The Content Network: Sure, Why Not?

I started affiliate marketing at the beginning of 2007 but it didn't really take off until I started pushing, as you might guess, ring tones. It took me from a few sales a day totaling about $50-60 on Clickbank to a couple hundred per day on Azoogle.

Starting ring tones wasn't my idea. It was my friend Paul's idea and one of the things he told me he'd done to be successful with ring tones was to stay away from the content network as the conversion rates were extremely low. At the time, I had very little experience so I wasn't about to test the waters against the good advice of an established marketer. Well, needless to say, I started to do very well and here I am.

But, what I've learned lately is that I should have taken the affiliate marketer philosophy a little more seriously. When we say split test everything, we mean split test everything. Everything you can, anyway. The content network (Google, Yahoo or otherwise) is definitely one of those things you should split test on every offer.

The stigma with content matching fall along the lines of:

  • Publishers trick users into clicking, which wastes your money
  • People aren't technically searching for something when they click, so they're theoretically less interested
  • It's difficult to track which keywords or sites convert using the content network

So it's not difficult to see why people would steer their campaigns away from content-based ads, but along with the bad, you should always consider the good:

  • The content network is cheaper to place ads on
  • You can use site-targeted ads right down to a specific ad placement, which also makes conversion tracking easier
  • You can use text, banners and more to advertise to people
  • Sometimes you'll receive a larger volume of traffic on the content network

Aside from the good and the bad, there's the reality of the situation. Until recently, I honestly hadn't even touched the content network. Crazy, I know. That was until I found out that the mega affiliates are doing tons of business there and preaching about how it's a terrible place to convert. A-ha! It was a classic "IIIIII'm dumb" moment but a welcomed one.

My advice to you is that you should take nothing for granted when it comes to your business. Split test the search network and the content network. Learn how to track specific sites/ads and you'll be fine. Also, check out Google Lady's post "Adwords Content Network Tip."

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Free Money! No, But Seriously..

Although I'm sure you've seen links out there just like these, I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't try to inform every new affiliate about these bad-ass offers. If you're just getting started with affiliate marketing, you'll probably want to get your feet wet with some play money, so take advantage.

First off, we have the free $50 in clicks for Google Adwords (courtesy of the Volkswagen). This only works for new accounts, so make the most of it.

Second, we have the free $25 for Yahoo! Search Marketing. Again, this is only for new customers, so use it wisely.

Third, we've got the free $50 Microsoft Adcenter coupon for new customers only.

I just saved you $125 in ad spending. The least you can do is give affiliate marketing a try, now that it's free.

Don't worry, it won't bite. Not that hard.

But seriously, if you do use it, tell me how it goes. That would make an interesting follow-up post.

Scott

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Microsoft Wants To Own Yahoo

Bill Gates Wants To Own Yahoo

And in more ways than one. If you've been hiding under a rock this morning, you might not be aware of the fact that Microsoft is throwing a $44.6 BILLION dollar offer at Yahoo in hopes to acquire their search engine and all the benefits that go along with it, such as YSM (Yahoo! Search Marketing). Not to mention, with Yahoo in their pocket, Microsoft would now be an even more looming threat to the Google gods.

Besides the blow to the ego this must be for Yahoo, it's just another blow they've sustained since the recent downturn of the economy. Yahoo is reported to have said that they're going to lay off 7% of their work force (1,000 people). That spells trouble.

So why am I posting about this, you might wonder. Well, this will have a great impact on our beautiful little affiliate marketing industry. Now, instead of three big competitors and lots of little fish, there will be a big two.

While this might normally be good, I honestly doubt the battle will be between customer service departments (meaning, their customer service on both sides will still suck the big one). It will probably be some place on either platform that will annoy us all.

Of course, who knows, perhaps some good will come of this. Both services (Adwords and YSM) have no where to go but up in terms of interface, so maybe we'll see an improvement there. Still, I can't help but wonder where this will lead. Perhaps this will end up where everyone says it's going -- an all out war between Microsoft and Google. The rumored Google OS is a pending threat to the clunky Microsoft OS line and could strike a deadly blow to Gates's empire.

Maybe that's just what we need.

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The Perfect Keyword Tracker

As an affiliate marketer, it's an insane game of catch-up when you have to go back and forth between your sales stats and your spend stats. When you want to do reporting, if you aren't using any kind of keyword tracking software, it's a bitch to generate your own. Well, these are just a couple most of the many gripes that inspired this post. This is basically a wish list I'm creating in hopes that someone out there will answer my prayers and make something resembling this dream system.

Free

It's a long shot, but hey, it's the perfect price. I believe that any software worth having should, at the very least, have a free package amongst its paid packages that doesn't limit you too much to use on a small-time basis but limits you just enough so that you eventually do have to upgrade if you become a more intense user. Oh and also, I don't mean a timed trial. When I say free, I mean free for the long-haul baby. Any perfect keyword tracking software would have to start out FREE.

