Affiliate Marketing 102: Building a Free Blog that Google Loves

After you decide what to build a blog around it’s time to actually build it. Without going into technical challenges, there is one easy way to do it: sing up for a free wordpress blog at wordpress.com. Your blog url will be something like this: http://yoursubdomain.wordpress.com. From within your account install “all in one SEO pack” plug in, fill in the blanks and it will do all the on site SEO for you.

To keep you in the know, the on-site SEO includes linking all the pages together so that each page is accessible from anywhere on your website with at least one link, and each page is anchor-linked to from all other pages at least once (if possible). Also, the all in one SEO pack plug in changes your urls to include the category, page, and subpage (you can do it manually by changing the permealinks). This structure is known as “silo structure”, which means that the url for each page should look like this: http://domain.com/category/page.html, or http://domain.com/category/subcategory/page.html.

Ok, I know it doesn’t make sense if you’re not familiar with it: here is a diagram for this silo structure:

If you are not familiar with wordpress.com here is a video on how to sign up for a free account.

And this is another video on how to set it up. The first part explains how to install it on on your server using fantastico. (There is a 25% off coupon for hostgator hosting and it’s good for any package, see the top right corner of this page).

And here is how to install All-in-One SEO Pack plugin:

This should keep you busy for a while. The next one will be about doing it with Googles Blogger.com. Stay tuned my friend.
Don’t forget to share this post with your friends.

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Affiliate Marketing 102: 100% Free Money for Affiliates

IMPORTANT: This is NOT a prelaunch for a product or anything. I am not selling my secrets for any price. So rest assured that I am not going to ask you to buy anything from me at any point. This method utilizes only free resources.

Throughout my websites I stress on one fact that makes a difference between making money and building a business on the Internet: Don’t settle for “free” stuff. Free web hosting, free traffic, and free autoresponders in particular are the biggest “No No”s for me.

With that out of the way, I know that it’s not an option for every one on the planet to pay for hosting and autoresponders or buy advertising. Sometimes it’s money, sometimes it’s the lack of the method of payment as for most of those who live in African countries.

So, here is a simple plan for making money on the Internet building simple free blogs and monetizing them with affiliate links and contextual advertising while driving free traffic to these blogs.

First of all here are the outlines of the plan:

1. Finding a niche, so easy and simple that any kid in the third grade can do it.

2. Choosing the keywords to build the blog around.

3. Building the blog in a way that Google loves (so that we get the free Google traffic).

4. Building a list of the subscribers with a free autoresponder.

5. Driving tons of free traffic to your free blog.

6. Monetizing the blog with affiliate links and contextual advertising blocks.

Now that’s not going to be a killing technique that you’ve never heard about (probably) before, or something that will get you rich over the weekend. It’s a proven method to make some money using free tools available to everyone on the Internet, but this income could, and will, vary greatly from person to person and from time to time. There is also a risk that these free tools might change their rules in a way that makes it impossible for this method to work anymore. It is highly recommended that if you have the means to at least buy a domain name and host it on your own hosting (see the top right corner of this page for a good deal on hosting), please go ahead and do it.

With that disclaimer out of the way, we can start explaining the plan in details:

1 & 2. Finding Niches and Keywords:

Finding the niche, or the subject for your blog material, is where you’ll need to spend most of your time and energy before you start building your money making blog, because based on your results there will be a difference between making some good money and money little to no money at all.

It’s not that hard, and anyone can do it. Here are the steps:

  • Watch infomercials and take note of the products they are selling (don’t buy anything :-), you’re working now).
  • Make a list of the PROBLEMS that they solve, e.g. weight loss, back pain, osteoporosis, hearing troubles … etc. Then shortlist these problems to what you have some knowledge about or have passion for (building muscles for example).
  • Go to clickbank’s market place and find products that solve these or related problems. These products and their gravity indexes are indicators of the size of the market. The more products you find and the higher the gravity indexes the more competitive the market is. There is no rule for it. I had success selling products with less than 1 gravity index and failed miserably with products with gravity index above 300.

IMPORTANT: STAY AWAY FROM WEIGHT LOSS, YOU-KNOW-WHAT-ENLARGEMENT, WORK FROM HOME, OR ANY THING YOU SEE IN  YOUR EMAIL SPAM BOX.

