28
Apr

Paint What You See, Not What You Think You See

Paint What  You See“Paint what you see, not what you think you see.” Those were probably some of the most profound words uttered by a teacher in a painting class I was taking while working on a graphic arts degree. It helped me finally “see” what I was doing wrong in drawing and painting still lifes, people and landscapes.

The trouble us budding artists had was that we knew what an apple, an orange, a wine bottle, and a human face looked like close up, but from 20 feet away we were trying to draw in the detail that we knew was there, but couldn’t actually see. When we all eventually realized to just paint what we saw, the entire process became much easier.

If you think about what you do in affiliate marketing and especially how you work your paid search campaigns, sometimes doing the stupid simple things, or at least being able to realize what they are, can make a huge difference in your business. Taking a step back and examining what you really see and how you really get conversions, what makes people buy, or fill out a lead form and ends up making you money can be an eye opening experience. It will probably turn out to be different than what you may have been led to believe or thought you had your head wrapped around.

For the longest time it was like I was banging my head against the wall trying to figure out this ppc thing and just about 4 or 5 months ago it really began to literally “click” for me. The conventional wisdom for years was to throw thousands of somewhat related keywords into a few different ad groups, see what converted and then trash the rest. The trouble with that philosophy was that you could have hundreds or thousands of words that end up getting 1 or 2 clicks each and you continue to hold onto them while they get 3, 4 and 5 clicks, waiting to see if one of them may convert while they up costing you lots of cash (especially in a competitive niche) and valuable time watching them. I now never, ever use more than one keyword in an AdGroup.

There are certainly lots of ways to make ppc work, but what started finally paying off for me was when I realized that there is an entire group of impulsive individuals just waiting to pounce and spend money on the hottest thing or get the latest bit of information that’s important to them especially when it’s recommended by someone else or has the force of the all powerful media behind it.

Up close it looks like ppc is a huge chore with all the market research, keyword research, tracking, quality score issues, bid prices, conversions and everything else that goes with it. The right in your face view of ppc marketing is fraught with details, but once you step back and take a look at the bigger picture the fundamentals are really quite simple. The basics are no more complicated than: find a source of lots of cheap traffic and send it to a relevant offer that converts.

Whatever you think of the media, when it comes to identifying hot trends, hot products and niches relevant to us affiliate marketers, they are absolutely your friend. If you keep an eye on the Drudge Report, the morning shows, the nightly news and the extended news programs like Dateline, 20/20, 60 Minutes and others and then regularly check Google Trends, Insights For Search, Yahoo Buzz and anything else that keeps track of hot topics, everything you need to get gobs and gobs of traffic is right there.

The more familiar you become with watching trends, the easier it becomes to identify topics that could possibly be a successful ppc campaign or other affiliate marketing venture for you. It is becoming much more frequent that I get up from watching one of these news programs right in the middle of it, start a ppc campaign and and end up making money 15 minutes later. And the great thing about these hot topic campaigns is that no one else is bidding in that space, plus if they don’t end up working, the cheap traffic doesn’t end up costing you much.

You’ll probably have to run several of these type of campaigns until you get the hang of it and figure out what makes people react and buy and more specifically what works for you and the way you target your ppc efforts. For some of you, this will probably be fairly easy if you are already in touch with trends, popular culture and the like. It was an initial effort for me because I tend to shy away from trendy subjects so it was hard to identify what was important and would eventually be profitable.

The bottom line though is not to over-complicate the process because even if you are remotely familiar with the news and general happenings you already are in touch enough to make your affiliate marketing and ppc efforts work much better. You may just have to refocus, take a step back, and learn how to paint what you see, not what you think you see.

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13
Apr

Affiliate Intangibles – Attitude And Out Of The Box Thinking

Out Of The Box ThinkingWhile the skills of affiliate marketing such as figuring out ppc, building websites, basic keyword seo, content writing and many other things are vitally important and very basic to your online endeavors, you are more than likely going to make the biggest impact on your earnings by improving two intangibles that are somewhat hard to nail down. Once the skills are acquired, more than anything else, attitude and out of the box thinking will get you to that next level.

These two concepts could be discussed separately in different posts, but I believe they are related, so this will be a long post as I try to mix up some stew here and mash things together.

Attitude

Doesn’t Google just piss you off? Don’t you just hate it when you’re crankin on a CPA offer and they change the lading page and your conversions are cut in half? Doesn’t eBay make you mad when your sales stats aren’t making any sense? And what about this Obama guy, either you think the right wing republicans are trying to tear him down or you think he may be the anti-christ and is destroying the country. Man, there’s enough wrong stuff affiliate marketing and in the larger frame of things that you could probably spend your entire life worrying about it.

