As someone who was interested in making money online in my mid-teens, after researching into the many various ways of generating cash, I stumbled upon affiliate marketing. All the joys of making money off of traffic sources you discover while you don’t have to deal with customers seemed perfect.
One of the first things I did that I’m sure everyone else new to a job does, was to look for established names in the business that were dishing out advice. It didn’t take me long to stumble across people like Shoemoney, Jonathan Volk, John Chow and various other affiliate marketing bloggers. Now, when you’re in to something like marketing, there is no bigger motivator than cash. Seeing these guys holding cheques for tens of thousands of dollars after only a few years in the business is all the drive you need to start working on that first campaign.
Those who don’t ask questions will struggle – even if it means simply asking for advice from a friend, relative, search engine or even a forum it’s better than keeping quiet. Learning from others is what makes internet-based career paths so enticing, there’s such a wealth of information at your fingertips it’d be stupid not to take advantage of it – but the problem occurs when you forget who’s giving out the advice and how much of it you should follow.
What Niche Did You Make Your Money From?
New affiliate marketers will undoubtedly want to know how the big boys made their moolah. Sure Shoemoney might have made a killing in ringtones and others might have commanded gigantic cheques from their many dating sites – but that’s unlikely to be where they started out and it’s even less likely to be where you should start out.
If you want to have a go at making a car, you don’t phone up Lamborghini and ask who stamps their body panels. The same is true of marketing, it’s a colossal waste of time to join your first affiliate network and shoot your affiliate manager a message asking what the top grossing offer is.
It all comes down to experience. It’s pretty straightforward. If I gave $5,000 to someone who’s been in the game for 6 months and to someone else who’s been in the game 6 years, chances are the more seasoned guy is going to get the bigger ROI. It’s not always true, but it’s generally how it works. The old timer knows what colours to use on his call to action button, how many calls to actions should be in place and what kind of image is most likely to convert for a specific offer.
Focusing On The Smaller Picture
What? Not the bigger picture? Something I personally struggled with, until it clicked after many failed attempts, was focusing on breaking up a niche in to smaller subsets. I asked questions, read articles and joined forums, all of which told me to try various niches that were ‘killing it’ such as weight loss, teeth whitening and dating.
To a new marketer, being told to try out a teeth whitening offer might mean just that; whip up a landing page that talks about teeth whitening and then send them to the merchant. Unless you’ve got a mountain of cheap traffic to send, it’s likely that the commissions are going to be low whilst the losses will be high.
Staying on the teeth whitening niche, let’s see what we can make of that if we concentrate on the smaller picture. First of all, it’s best to try and imagine yourself as a customer. Seeing as teeth whitening is generally going to require me to receive a product or visit a specialist, I’m very likely to append my location to my search. Also, as I’m a smoker (I’m not, but the point stands) I’m probably going to mention the stains I’ve incurred from my habit. Therefore rather than searching for “teeth whitening” – the search term the new guy is desperately grasping at, I’m more likely to search for “smoking stained teeth whitening in London”. Not a fantastic example but it gets across the point I’m trying to convey.
Whilst I might tell you that I’m making 50% of my profit from dating, the truth is I’ll probably be running a campaign for “single men 30-35 in California” (just an example, sorry to any single men 30-35 in California). Keywords at this level are a lot less competitive and more likely to yield sales (although the obvious trade-off is the low amount of traffic).
When to Take Advice
I’m not trying to say you should disregard the advice of all the marketing bloggers out there, far from it, but what I am saying is that it’s important to realise the generalisations that bloggers make when giving out advice. No one is going to tell you their exact gold-mine of a sub-niche, but they are going to tell you roughly where they make their dollars.
You should never stop asking questions; on forums, via contact forms or even in blog comments like below this post. When starting up, I found it was handy to join forums visited by new marketers to see what others were trying and failing at (as new marketers tend to be much more open) to see how I could improve.
Bloggers write for the masses, when a blog gets 50k readers a day or similar then it’s hard to satisfy everyone, so it’s easy to make posts vague. Just remember that trying to copy a full time affiliate marketer with a four figure daily budget is going to be tough when you’ve only got a couple of hundred to have a go. It’s important to focus on the goal ahead whilst knowing that it’s a gradual improvement rather than an all-or-nothing attempt at the competitive deep end.