Anything that your email provider filters out as a spam is also considered spam by most of the free blog service providers and the content sharing websites you’ll be using if you stick to this method.

  • Go to Google keyword tool and find a keyword related to your market that is not too specific and not too broad, and get’s like 2000-4000 local searches in the US. The too specific keyword will probably trigger spam bots, and the too broad ones will be too competitive for a free blog to rank in search engines for it.
  • Check the competition for this keyword by searching it on Google in quotes (like this: “keyword”) and see how many websites will show for it. This is the simplest way to do it. Also take note of the sponsored ads. No ads is not a good sign.

It’s not going to be a piece of cake. You’ll probably need to keep searching for keywords related to your niche of choice for a while until you find the suitable keyword.

That should keep you busy for a while. This is your homework. Find a niche and related keywords until the next post comes out.

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Affiliate Marketing 101: Direct Linking

Direct linking is to drive your traffic straight to the advertiser’s landing page. Years ago this was the only form of affiliate marketing, but with the increasing number of affiliate marketers and the fierce competition on buying the keywords that convert into sales/leads for the advertiser direct linking has become a thing from the past. Or has it?

One of the biggest names in affiliate marketing has been direct linking for the past 5 years. This guy makes millions of dollars every year from affiliate marketing, all without bothering himself with building websites.

This super affiliate also uses buffer websites when he needs to, like when buying traffic from Google Adwords. And he’s been happy with his results, until he met with another dynamic affiliate marketer who kept trying to convince him to build lead capture pages, lists, and relationship with his potential buyers.

Now it’s becoming confusing, let’s refer to the direct linker with G. and for the relationship builder with R.

G. resisted R.’s suggestion for a while on the basis of “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it”, and that whenever a loop is involved the conversion drops. A year later he tried it in one of the niches and to his surprise, in the matter of a few months he’s built a list that makes him $400 every time he sends out an email. Given the nature of this niche, $400/email promoting CPA lead generation offers, that’s pretty good.

It’s true that any looping or buffering drops the conversion in most cases (unless you’re a good copywriter). But that’s only on the front end. By building a list and building a positive relationship with your subscribers you are building an “on-demand cash machine”.

G. and R. are not fictional, they are affiliate marketing millionaires who I learned from over the past 3 years.

Now let’s talk about you for a while. Should YOU be direct linking?

The answer is: absolutely. Let’s think strategically for a minute:

If you are just starting, or say, if I am going to restart in affiliate marketing here is what I would do: I would pick some offers in different niches and build direct linking campaigns on Yahoo. The advantage of using Yahoo PPC traffic is that it’s not that expensive, and Yahoo doesn’t penalize me for direct linking like Google. The offers that start converting are probably in good niches. I would then start testing other offers in the same niche also by direct linking. If they keep converting then I am in a lucrative market.

From my PPC conversion tracking I would know what keywords are converting into buyers and I start building a website around those keywords. This will serve two purposes:

  1. Focused SEO efforts so that I start generating converting traffic from organic search results for free, and
  2. Get higher quality score on Google Adwords when I buy traffic to this site.

Then I would continue testing new keywords and offers to optimize this campaign while testing other niches the same way I did with the first one.

So direct linking is not dead. It works, and if not profitable at least you get data to build a profitable campaign around.

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Affiliate Marketing 101: Residual Traffic

One of the most controversial posts on this blog was that titled “Affiliate Marketing 101: Traffic: Organic vs. Paid“, where I wrote about how unreliable organic traffic is vs. paid traffic and why you should only consider paid traffic if you are going to build a business.

It is really as simple as it sounds; you can build a business only on what you pay for. The changing algorithms make it impossible to optimize your site for search engines on a long-term fashion. Instead you’ll have to be optimizing your website frequently. Compare this with paid traffic. You pay for traffic, and you get it.

But there is a draw back in paid traffic: It’s not residual. You pay for traffic today and you get it, then you have to pay again for the same traffic tomorrow and so on.

A residual source of traffic is the one that sends you traffic every day once you establish it. And the more source of traffic you build the more daily traffic you get from those sources together.