Now that you’ve probably thought about some of that above and may be thinking, “Yea, right on man! Google really is the evil spawn of a vast conspiracy by eBay, Oprah and Obama to lobotomize the world and merge our consciousness with a machine”, none of that is going to earn you one penny. In fact, dwelling on excuses, negatives and minutiae will seriously hamper your ability to focus, will hurt your motivation and it takes valuable time away from your business.

It all boils down to controlling your attitude instead of letting it control you. Because of the ever changing landscape of affiliate marketing, this business can certainly give you enough to complain about and as long as your complaints are pointed in the right direction they can benefit you, but the problem is, most times they aren’t. Complaints properly focused can change the situation or at least make others aware of a legitimate issue that needs to be dealt with, but complaining just for the joy of flapping your gums only makes you a better complainer, not a person with a better attitude.

Think about that, do you really want to be better at complaining? World class complainers may be great at what they do, unfortunately, the pay isn’t that great.

The next time you run across something that really makes your blood boil, instead of dwelling on the issue and complaining to your spouse or writing one of those long ranting blog posts, immediately refocus your attention on your next task or larger project. If you are like most affiliate marketers, you should at least have a mental list, written is best, of the next 25 or so projects or ideas you’d like to work on. Don’t wait, when you feel like wasting time complaining, immediately get busy doing something on your list and focus the energy you’d be wasting complaining to a more useful endeavor.

The better you control your thinking, the more likely you will be able to adapt to changes and be able to think outside of the box, which of course is the next subject in this post…

Out Of The Box Thinking

Can you think of a single famous inventor, technological pioneer or great leader that didn’t think radically different than the status quo of their time? Probably not, because big change comes from big, and most importantly, different thinkers. Fortunately, affiliate marketing, though it is a different way than most people choose to make a living, doesn’t require the innovation of putting a man on the moon. But to reach greater and greater heights does require a mode of thinking that leads to a path most are either unwilling to take or don’t realize you can take.

Why doesn’t the average affiliate marketer make $300,000 per month? The simple answer is, is that they haven’t figured out a way to do it yet. It may come as a shock to you that in he whole scheme of things, affiliate marketing really isn’t that hard. Most of us in this business probably possess the pure marketing skills to be doing much better than we are already, but the fact is, we aren’t doing better. Why is that? It’s because we become comfortable with the systems we have in place or the training we’ve received because they are working at some level for us. Congratulations, you’ve learned how to follow directions.

Learning how to think outside the box involves learning how not to follow directions! The directions are in place to teach you the system only. Directions for putting together your computer desk allow you to build a nice desk, that’s it. They don’t tell you what kind of computer to buy, what kind of software to put in your computer or what to use the computer for.

I see this in PPC Coach where there’s a system and how to exercises in place to teach members the ins and outs of pay per click marketing. Every month there are more involved lessons and ideas on how to better your ppc efforts and some follow those directions to the letter. What some forget though is that there aren’t any rules that say you must continue to work the lessons on a monthly basis. They are simply guidelines to get you to think about ppc differently than you may have in the past and that’s exactly what they were for me. Expanding on the lesson learned in PPC Coach has helped me go on to earn thousands where I had previously lost hundreds.

Right now though I’m still in a box though. It’s a $10,000 per month box, but it’s still a box. Others think in a $30K, $50K or $100K per month box. They learned to see beyond the $10K per month box and expand their “what if” thinking to a whole new level. And that’s one of the secrets for us as affiliate marketers that will help us see beyond the normal, learning to always ask “what if”. What if I did this backwards? What if Google didn’t matter? What if you didn’t follow the rules (I’m not advocating black hat here)? What if offer xxxx was only paying half of what it is, how could you still make money with it. What if I offer legitimate stuff to customers instead of rip-off gimmicks with recurring monthly charges? What if I bid on concept keywords instead of specific keywords in my ppc marketing. What if Google Quality Score didn’t matter, and on and on. It’s good to sit down from time to time and make a list of “what if” scenarios and meditate on them for a bit to see what you come up with.

It’s also important to get outside of the realm of affiliate marketing on a regular basis to get your mind thinking in a different direction. Go to your favorite book store such as Barnes & Noble and read up on the economy, find out how finance and economics works, read about how designers developed the latest Ferrari, the challenges the latest software packages are helping 3d modelers overcome, what people are doing to make due when they lost their job and so on. A constant refreshing of your mind with new ideas will help you see beyond your current mode of thinking into an ever expanding box that someday will expand large enough to encompass your ultimate goals and desires, whatever they may be.

