Please stop the BS

Yes, new people, we get it. You came up with this genius idea:

I have a site/blog/whatever that earns $1/day. Now I just have to make 1,000 more and I can make $1,000/day!

  1. This is not an original idea
  2. This is not a realistic idea
  3. You will most likely fail
  4. Maintenance is a bitch on the few blogs I do have; imagine maintenance on 1,000.
  5. The reason you're making $1/day on one site is because you're putting effort into it. 1,000 would be beyond mind-numbing.
  6. I challenge you to come up with 1,000 completely unique niches. Or even 100. I will give you $20 if you show me proof that you did.
  7. Thousands of people have tried this and failed (hence #3).

So now that I've discouraged you from wasting everyone's time spreading this idiotic notion around, how about you spend some time building up a few EXCELLENT sites that will actually get you PAID, son?

You can thank me later.

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Should I Create My Own Product?

Your Product
Your Future Product

If you're an affiliate marketer struggling with making a decent profit, then perhaps you should consider the other side of the coin: creating your own e-product.

Sure, it's a lot of research and hard work but if you come up with a half-decent product to market, not only will it be profitable but most likely others will market it as well. And that's where you can make a killing. Market places like Clickbank's Market Place are a great place to get free exposure for your products. On top of that, Clickbank can handle billing (both normal and recurring) for you. But that's only part of the puzzle.

Creating your own e-product entails a number of things, including:

  1. Research & Development
  2. Branding
  3. Website Creation
  4. Billing
  5. Marketing

Research & Development

Now in terms of research and development, it's important that you either choose a niche that you're passionate about or that you choose a niche that contains information you are privy to. Of course, it's possible to come up with good material for products you have no interest in, but if this is your first product it will come out much more smoothly if you put a little bit of love into it.

Good e-books shouldn't be too short that people feel cheated when they purchase it, but also it shouldn't be too long that your customers won't even finish reading it. The best e-books I've read have been concise and informative. After all, that's truly what we're after in e-books: the information. Don't be afraid to add visuals either. This ties directly into branding.

Branding

Coming up with the right "look" for your e-book shouldn't be something you do in ten minutes. Colors matter, fonts matter and composition matters. I don't recommend stealing a "look" from someone else's e-book, but definitely pay attention to the way successful e-books and their corresponding websites are colored, the way they lay their graphics out, what sorts of graphics they use and the way that they organize text around graphics. If you aren't a wizard with graphics, don't be bashful about paying someone else to come up with something stylish for you.

In order to come up with a nice e-book graphic like the one you see above, either download software or read my post on creating your own e-book cover.

The way your e-book looks will tie directly in with how your website looks.

Website Creation

If you aren't a web developer, your best bet is to pay someone to build you a decent site. Creating a small site (5 pages or less) should run you less than $150 if there's nothing special to it. The best part is, they'll have your existing branded e-book to base the design on. A good site will do a great job of getting people salivating for the information in the e-book, which means excellent sales text. Again, if you aren't the best with words, don't be afraid to outsource that department either.

Billing

As I stated previously, Clickbank will handle virtually any kind of billing you'd need as well as refunds and things of that nature. Paypal is also a solid option, but requires a bit more work on your part unless you want to shell out some decent money for a web developer to custom-create part of your website that interacts directly with Paypal. There are other decent payment gateways out there (2Checkout, for one), but I've used Clickbank's billing with absolutely zero issues. All they require is that you deliver a decent product and that you have a return policy (60 days). And part of the perk of being with Clickbank is the market place.

Marketing

Here's the fun part. When you have your own e-product, not only can you market the hell out of it but so can affiliates. Clickbank in particular has an excellent tracking system for affiliates selling your e-product through their website. You don't even have to worry about your affiliates getting paid as Clickbank does it for you. And at this point you want to start focusing on getting affiliates to sell the product for you as that will only mean more money for you in the end.

Additionally, I recommend doing some heavy search engine optimization to guarantee more hits from search engines to your sales page.

Conclusion

This is not, in any way, a detailed guide to creating your own product. My motivation in creating this post was to illustrate how simple organization can yield great products that will most likely profit you many times over. For anyone struggling to market other people's products, I can tell you from experience that it's exponentially more thrilling to market your own products and even more so to see other people doing it for you.

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Creating Your Own Ebook Cover

3D Ebook Cover Generator
3D Ebook Cover Generator

For anyone in the process of creating their own informational product, I highly recommend using the 3D E-Book Cover Generator from 3d-pack.com.

Not only does it create the awesome reflection effect for your E-book cover, but you can rotate the image any way you want and the on-page Flash will render it to either a gif, a jpeg or a png image for you.

Creating each side could not be easier. Simply upload an image for the cover, the top, the side (and optionally the back, if you so choose) and voila -- you have a beautiful fake image for your e-book.