Does this kind of traffic exist? The one you work for today and get traffic for a long time as long as it is there sending you traffic? And every day you work on it you accumulate sources of residual traffic that send you more traffic?

Yes it exists, and in both forms: paid and free.

Build a List:

First off, whatever your source of traffic if you are not building a list you are losing more money on the table than you are making. Think about it. The highest conversion rate on a landing page I’ve ever heard of was around 8%. Say it’s 10%. That’s 90% of your website visitors leaving your website without making you money. You paid for this traffic, yet you are passively watching it leaving your site.

Even with free traffic, to get organic traffic you work even harder to get that, yet you don’t do anything to follow up with your visitors who don’t take action.

It’s easy by the way. The easiest thing to do on a website is to add a lead capture form anywhere and offer your visitors a gift for stopping by asking for their names and email addresses to send the gift to their inbox.

And you don’t need to create the gift. You can buy one ready and just give it away. And don’t think about it as an extra cost. By building a list you are doing the most important thing an online business owner should do. The list is your asset. A website with a list is worth several fold more than a website without a list when you consider selling it.

Write Articles:

An article that points to your website is a source of traffic as long as it is live online. The more articles you write the more streams of residual traffic you get to your website. It’s that simple.

Again, on your website, no matter which one of the three affiliate websites described on this blog (lead capture, review, or blog) always make sure you capture your visitors info to follow up with them. Build a relationship with more free stuff and valuable info.

Frank Kern once said: “Over cool your competitors” if you want to win the competition. And you do that by providing more value to your list members over the time.

Other Web 2.0 Properties:

In addition to article directories, there are other sites that let you publish your content in return for a link to your website. Squidoo and hubpages are among the most famous examples.

Again: don’t forget to build your list.

Social Media:

Social media, another type of web 2.0 sites, allows you to link to whatever you want, and build relationships with millions of people out there. Examples are facebook, twitter, my space … etc. They work like a charm as long as you don’t spam. Be cool, be likable, be social, and don’t forget your website in your profile and when appropriate.

Don’t forget: the list.

Social Bookmarking Services:

Social bookmarking services should be used for the this purpose: bookmarking and sharing your bookmarks. If you only bookmark your stuff you are missing on the value you could get from these websites. Bookmark other cool stuff. Cool stuff get large search volumes, which means more people to view your bookmarks, and your profile.

Before I finish this post there are two things you need to unleash the power of residual traffic:

1. Tools that you’ll be using to build your list, and

2. a guide on how to use articles and web 2.0 property to drive residual traffic to your website.

List Building Tools:

To build a list you need 3 things: a website, an autoresponder, and a gift to give away. If you are in the Internet marketing niche I can help you with the gift.

If you are not, first check with the product owner. Quite a number of product owners, especially on clickbank, have rebrandable ebooks or demo software that you can give away for free to build your list and make them sales. The other sources are PLRs and MRRs (you can google your niche + PLR or MRR). The good ones will cost you, but it’s money well spent.

The autoresponders are competing with one another in a way that makes your life as a user even better. My favorite is grabthatlead.com, which costs $9.95/month no matter how big your list is. It’s a very basic and reliable autoresponder. If you don’t have your own tracking system then you might as well consider other big names like icontact. They both have a free version.

And for the website, you need a domain name that tells all about your niche to your visitors, and a reliable hosting. You can get both for $42/year (vs. $9/year only for the domain and $120/year for hosting any where else) from ipage.com. I’ve got only positive feedback from people like you who took my recommendation and purchased ipage hosting, especially regarding the technical support: efficient and friendly.

Web 2.0 Guides:

1. Direct article marketing (free download)

2. Hubpages Free Traffic Report (Free download)

3. Squidoo guide (free download).

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Affiliate Marketing 101: ClickBank Gravity: High Or Low?

In the last post I wrote about how to promote just any product starting with the product itself. The example I took was GDI because it was the most common question I received. Although GDI is not dead, and still people are able to get new sign ups. it is not an attractive affiliate program anymore. In fact, I don’t see it going anywhere better unless they consider enhancing their product.

Today’s post is about promoting clickbank products starting from the product. There are several factors involved in evaluating the product before you start promoting it. In this post I’ll focus on the gravity index because the debate about it is very controversial.

