitors with your $5/month profit. Talk to your visitors. Have surveys. Find what makes them tick. Serve ads accordingly. Can't find according ads? Become a merchant for whatever they want.

If you're starting from scratch and want some tips on a website, go for something that people are passionate about. What's your neighbour passionate about? Star Trek, gardening, karate. That sort of stuff. You could drop-ship high-end amplifiers, for example. Go to a forum about high-end amplifiers and you will find some of the most passionate people on the planet.

Pay per click: Alternatively, you might skip the website and go straight to running ads on other websites, or search engines. Again, the ads you get from the portals or merchants as described in the previous paragraph. A special way to run ads on the search engines is via Google's AdWords system. It's incredibly tricky to get to grips with, if you don't learn from a pro such as <a href="" target="_blank">Perry</a> you will need to accept losing several thousand before you break even. It was hard three years ago, and it's even harder now. The money you'll save by getting it right the first time will pay it off in no time flat. There are other guides as well, such as the Google Cash guide, but Perry's is the bible. Once you are good at AdWords, expand to advertising on Overture which covers Yahoo etc. It's bizarre, I regularly spend several thousands dollars a month now on AdWords without thinking twice about it.

Once you know your stuff it's easy to break even in the worst case. As you mature with AdWords you will begin to make instant decisions on what to join, and what not to join. That reduces your risk. And with your risk reduced, you won't mind spending a hundred to test something out. No, of course I don't spend $1 and make $1. I might make $1.20 on some sites for every $1 I spend. But it all ads up. It's like property - the success stories you hear (apart from the lucky ones) are those people that earn a little here, and a little there. Like everything else in life, it takes a lot of hard work.

Anyhow, no matter what you do, the aim is always to collect email addresses in the long run, because this is where the ultimate value lies. OK, for example, you promote a site related to property. You advertise on Google, and send clicks through to the merchant site. If you collect the email addresses on the way through what's known as a 'squeeze page' then you also 'own' those clients - not just the merchant. Imagine: you'll be able to market directly to these people in the future should another affiliate program related to property come along. A ha .. ! Now we're talking!

Let me reaffirm that case with an example of how dangerous it is not employing the e-mail collection strategy. Over a year I spent $16,000 promoting a dating site. I might have made $28,000 in the long run out of it sending something like 60,000 people directly to the site. Because the more click throughs you get, the lower you pay (on AdWords), I was top place paying a few cents in the end - new people putting up AdWords were paying over $1. Anyhow, from one day to another their new affiliate policy came out - no more traffic via AdWords, or your account will be suspended, etc. I was gutted. Had I collected even 50% of those 60,000 emails I would have had 30,000 emails of people that like dating sites. I could have cried.

Once you get good at what you do, the world is your oyster. I particularly like the UK market because it's not as mature as the US market. I really want to target Ireland as well but haven't had the time. I manage one particular account in the UK which where I routinely spend £2 a click, but I know all the processes are in place and the return is always handsome.

That's the important thing - religiously following the standard processes which leads you to being able to magnify your spending and eventual profit. What I mean is, what turns 5c into 50c turns $5 into $50.

I could probably chat all day on this topic but I won't. I'll be honest though, you probably came here via AdWords. I even have your email address! But, I collected that for one reason only - to keep you updated when things happen on this board, otherwise you'd forget AffChat existed. It's not easy starting a forum - but you are part of it.

I'm here for the love of it. I love NZ and it's high time NZ had its own affiliate forum. Ask questions, reply to topics, become a moderator .. let's make this board work.


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Post by helen99 » Wed 18 Jan, 2006 8:34 pm

Thanks for the post, Maz, there's lots of gems in there, indeed.

Cheers Helen

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Post by mailly » Tue 16 May, 2006 12:32 am


Your contribution was so full of common sense and knowledge - I've spent $lots on various e-books but none talked sense in such plain language or gave out such good information. Having said that, it's daunting to see how much work has to be done to promote anything.


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Post by lowkey » Wed 17 May, 2006 3:03 pm

thanks for the post. i look forward to hanging around here and learning more over the next while.

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Post by kiwigirl » Sun 20 Aug, 2006 11:59 pm

Hi Maz,

I have just joined this forum and I am a bit of a newbie at affiliates but learning all I can. I really appreciate your posting this information.


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A good start for affiliate newbies

Post by noskire » Mon 21 Aug, 2006 9:03 pm

Download Ken Envoy's free tutorial - ... ers-Course
<a href="">Destination Canterbury</a> Guide to hotels, activities and attractions in Canterbury, New Zealand.

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Joined: Sun 20 Aug, 2006 11:52 pm
Location: Auckland

Post by kiwigirl » Mon 21 Aug, 2006 9:42 pm

Thanks for that link. :)

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