I was able to create this e-book in less than 10 minutes in order to demo it here:

Your Product
Your Product

Sure, you might notice that I could have spent a lot more time making it look fancy but I just wanted to show you how powerful this free online tool is. Here are the three graphics I used:

E-book Front
E-book Front
E-book Side
E-book Side
E-book Top
E-book Top

I just uploaded each image to the corresponding areas and within ten seconds, I had a beautiful E-book graphic. Could not have been easier.

If you guys have similar recommendations for creating 3D E-Book covers and the like, please feel free to share them!

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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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Affiliate Profit Tracking – Two Philosophies

Having been in the affiliate marketing game for quite some time now, I've had my fair share of freak-out sessions where I think life is over when a campaign fails for a day. Although logic tells me that the market (people, competition, demand, etc.) fluctuates on a daily basis and is even evident if you do a Google Trend on most any keyword, emotion rules over on days when you are in the red $500 and it seems like there's no where to go but down.

Now, if you track your profits at all using Microsoft Excel, Google Spreadsheets or some other contraption, chances are that you like to track your profits and losses on a daily basis. And if that's the case, your charts (if you were to render them) would probably look something like this-

Daily Spend Chart

There isn't much wrong with a chart like this except that, if you'll notice, it's pretty uninspiring to look at when you notice your spend overshadowing your revenue. Also, it's hard to accurately gauge where you are in terms of net profits over the course of the month.

That's why I recommend tracking your profits and losses over the span of the month. This way, you can tell how much you are in the green, black or red. It gives you a solid number to base further action on so you don't go shutting your campaigns down because of a hiccup day. If you were to organize your data this way, the chart would look something like this-

Monthly Spend Chart

You'll notice right away that it's more inspiring to see the dark blue line above the light blue line (you're in profits, baby). What this will allow you to do is see the bigger picture and therefore, make better decisions about whether or not to keep campaigns running or shutting them down. Typically if I chart my profits and losses this way, I will see the overall worth of a campaign and keep it running.

However, I am in no way saying that you shouldn't monitor the daily, weekly and even monthly trends of your campaigns and schedule them accordingly. What I am saying is that you can tell much more easily this way whether you should shut a campaign completely down or keep it going strong.

As obvious as all this might sound, it might help to absorb this philosophy into your own affiliate marketing strategy to add to your overall profit margin. Simple, yet effective.

Good luck,

Scott

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Google Adwords Ad Scheduling

Lately, I've been monitoring my campaigns rather closely. In fact, I've been doing updates on 30-minute intervals to check my spend/revenue (profit) throughout the day over a period of about a week. It's difficult to be robotic about it, but it's necessary if I want to maximize my profit.

What I've noticed is that (of course) some common hours of the day are much more profitable than others. In fact, I noticed something that I thought I noticed when I first got started with affiliate marketing- if I stop the campaign at a particular part of the day, I make more money overall.

Yup, that's right. Instead of letting my campaigns just run, I've learned to pause them at a particular point (when profit is highest). My partner practiced this for a long time when we were heavy into ring tones and kept telling me to do it, as he said it would increase my profits. Turns out, I should have listened back then as it makes more sense to me now that I'm dealing with more money.

Google Adwords Ad SchedulingSo now that I'm essentially scheduling my campaign on and off periods, it makes perfect sense that I use tools available to me to do the scheduling for me. My poor partner had to do it manually, but that was when we were mainly using YSM for our affiliate adventures. Now that we're using Adwords, we've got the most beautiful tool in the world- Google Adwords Ad Scheduling (picture on the right).

If you'll take a second to look at the screen cap from a campaign I was testing it on, you can literally stop and start your campaign for every day based on specific times. It's simple yet elegant and so far, it's saved me a bundle.

What's more, you can set how MUCH of your budget you want to spend at a particular interval based on a percentage. Of course, when I have my campaigns on, I like them running at 100% but if you wanted to, you could completely maximize your revenue if you did enough testing.

I highly recommend this if you want to make the most of your affiliate marketing adventures. Hopefully Yahoo! will jump on the bandwagon soon and implement this feature, but until then, Google is your friend when it comes to scheduling.

Hope that helps,

Scott

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Understanding The Adwords Formula

Lately, I've been obsessed with the Google Adwords Quality Score or Adwords QS system. Especially when considering very short tail keywords as discussed in my last post, it's important to educate yourself on what Google actually considers as quality when it comes to not just your landing page but also your very ad text and keywords.

In my search for the answer to such puzzling questions, I've come across a few sites that help put the QS into perspective. Back in August of last year, GrayWolf put it best when he titled a post "New Google Adwords Formula = Just Pay Us More." And from what I've been reading, more or less he's right.

From Google's perspective (I hate thinking this way more than anyone because it utterly debilitates me and makes me feel helpless), they want to do three key things:

  1. Maintain their position as internet god
  2. Provide an easy and useful experience to users
  3. Profit, profit, profit

This makes complete sense. Who doesn't want to profit? I know I do. The problem is that they are telling us "as long as your ad generates enough clicks and/or pays us enough, we'll keep it running and in good positions." Yes, some people might pay less as a reward for really good CTR (Click-through ratio) and still end up in a similar ad position, but it doesn't cushion the fact that someone in the ad right above or below them is simply just paying more to be there. For those of us who can't afford such a luxury, it's completely daunting. Especially when you take into consideration the fact that you could be removed from first or second page results due to this fact or even Google Slapped.