First, what is ClickBank Gravity Index

Gravity: Number of distinct affiliates who earned a commission by referring a paying customer to the vendor’s products. This is a weighted sum and not an actual total. For each affiliate paid in the last 8 weeks we add an amount between 0.1 and 1.0 to the total. The more recent the last referral, the higher the value added.

That’s the definition given by clickbank itself. As you see it can be taken as an indicator of the sell-ability of any product, and also as an indicator of the competition. The higher the number the bigger the competition.

So, for a product with a gravity index of 400 you are competing with between 400 and 4000 other competitor, while for a gravity of 40 you are competing between 40 and 400 other affiliates.

When I first started I listened to a guest in one of Mike Filsaime’s workshops who was talking about competition and how one can see it like a big wave, if you stand in the way you’ll definitely get wet. So are niches with high competition. If you promote products in this niche you’ll definitely make some money. But he ignored the Return On Investment. You could make money in competitive niches, but if your ROI is negative the net result is losing money.

How I see competitive niches is totally different. I see it as a race in a funnel. With a certain number of racers they can move freely and pass one another without being hurt or damaged. The higher the number the harder it is for new racers to get through to the front line without being hurt or even completely destroyed.

So, to pick a niche (not a product) from clickbank I do the following:

  1. When I consider a niche I calculate the sum of gravity indexes of all of the products in that niche. If too high I go for subniches unitl I find a sum of gravity indexes below 100.
  2. The next step is test the competition. I check for adwords ads for those or similar products. If I find between 3-10 ads I pick that subniche.
  3. Keyword research comes next. If the first position for the most relevant keyword costs $1 or less per click I start a direct link test campaign. If it converts I scale it up with more keywords and ad copies, and go for building the three types of websites for it: the blog, the review site, and the lead capture page. If not I pause it for now and test something else.

And because this is what I do for living, I do it every day. Every single day I start a new campaign as described above.

That’s it for today, have a good day.

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Affiliate Marketing 101: How To Promote Just Any Product

Here is the post you´ve all been waiting for. I actually felt bad that I put it off so long that you guys started to remind me. I do apologize, and here goes.

Most of the time people get introduced to affiliate marketing by a product that they are told will make them a lot of money if they make just one sale a day! That goes to any affiliate product, and is particularly true in case of network marketing (where you are stuck with the product/company and you can only promote this thing that they have).

You are still going to do the market research because you need to find people who are interested in your product, where they hang out, and what do they search for. When you know this you´ll be able to target those people and increase your chances of making sales/sign ups (i.e.: conversion)

Here is how to do promote any product

1. If you don´t have the product it´s time to have it. Sometimes you can get a free copy/sample as an affiliate. Ask for it, if not … then buy it. A flexible refund policy is a good sign. It means they are confident about their product.

2. Ask yourself: Who might need this product? I´ll explain with an example, which is GDI (because most of the questions I get are ¨how to promote GDI¨). GDI provides domain registration and hosting (as a product) and a residual source of income (as a benefit).

Who might be interested in GDI´s domain registration and hosting?

First off, GDI hosting is one of the poorest in the industry. So you are not going to promote GDI to webmasters because GDI is out of the competition. Your target should be beginners who don´t know what is FTP, who in the world is HTML, or Fantas..who? As long as they only need an easy to build personal website, then they are a target.

Your target will be the group of people who are interested in building a website on their own domain, have their private email address on their own domain, and will definitely need a website builder in the hosting package.

Is this even a market? Let´s have a look.

Google keyword tool will tell us how many people are searching for terms that indicate they are beginners when it comes to virtual real estate (websites and alike).

keywrod research

That´s 74,000 searches every month for ¨how to build a website¨. Do you think you have a market? You bet you do.

So … here is your target audience. They search Google for ¨how to build a website¨. If you can explain to them how to build a website using GDI´s website builder (tutorials, pictures, and videos) you have a chance to get sign ups. Even better, you can pitch them to buy a one year of hosting because it´s cheaper than paying on a month-by-month basis.

You can also pitch them on the income opportunity, like this: ¨refer 10 people and your hosting is free¨.