Live Statistics

And I mean LIVE baby, like right now! This goes several ways, from spend sources to revenue stats to visitor stats. When I want to know what my spend stats are for a particular PPC source, like Adwords, I have to log in and run a report to get my most up-to-date spend stats for the day. When I want to see how much I've earned, I have to log in to my statistics application that I developed myself and when I want to see live visitor data--well--I can't ... yet. Having live statistics from all my sites would, in turn, allow me to have a central location for all my information and that's a beautiful thing. Any keyword tracking software worth its salt would need live statistics polled, say, every ten minutes or so. That way all my graphs would be up to date.

Graphs, Charts & Reports (Oh My)

What good are stats if I can't see them graphically? What if I'm a visual learner? I need graphs, baby! Pretty ones, too. If you're going to build that perfect keyword tracking system, it had better have graphs ("wow" looking ones). Then, what if, at the beginning of a new year, I need to print out all my data for tax purposes? I need exportable reports. Yeah, I'm talking about CSV, Excel and the like.

Easy-To-Implement Code For Landing Pages And Such

My biggest peeve with every keyword tracking system I've used so far, mainly affiliate radar, has been its implementation. Although it's not impossible to figure out, it lacks that ease of use that would take it to a godly status. Face it, most affiliate marketers aren't developers or even HTML jockeys to say the least, so the best bet would be to make something really easy to implement -- something like Google Adsense code. And the site would have to SHOW us how to place the code, preferably with videos!

Video Tutorials

How awesome are video tutorials? They make learning fun and easy. Hell, I love to make them in my spare time and post them up on Youtube (check them out here), so it can't be that difficult to make tutorials on the keyword tracking website and all the bullet point features. Also, it makes the site look less enormous and daunting if you see someone else actually using the site the way it's intended to be used.

Security

The last thing I need as an affiliate marketer is to worry about people stealing my keywords, looking at my landing pages and basically stealing my business model for the campaigns I run. Additionally, I don't want to have to worry about the people who run my site looking through my financial data or about the site being hacked and random people gaining access to my data. This means strong security measures have to be in place for data storage and the site owners would need some kind of absolute accountability to its public. How that would happen, I do not know.

One more note on security. At the landing page level, keywords would have to be encrypted as well so that random affiliates and affiliate managers will keep their grubby fingers away.

Customer Service

This kind of goes without saying, but I felt I should include it anyway. Customer service is always a must to at least provide some kind of sense of "I care"-edness to the service, even if they don't. It gives the customer the sense that they are actually helping to turn the gears of action to get them what they want, even if the customer service rep is merely a middle man between the person and a FAQ list and eventually, a trouble ticket form. Sometimes you just need a live person.

Web 2.0 Hotness

Is it too much to ask for the site to be strikingly handsome? That's right, if I'm going to be married to this site for the long haul, I want it to be pretty for as long as possible--just like my wife (thanks Sarah). That means, it has to not only look great but also carry web 2.0 functionality with it. Just enough, but don't get carried the *!#% away (Yahoo! Search Marketing, you know who I'm talking about). AJAX is a feature not the main show, baby. Just keep it fresh.

Auto Stop Losses

This is a feature I've been scheming up in my head since I started. I figure, since this dream keyword tracking software can already tap into the back-ends of my PPC sites (like Adwords, YSM and Adcenter), it should be able to turn my campaigns on and off based on my current profit standing. As affiliate marketers, we all have those days where a campaign that is normally doing great decides to put on its ugly face and turn on us. Not to mention when we were first starting out and didn't really know what the hell we were doing and lost $5,000 within the first month (sorry Sarah).

Just imagine-- if you could put in a "stop loss" amount of, for example, $50.00 and the system would constantly monitor your stats and automagically shut the proper campaign(s) down as soon as it noticed you were $50.00 into the negative. How cool would that be?

Of course, you wouldn't want to set some small number as your "stop loss" as there are times when campaigns that are breaking even temporarily dip into the negatives and then shoot into profit; however, you wouldn't want to set it to a number that is too high either as it can take search engines a while to stop showing ads even after you've turned them off. Overall, I think you get the point.

Auto Suggestions

With the right statistical data, this hypothetical system could make suggestions about whether or not to look for new keywords for the campaign, remove non-converting keywords, ditch the campaign, adjust spending on the campaign, try different ads on the campaign, etc. Not only would this be an insanely awesome tool for n00bs, it would help seasoned affiliates maximize their profits and learn new tricks here and there to apply to new campaigns.

Centralized Advertising System (CAS?)

