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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19 Responses to “Paint What You See, Not What You Think You See”

  1. Alan,
    If you “never, ever use more than one keyword in an AdGroup.” doesn’t it take hours to set up just one campaign? Are you using an easy tool to do that for you? Please let me know. I have been told a good campaign should have 1000-2000 keywords to start… and that means 2000 adgroups. That seems pretty ridiculous.

  2. Star Wars Blog,

    As I mentioned in my post, the 2,000 keywords way to a ppc campaign is the conventional thinking and I don’t normally follow the conventional wisdom.

    When I do run a larger campaign (one with 75 to 100 ad groups) then I use a tool in PPC Coach that helps put together those groups quicker. However, most of the time I usually do it by hand because I’m very specific about what each and every ad says along with what’s in the display url..

  3. Alan,

    That was simply perfect. Thank you SO much. I completely “get” it (what you said here, and just as importantly, what you didn’t say). I understand what needs to be done. So, now I’ll get busy doing it.

  4. In response to the first comment, I would recommend using Google Adwords tool that you can download to your desktop. Set up the campaigns on Excel, and bulk upload. You can set up 100+ adgroup campaign, fairly easily, in mere minutes.

  5. Thanks for the tip Kunal K.

    Hot trend right now is of course swine flu.

  6. I feel so fortunate that my blogging is not business related and that I don’t have to rely on PPC and working out the best way to maximize it’s effect. The lack of that knowledge is probably the main reason why my Internet earning capacity sucks, but then heck, at least I am having fun 😀

  7. I have download Google Ad words but it is not work correctly.

  8. Thanks for philosophy and practical guidance on ppc, this is like martial arts concept, take what works and throw what doesn’t works.Being practical and see what you saw.

  9. I appreciate how you go beyond tactics to help people understand the methodologies behind the tactics.

  10. “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.”

    Alan buddy, I couldn’t agree with you more. Now mind you, I have zero experience with PPC (yet) but I have made some pretty sweet coin off of watching Oprah or eavesdropping on a conversation at the super market. I buy a domain, write up a few quick articles, create a nice little blog/landing page that’s monetized and usually within 3-4 days I have some nice Adsense and affiliate income trickling in…

    Simplicity is key – all the way!

  11. Elijah,

    Yep, I have to admit that Oprah has helped me cash in as well. Anything she mentions goes viral. Maybe I should watch her more, I know that would make my wife happy.

  12. Interesting post. Art teachers must all learn from the same textbook. My high school art teacher used the same phrase. I never got it at the time though.

    I think with PPC you have to be pretty confident in your page’s ability to convert reasonably well. Too many beginners get into PPC without first creating a site or page that can make decent money per visitor. I prefer to go after long term rankings through seo as Elijah does. I have stopped expanding my site network to keep management issues to a minimal. Perhaps I should start creating more small management free sites.

  13. Alan, I’m surpirse you are showing away your site and niche.

    Aren’t you scared to raise up the competition?

    Don’t worry I won’t take that niche, because I don’t steal 😉

    Please check email for my questions regarding PPC-Coach, thanks.

  14. Going after new trends are great for PPC, but going after new trends for SEO often doesn’t work because it takes a while for Google to consider a website an authority on a new topic. That isn’t to say going after new trends for SEO isn’t possible, but it does require a significant effort building backlinks with the new keywords for the particular trend you are targeting.

  15. I think you got some awesome ideas here. Probably the most helpful PPC article ive read to date. I’ve tried it and see the power in terms of the amount of impressions and cheap cpc but haven’t gotten it to work yet only tried a few though..Just curious what your success rate is with the google/trends technique is.

  16. what I see….. hmmmm

    So much of what we think we see is an illusion – don’t you agree? I am determined to find ways to get my message across in me market – and to find huge ways to make and impact – thanks so much for this post – you have given me much to contemplate

  17. You mentioned watching trends… This is a great way to capitalize on traffic that has little competition and high search volume. For PPC, what I used to do was flip on the TV and write down all the high-profile commercials touting credit reports, kitchen products, etc. I’d run an Adwords campaign for the domain name (you’d be surprised how many people type in the domain name in a search engine), and pick up clicks by the nickle.

  18. so let me see if i have this right?

    1. research hot trends
    2. Find a related CPA offer
    3. Keyword research
    4. one ad group per keyword
    5. direct link to the CPA offer or a custom landing page?

    Sound correct or am I missing something

  19. The philosophical question here is: and what do you really see? We both can see different thing: I can see blue flower and you can see red flower. No one is here to help us. Which one of us has right? That is unsolvable problem. And also in real life we sometimes see many things that we think of them as “truth” and “objective”. But there are also many mirages – every one can see them, but everyone also know that this is just a mirage. And what about mirages that are not yet known? Maybe you have seen one today and didn’t noticed?

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