The other direction is to approach people who are interested in the income opportunity. Definitely you need to stay away from affiliate marketers because GDI is a very weak offer for us. But for beginners it is the perfect income opportunity because it is very cheap compared to other network marketing ¨opportunities¨.

So .. your target is people who are looking for a cheap online business opportunity. Do you have a market? Let´s ask Google one more time.

keyword-research

2400 people world wide search for cheap online business each month. Do you have a market? I don´t think so. Not a big one at best.

So how to promote the income side of GDI?

Here are two suggestions:

1. Focus on the hosting side and pitch your subscribers into reffering others to reduce their hosting cost (or even get it for free). You´ll need to show them how from scratch because this audience have no idea how to promote anything.

2. Attract other network marketers who are still doing it offline. Introduce the power of Internet marketing and the importance of having a website for capturing fresh leads for their business. Then pitch them on GDI as a hosting company with a network marketing opportunity in place.

Even better, give them a solution, like a lead capture system (including the files to load to their hosting, the autoresponder, some email follow ups) and give it for free if they join your GDI business.

These are just suggestions to get your own marketing mindset started.

So to wrap up: find out who might need your product/service, and make it appeal to them.

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Affiliate Marketing 101: Traffic: Organic Vs. Paid

Dragging traffic to your buffer pages, whether they are review pages, lead capture pages, or blogs, is the next component of the big picture. You know … the picture of a full time affiliate marketer who is making real money by choosing the right market, testing products, preparing good buffering pages, and sending as much targeted traffic to those pages as possible.

But where to get the traffic from?

Here is a list of the possible sources of traffic to any website:

  1. Direct traffic: where people type your url in their browser and hit enter, or chose it from their bookmarks. Most of the time people arrive to your site this way if they hear about it offline (TV, fliers, posts, word of month, in a book or magazine).
  2. Search engines: where people search for a keyword or phrase and your site shows up in the search results. A typical search results page includes two types of results: sponsored links (paid for showing up for this keyword or phrase), and organic results that the search engines picks from their indexed sites that contain these keywords. More on these later.
  3. Referred traffic: who click on a link or a banner on another site and follow it to your site.
  4. Contextual traffic: this one has variant definitions, but for affiliate marketers it is when your site shows up as a pop up or pop under when someone visits a related website or search for a relevant keyword. It is driven either by adware (not spyware) or pop up from the website they visited.

Out of the above sources you pay for sponsored search results, banners (sometimes) on other people´s sites, offline advertising, and contextual traffic. Organic search results, on the other hand, are free. Free as in: you can not buy them.

Now the debate whether you should go for free organic traffic or paid traffic first is like the chicken/egg one, because you need, and can get both but you don´t know which one to start with.

Here is my two cents:

You can only build a business on what you pay for. Free stuff might work for a while and even make you a lot of money, but you have no control over anything you get for free.

In this post what concerns us is the organic traffic from search engines. If you optimize your website to show on the first page of results when your keyword is searched you´ll get this kind of traffic for free (only if you consider that your time is worthless).

This search engine optimization process is time consuming and involves a lot of work, and you don´t get to see the results right away. It might take your site anywhere between 1 week and 2 years to show on the first page depending on the market you are in. One can not expect search engine algorithms to stay the same until you are done with your SEO work. They change all the time.

And when they change your site might move from the first position to the 30th or even 900th, and this unplugs your money machine immediately. Can you build a business on that? As a business you have expenses to cover and a growth plan that you want to achieve on time. You need to be in control of your traffic if you are serious about your affiliate marketing business.

Paid traffic on the other hand is an instant traffic. It means you could be making money from your sites in a matter of minutes. Besides, if you pay for traffic and don´t get it, you can call someone and have the problem fixed (money talks louder than anything today body).

It doesn´t mean that you shouldn´t work on SEO, you actually should (the process involves getting backlinks to your site, which in itself is a source of traffic). In fact SEO helps you get lower cost per click if you use Google Adwords for advertising. Just consider this kind of traffic as a bonus and don´t consider it as a source of income in your future plans for expansion.

One more thing, and it is very important. When you do the SEO you do it for a certain keyword or phrase per page. You want to spend your time optimizing for the keywords or phrases that make money. And what is the best way to know this? By tracking your Pay Per Click advertising.