Going back to the idea of a central location for live data, why stop there? While we're at it, we might as well allow affiliates to stop using the clunky interfaces of Google Adwords, Yahoo Search Marketing and Microsoft Adcenter and start using the ONE interface for the keyword tracking software. For what, you ask? Well, for creating/managing ads and keywords of course! How many times have you been inside your YSM Panel and thought "Dear god, what monkey built this thing?" You aren't alone.

Once and for all, there should be an intuitive system for adding keywords and distributing them across ad groups in such a way that maximizes efficiency. Also, as affiliate marketers, we use individual ads across multiple ad groups. Why not use one ad and apply it to multiple ad groups instead of creating the same ad over and over and over?

This would be the mother of all features but if done right, would revolutionize this business.

Email Collection (Aweber Style)

While it's in the business of hanging out on our landing pages, the software might as well have an option for collecting e-mails in an Aweber-like fashion. That is, it would pop up with a box or hang out somewhere on the landing page and ask people to sign up on the mailing list. Then it would have follow up messages and the ability to broadcast without being spammy. Don't get me wrong, I love Aweber but if some software could centralize all my affiliate tools, I'd be there in a heart beat.

Click Tracking (CrazyEgg Style)

Although CrazyEgg does an incredible job, live click tracking is just a cool feature to have. Google Analytics is also a great tool for this kind of thing, I know but wouldn't it be cool (once again) to be able to manage all of your affiliate-related tools in one place? On top of that, the software could suggest strategic placement based on clicking hotspots to maximize revenue. Just a thought.

Conclusion

I know there are POS's (pieces of software) out there that already do some of the things I mentioned but I have yet to find one that does all of them or even most of them. Someone out there has to be willing to build such a monster and when they do -- game over. I will be MAD RICH. Until then, I am just making a decent living.

But I can dream.

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AdCenter, O How I Misjudged Thee

So you know how I wrote that post about how AdCenter is Sucking Harder Than a Dyson vacuum cleaner? Well, it seems that my friend Jonathan Volk disagrees and since I have made it my job to keep you guys informed (hopefully without too much bias), I felt it necessary to inform you of what he thinks. So take a moment to read about why Microsoft Adcenter might not suck as hard as I thought.

Essentially, the Volk touches on how he's kept campaigns in profit with Microsoft AdCenter while he's tried to figure them out on AdWords and the like:

You?ll see my posts on Adcenter on Digitalpoint have always been in favor that Adcenter?s conversions were always par or better. In fact I used Adcenter to keep some campaigns going in the profit while I tried to figure out how to make the adwords campaign profitable.

Overall, I generally use the same keywords from my other campaigns and just transfer them over to adcenter. It seems to work well enough. :)

None the less, my experience has been different and I still haven't experienced any real turnaround from AdCenter. In my opinion, they still suck eggs.

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AdCenter: Sucking Harder Than A Dyson

You might enjoy using Microsoft AdCenter and at one point, I was as well. If you'd used Microsoft's AdCenter about two months ago, you would've been somewhat content with their turnaround time on approving ads and keywords.

Well fast forward to now where it takes about 12-24 hours to get your keywords and junk approved, I must say I am thoroughly disappointed.

It's not that I'm surprised about this being a Microsoft product, but more-so that the third runner in the PPC Search Engine battle would be so careless about (more…)

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How Much Should You Bid?

When setting your max bid price on ad networks like Google AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing or Microsoft AdCenter, it's best to know how much you're getting in return (profit) before you settle on a number. If you bid too high, you might get more sales but still be in the red. If you bid too low, you might make an okay profit but less conversions. The trick is to find just the right number and that takes time and finesse but here's a quick way to determine what your max bid should be.

In general, the formula I use for determining max bid is basically this:

((ecpc * (1 - bounce rate)) - 0.01)

So if your ecpc is $0.75 and your bounce rate is 40%, that means you really generate $0.45 ecpc. Subtract $0.01 from that ($0.44 ecpc) and you'll have a very safe maximum to set your keyword bids at. (more…)

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How To Make Your First $1 On Azoogle

Recently, I created a post on Digital Point Forums in order to help those that are either new to Azoogle or those that are frustrated and need a little guidance to make their first dollar. In general, people seem to be having a lot of difficulty getting their campaigns off the ground, so I thought I'd help anyone with this problem out and give them a little push in the right direction.

First off, you should register with AzoogleAds if you haven't already. Next, you should get very familiar with the interface. Once you've checked both these things off your list, it's time to choose your offer(s).

Choosing Offers

Choosing the right product is probably the second hardest part of affiliate marketing, next to advertising. There's definitely no right answer when it comes to choosing products, and in general, I like to test every product I come across. Honestly, that's the best way to determine which products actually work for you to sell. Just think, if you could test every product you saw, you might find just 5 that convert profitably and you'd already be in business.

(more…)

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