Affiliate Marketing After the Penguin, Panda … and whatever

It really feels bad when you wake up one day to find that your income has been unplugged by someone playing GOD over you. And do you know what’s even worse? when someone makes up a rumor that affiliate marketing is dead because HIS sites are gone.

It’s really bad because it makes new affiliates give up although this statement about the death of affiliate marketing could not be further from the truth.

I am an affiliate and I am making my living out of affiliate marketing and promoting other people’s sites and products. And this whole “death of affilaite marketing” thing is nothing but a rumor. At least not due to the latest Google updates.

First of all I don’t rely on Google’s search engine traffic in my business. I am a “paid traffic” guy. And that’s for a reason: I am running a business. To run a business you need to know your ROI on everything you do before you decide to do it. With paid traffic I can do that. With Google’s organic traffic I can NOT do that due to those updates of his.

Still, I get organic traffic from Google search results to all of my websites. And due to the large number of sites that I have I can tell whether this is a trend or not. So let’s get into it.

Some of my sites have been hit badly by the new updates. By badly I mean losing more than half of the traffic they were getting from big ol’G. Other sites moved up and are getting more traffic.

The rest of the story is more important …

Most of the sites that were hit badly started to climb up again and caught up with the first page once more. Still this is not the whole story yet.

What’s ironic in this movement is that my income from those sites is almost the same as before the updates. And that’s because Google’s traffic represents less than 5% of the total traffic I am getting to my sites.

That’s right. Less than 5% of my traffic is from organic search engine results. The rest comes mainly from paid traffic. But this is not all.

If you are on my list or have been following my pdfs you’d know that I have a method for free traffic that has nothing to do with Google and it’s my favorite free traffic method. It worked for me 5 years ago, last year, before Google updates, after Google updates, and is still working until now.

And this method is article marketing, but not as you know it.

Most of the courses that teach article marketing, like “my online income system“, focus on two concepts that I don’t like:

1. Getting back links from the articles directories and if you’re lucky you’ll get some from publisher’s sites as well, and

2. Ranking the article in search engines so that they send you traffic!

And that’s for a reason, Google gives authority to big sites with large numbers of pages and you have a better chance ranking your article in search engine results if you publish them on those big sites than on your small site.

My method is built on a totally different concept:

1. Your articles are not going to be spammy articles. On the contrary, you’ll be writing really good articles and will publish them on your site first. There was a rule of 500 words, forget that. Don’t limit yourself to the number of words and write for the readers. Impress them.

2. Rewrite your articles (dont’ spin them, really rewrite them) and publish them on article directories. A really good article will be picked by other sites, and here comes your back link. The most important thing here is to ignore that “anchor link” thing because this is what identifies a spammy link. Just place a plain url for your website.

3. Also the good article (the one on your site and that one on the article directory) will pick up traffic quickly if you go viral on Facebook because you’ll be proud to share it and your friends will also share it. And here comes some traffic to your site from the social giant.

4. Contact the owners of the websites that published your article and offer them more articles written just for them. Mention the panda and they’ll thank you for your offer. Now you can include the anchored links in your articles.

This method has been mentioned elsewhere on this site and on my other site fomt.biz, porbably a bit different now than when I first published it but it’s almost all the same. The main difference is that plain url in the article bio box.

So here you have it. Affiliate marketing is not dead due to Google slaps or anything. But it could die due to something else.

As you might know, I am a CPA guy. Of course I don’t promote trash scammy offers. The same affiliate networks that have the trash also have some good stuff. Since the end of 2011 and utnil now the affiliate networks that I have been working with have been disappearing one after the other. Some file bankruptcy and some are still operating but stopped paying affilaites! Only a couple are still working with me and the mother company of one of them is filing bankruptcy, so it’s all declining. The only networks that have not been touched are Clickbank, Amazon, and Commission Junction among a few others. This is not a good picture for the future of affiliate marketing, although there is an advantage in it (the disappearance of trash offers).

Anyways, sites like Clickbank and Commission Junction look like they’re here to stay around for quite a while, so don’t let those “death of affiliate marketing” voices discourage you. Go ahead and do it.

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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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