More on the tracking process in the next post.

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Affiliate Marketing 101: Affiliate Marketing Tools

In the past post I wrote about different types of affiliate sites and how I use all three of them to maximize my earnings from affiliate marketing. In this post I will write about the tools I use and why I picked them up from the growing pile of service providers.

This post might sound like pitching you to buy these tools. Although I will make money when you take my recommendation and buy from my affiliate links, but it´s not what this post is all about. It´s about you and how to start your affiliate marketing business on a solid foundation. Any mistake at the beginning might cost you a lot of unnecessary expenses or lost potential commission on the long run,

So … let´s start.

To have all three of the affiliate sites (a blog, a lead capture page, and a review site) you will need a web hosting that supports MySQL and php (GDI does not work). You will need those for Word Press or Joomla to manage your website/blog content, and for managing your list using your own autoresponder or membership script.

If you are going to use only the list building and review sites and a third party autoresponder you can use your GDI hosting for it.

In addition to the hosting you will need the scripts that will run on it (the autoresponder or membership script and the content management program(s)), some images, and a tracking software.

Hosting

Hosting could be the worst nightmare in the life of an affiliate marketer. Imagine waking up one day to find that the campaign that is making you thousands in commission every day is unplugged because the server was down. (Don´t ask how I knew this :-()

And there is no way you can be in full control over your hosting unless you are your own host. But there is one thing I learned from hosting companies: never put all of your eggs in one basket.

How is that?

You can organize your campaigns in two different fashions:

1. Have all of the blogs on one server, the lead capturing/list management on another server, and your review site on a third server. This way if one of them is down, you have at least two thirds of your money making campaign running until you fix this one.

This should not be as costly as it sounds. You can have your lead capturing/list management systems on a paid hosting, the blogs on blogger.com, and review lenses on squidoo.com.

As a beginner, I recommend you do it this way. You´ll only pay for one hosting package, and benefit from the organic traffic you´ll get from structuring your blogger and squidoo correctly (Ledbetter, 2009). Once you are making enough money, don´t wait a second … just buy a couple more hosting accounts from two different companies and transfer your blogs and review contents to them.

2. For each campaign have a dedicated hosting account for the blog, lead capturing/list management system, and the review all on the same domain. In addition to three well ranking blogs on three different servers linking to your main campaign domain.

This structure will give you more credibility of having the membership site, the review site, and the blog for updating your members/readers with news (and new offers) under the same domain, and having blogs on other servers will give you more organic traffic and less cost per click if you are running an Adwords campaign.

You still can get back links from blogger.com blogs and squidoo lenses for more free organic traffic and as a back up plan for this particular campaign if the server goes down for a while.

One campaign per hosting is just a way to avoid unplugging all of your money machines if your server goes down.

You´ll obviously go for this option only when you have a winning campaign that is making you a lot of money.

Recommended Hosting

The best among all web hosting companies at the moment of writing this post is Hostgator because they have one of the best packages for the best price and it’s easy to use.

List Management

For managing your list you´ll need an autoresponder. I am not going to pitch you to buy any third party autoresponders like Aweber or iContact. Although as an affiliate I get recurring commission as long as you have the service if you buy through my affiliate link, but I know it is not the best for your business.

Your best bet on managing your own list is installing your own autoresponder script on your own server. You pay for it once and you have it for life (well … kinda).

Imagine that you have a winning campaign and that your list is growing fast. With most third party autoresponders you pay monthly according to the size of your list. The only exception is trafficwave.com (no I am not an affiliate :-)), and you still are going to pay $20 every month.

Although it could be a side stream of income if you refer to it, still, you can eliminate all of the monthly autoresopnder expenses if you buy the script and install it on your server. There are free ones, but don´t build a business on any thing you didn´t pay for. With your payment comes a guarantee, technical support, and a seller willing to keep you satisfied in order to buy more stuff ;-).

Alternatively, you can go to freelancer.com and post your project. Coders will submit a proposal to make for you and you can pick the lowest cost among a group of the best freelance coders around.

My favorite method of managing a list is a membership script that includes a built-in autoresponder.