Using all their skills wisely, the average affiliate marketer will have an average business and make average money. Marketers that take those same skills and reverse engineer the rules by thinking out of the box with an attitude of finding solutions instead of complaining, will succeed wildly. Never forget that the rules are put it in place to tell you what you can’t do, they rarely, if ever, tell you what you can do. It’s up to you to put on your thinking cap and figure that out.

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6
Apr

Attention Amazon Associates – No More Direct Linking Via Paid Search

I just got an email at 5:01 this morning from the powers that be at Amazon.com letting their associates know that as of May 1, 2009 they will no longer allow direct linking from paid search ads. If you are an Amazon affiliate and have been making a bit of cash this way, as I have, you’ll have to wrap everything up by the end of this month.

Ever since eBay made a similar change, I guess it was about a year and a half ago, Amazon became one of the only all inclusive affiliate programs that still allowed direct linking. By all inclusive, I mean that with Amazon there is hardly a product in the world you can’t get through them, thus giving affiliates in almost any niche the ability to direct link. Being able to direct link to Amazon via paid search left the possibilities wide open for anyone that knew ppc fairly well and wanted to make some easy money. No matter the product, model number, color, size, shape or whatever, you can get it at Amazon and affiliates could send customers directly to any page right from Google, Yahoo, MSN and other paid search platform. Unfortunately, that will no longer be allowed.

This is a serious bummer since I’d been doing this exact thing for the last several months earning a few hundred dollars in commissions on a monthly basis and had been planning to scale this up quite a bit. It’s not the end of the world since I’m learning to take everything in stride, it just seems to be the nature of the affiliate game. You have to learn how to constantly adapt in this business or you’ll find yourself out of work.

Update: I thought I’d add the content of the email below:

Dear Amazon Associate:

We’re writing to let you know about a change to the Amazon Associates Program. After careful review of how we are investing our advertising resources, we have made the decision to no longer pay referral fees to Associates who send users to www.amazon.com, www.amazon.ca, or www.endless.com through keyword bidding and other paid search on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other search engines, and their extended search networks. If you’re not sure if this change affects you, please visit this page for FAQs.

As of May 1, 2009, Associates will not be paid referral fees for paid search traffic. Also, in connection with this change, as of May 1, 2009, Amazon will no longer make data feeds available to Associates for the purpose of sending users to the Amazon websites in the US or Canada via paid search.

This change applies only to the Associates programs in North America. If you are conducting paid search activities in connection with one of Amazon’s Associates Programs outside of the US and Canada, please refer to the applicable country’s Associates Program Operating Agreement for relevant terms and conditions.

We appreciate your continued support and participation in this advertising Program. If you have questions or concerns, please write to us by using the Contact Us form available on Associates Central.

Sincerely,

The Amazon Associates Program

Now that direct linking to Amazon from paid search is gone at the end of the month, it just makes being an affiliate all the more interesting. Share your thoughts, especially if you are direct linking to Amazon.

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1
Apr

March 2009 Affiliate Earnings Report – First 5 Figure Month

Hopefully this month’s affiliate earnings report will give a little inspiration to those that may have been watching their earnings go down instead of up. That’s what had been happening to me for the last 3 months and culminated in last month coming in at only $1,500 in earnings which as been the lowest amount I’ve earned as an affiliate since starting this blog. However, that all turned around in March as it was my first five figure month in affiliate income with total earnings coming in slightly over $10,500.

The big difference this month came from promoting Clickbank and CPA offers through ppc marketing. I have to give the credit to PPC Coach for the pay per click skills and attending the first Dot Com Steak Out and talking with my buddy Kiley Lenstrom for an attitude adjustment. I don’t know what it was for sure about hanging out at the Dot Com Steak Out, but a switch just went off in my head after being around some serious money makers in this business. Really, your attitude makes a huge difference in how much you can make in affiliate marketing.

Total revenue produced in March came to $12,298.65 with expenses of $1,726.88 which made for a total net income of $10,571.77. Everything breaks down as follows:

Google Adsense – $1,479.20
Commission Junction – $418.35
EPN – eBay – $205.32
Meal Planner Ebook – $187.00
TripAdvisor – $113.26
Clickbank – $567.73
Neverblue
Market Leverage
& Azoogle
CPA Offers – $9,070.73
Amazon.com – $158.17
Other Affiliate Programs – $98.89

Total Revenue – $12,298.65

Total expenses – $1,726.88

Total Income – $10,571.77

I had no idea this month’s income would increase by over 7 times from February’s income and double my previous record for earnings, but that’s the beauty of affiliate marketing. One month you may think it’s over and the next you end up making enough to carry you for several months. It can happen anytime so don’t ever give up on your affiliate career. Keep working, keep trying new things and keep learning, because you never know when things will turn around.

No, this is not an April Fool’s joke.

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