If you are one of the lucky ones who responded to my promotion for Mike Filsaime´s Butterfly Marketing, then you have the membership script with a similar autoresponder to that used by aweber for just the shipping and handling fee. That was a limited time offer and long gone, so .. I am pitching you on it. If you want it today you´ll have to pay $797 for the downloadable version, or $1997 for the DVDs + shipping and handling.

The second best is Frank Salina´s EZMembership script. It costs a one time $497 $77 and you´ll get updates for life. It´s like a simple, fully functional version of Buttyfly Marketing but for just a tiny fraction of the price. $77 is less than 4 months of autoresponder´s fee and you have shopping carts, one time offer scripts, and upsell and downsell sciprts as a bonus.

In addition, if you are going to expand on your winning campaign by having upgraded membership levels within the members area. This is the main purpose of doing affiliate marketing.. finding a market you can expand on and dominate with your own product/service.

I can´t make any guarantees, but these tools are by far the best in the market.

That´s it for today. The next posts are going to be more interesting. You still need track your advertising effectively.

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Affiliate Marketing 101: Your Affiliate site

In the last post I wrote about the catalyst, which (in plain English) is your effort to get the market to buy your affiliate product. And I hope we agree on that the best way to convince your audience to buy your affiliate product is to pre-sell them on your site.

Today I’ll go through some of the affiliate site types and how to chose the type that fits with your market.

There are 3 main types of affiliate sites:

  • blogs
  • lead capture pages, and
  • review sites

Blogs

Blogs can be your best shot if you are selling a product that needs a social proof, such as hair regrowth, acne treatment, muscle building, weight loss, and teeth whitening products. The right way to do it is to buy the product, take a picture of yourself before you use it, and on intervals after that.

It sounds like a lengthy process, and the market might get saturated, or at least you lose your first-striker advantage by the time your are done. But blogs that are done this way convert way better than any other form of affiliate sites.

Some affiliates fake blogs and pictures in order to jump on the opportunity while it is still hot. But guess what, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has changed its rules specially for those fake bloggers. There is a term for this kind of blogs: Flogs.

You want to make money, not to get in trouble with the feds. Even if you don’t live in the US, the law still applies to you if you are selling anything in the US (which is the biggest market available so far).

Lead Capture Pages

This kind of affiliate sites is the best when it comes to niches like working from home, but it also works really well in any other niche. The idea is to prepare a report, a small software, or an ebook, either by yourself or by having it done for you (rent a freelancer, buy PLRs, or MRRs). Then build a landing page that offers this gift for free and ask for name and email that you’ll send the gift to. This could be as simple as one page with an autoresponder form on it (and definitely with all the other business pages: about, contact, terms and conditions, and privacy policy). After your deliver your gift follow up with useful information and recommendations (which will be your affiliate products).

And it could be as complicated as a membership site. Before you jump to a conclusion, running a membership site is way easier and much more secure than the simple lead capture page example. From within the membership site you’ll have your own autoresponder, your own real estate which you’ll be bringing visitors to it on demand, and you’ll have the control over all of your tools (except for the server if you are hosting on a third party’s server).

Building a list could be a source of income itself through one time offers and special offers that you’ll be able to provide for your list within the membership area. MRRs work perfectly well with this model, and you’ll be able to segregate your list into buyers and potential buyers.

Review Sites

Review sites are the most common examples of affiliate sites in niches like PC error repairs (registry cleaners, pc enhancers, anti spyware and viruses) and relationships (dating, relationship advice ..). The review sites provide the reader with a chance to compare available products, which is a buyer’s typical behavior. This way, if you are going to buy traffic to your site you know that your visitors are ready with their credit card in hand.

You can also combine Review Sites with Lead Capture forms to maximize your potential earnings per visitor.

My Personal Favorite

My personal favorite way to promote a product is to start with the lead capture page, a review site, and the blog at the same time. The lead capture page will be my source of leads and income in this niche in the early stages, and the blog will be gradually building credibility, especially that I post on blogs as diaries (like, day1, day2 ..etc). The capture leads will be directed to the review site where they can compare products if they are interested in buying right now. Then I would drag traffic directly to the review site, on which there is a lead capture form, either in a static form or as an exit pop up. This kind of traffic is expensive and I’d better make sure my review page converts well before I buy this traffic.

While I am reviewing the product on a day to day basis for my blog (or having it reviewed for me) I’ll be getting it indexed, posting every day and having back-links built for it. By the time it has built credibility it will be getting organic traffic from back-links and search results.

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Affiliate Marketing 101: Catalysts

Now that you have a product and a market you need to bring the product to the market. And to bring the product to the market you need a catalyst (as in chemistry) that brings the two together on a medium that facilitates the reaction (in our case the reaction is the purchase or subscription).

The catalyst for the affiliate marketer could be as simple as a direct advertisement, or as complicated as a niche site, and each market-product combination has its own optimum catalyst.

Your job as an affiliate marketer is to find out which catalyst, or let´s call it ¨platform¨ from now on, that fits with your audience. Then adapt your promotion method to fit with this platform. You should have already got this piece of information from the market research step.

For example: if your audience trusts forums, your job is to modify your promotion method to fit with forums. That could be simply a banner at the top of that forum (buying banners is usually referred to as ¨media buy¨) linking directly to your affiliate link.

If your audience needs more pre-selling (persuasion), then your job is to be the star of these forums at this subject. It will take you a bit of effort to learn all about the subject, and you´ll need to have the best answer to every question asked on these forums. But this is a business. You have already done that in the school by doing assignments about subjects you´d never heard of at that time. Consider this as one of those assignments, but you´ll be rewarded in cash instead of marks.

Let´s take a live example:

One of the niches that have been making me money is the online business niche. Within this niche there are sub-niches, and you can divide the market into several sectors, such as: newbies, not-too-newbie, drop out, advanced: needs traffic, advanced: needs hosting, advanced: needs a membership management script, advanced: wants to stay up to date … etc. Even these sectors can each be divided into smaller categories, like MLMers, MLM drop outs, affiliate marketers, direct sellers (on auction), store owners .. etc.

If you have a guide that explains the basics of generating more targeted free traffic, your target should be [advanced: needs traffic]. If you are building a list with this guide then you can sell to this list in the future more advanced traffic generation techniques, alternative sources to buy traffic from, keyword tools, and keep advancing with them. Parallel to this line, you know that they need services such as web hosting and autoresponders. Your job is to keep an eye on the best offers from these service providers and keep your list updated.

Now let´s dissect this example:

Your audience is allover the internet, but there are authority sites that rank at the top of search engine results for the term ¨online business¨ and, therefore, are more trusted than other sites.

Some of these sites are interactive, and you can post comments or articles related to the content of these sites. Examples are forums, blogs, and article directories.

Your product serves one sector of this community: people who already have an online business and need more traffic to their sites.

You need those people to see your offer. And to do this you buy advertising space on these authority sites, post useful information about the issue and link to your ¨site¨ in your signature, or just get a back-link to your ¨site¨ from these authority sites to increase your chances of ranking higher on search engine organic results.

Your ¨site¨ could be the direct affiliate link, but this is not a good idea. Your traffic will see your offer once then you lose them. Besides, back-linking to your affiliate link only helps the owner of the product, and doesn´t help you at all.

Above all, as in the example above, I need to build a list of those people and build a relationship with them so that they buy from me in the future.

So .. you´ll need a ¨buffer¨ website. (I keep using chemistry related terms today … :-).

This buffer website could be a blog full of free useful information and pre-selling your affiliate product, or a review site/blog that provides useful information about a group of products and an honest evaluation.

And to make sure you make the most out of your visitors you´ll need to ad an opt in form that you can get from your favorite autoresponder. Just paste it on your site and offer a free gift for everyone who fills it.

Why it is important to have your own site/blog?

First of all you are building a traffic history for the site you are advertising, why not benefit from this effort on the long run?

Second, some offers convert very well at the beginning then they stop converting. The traffic is going to the site that you control, if the offer is not converting change it with something else. You already have a list of products that you can sell from the product research step.

Third, you can build your own list. This is one of the biggest assets in your affiliate marketing business. Some markets respond after being exposed to your offer many times, sometimes 4 weeks after they first come across your site. Your chances of selling to them increase with following up with them with different pitches.

That´s if for today. The next posts will cover advertising resources.

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