So the next logical step, of course, would be to pony up and pay the piper, right? Instead of cursing at Google for being so unfair, I like to look at this as an opportunity to take advantage of a beautiful system.

As an unnamed Google Expert put it back in May of 2007 in an exclusive interview:

Start overbidding! I am serious! You hit the nail on the head when you shared your shocking results that new Google AdWords advertisers are screwed. They have no history, no good quality score, so they have to bid high to get into the door and stand a fighting chance. You have to start out aggressive and then scale back. Otherwise your campaigns will never get off the ground.

By overbidding, of course, the expert meant bidding significantly more than your minimum bid in order to get over the 24-hour window where Google decides whether you are worthy of maintaining your good standing with a particular keyword. You do this in hopes for a high CTR (counterintuitive, I know) so you can start slowly decreasing your bid down to something manageable and hopefully, profitable.

So this is where we're at as the new marketing generation. It's come down to a price war between advertisers. The great Google has spoken and that's pretty much all there is to it. Don't worry about high-quality ads anymore. Focus more intently on keyword-stuffing your landing pages and overbidding just to slowly adjust your bids back to profit.

On a more personal note, if there's one thing I hate most about Google, it's their customer service. Am I alone when I say I feel helpless when I talk to them? It's not because they scare me. It's just that they're so robotic, as if they're the human form of a help wizard. They have no real authority, either. Essentially, they tell me to view the tips on improving my quality score. Honestly, if the solution to my issues were just that simple, don't you think I'd be calling them with something more important? I thought so. Oh, and if there were one more thing I'd say I hate most, it's that they act as if they have no regard for people who spend $5 to $10k every day. Yahoo, on the other hand, has assigned someone specifically to me and they call ME if anything goes wrong.

Now that is what I call customer service. But in the end, Google is king and we all know it. That shouldn't stop you from dominating your niche, so go out there and kill!

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Affiliate Strategies: Few vs. Many

Generally, stuffing as many keywords as possible into each ad group and campaign is thought to be the best practice. This is the exact reason we have such pervasive terms as 'keyword trimming' and the like. Essentially, you start with, say, 50,000 keywords and you run them for about a week. After a week, you start trimming (hopefully using one of the methods described here) and you end up with fewer non-converting keywords using up your money. You repeat this cycle until (hopefully) you are only spending the majority of your money on keywords that convert directly into sales.

This might work for some, but for those of us who want to DOMINATE a specific market, it just doesn't work. We're talking thousands per day here, not hundreds. So what's an affiliate marketer to do? Well, instead of using a machine gun, use a sniper rifle.

That is to say, instead of using tons of keywords that might garner a few weak hits, try using a few high-traffic keywords. My first thought when reading the previous sentence is "but that's going to cost a ton." But then I answer myself by saying "experience has taught me otherwise."

I've tried high-traffic keywords in the past and we'll just say, I've been dragged through the mud. So a warning to all those who dare to tread on dangerous ground, you CAN get burned and get slapped with thousands of dollars that you have to figure out how to pay back. Now that I've scared you, let me give you the good news. If you find high traffic keywords in areas that aren't as highly competitive as, for example, "make money online", "web host reviews" or "christmas gifts", you just might find a few winning keywords.

So my advice here is to stay away from the already crazy-saturated markets and find those with tons of daily searches but less competition. Note: there will ALWAYS be competition no matter what you try. At some point, someone else will have your idea and it's usually before you. That's no reason to step out of the race though. There are literally millions of dollars to be made.

Teddy vs. Teddy Bear vs. Stuffed Bear Google Trends SearchSo your next step is finding those keywords that are high traffic and for some of them, you just might be surprised. To find our prize winning keywords, we head over to Google Trends (of course) and start doing searches that revolve around our target niche. For instance, let's assume we want to sell Teddy Bears, we'd want to find out what searches there are on keywords like Teddy, Teddy Bear and perhaps, Stuffed Bear. So we'd do our search like so: Teddy vs. Teddy Bear vs. Stuffed Bear. What you'll notice right away about the search is that 'Teddy' dominates over all, while 'Stuffed Bear' is definitely something we can toss to the wayside.

What we'll want to focus on is keywords that are more like 'Teddy' and less like 'Stuffed Bear.' Now the keyword 'Teddy Bear' is right in the middle, so you'll just have to see how it converts.

The next step is tweaking. I like to think of it as turning the adjustment knobs to get everything running just right. You'll have to come up with multiple ads for each keyword. What I do to guarantee that I focus on specific keywords is literally make ONE keyword per ad group. That way, I know each ad is tailored to that keyword and quality score will be less likely to flounder. Trust me, you want to keep your quality score up and that means reading Google's quality score guidelines in detail. Make sure you don't screw this part up. "Why's that?" you might ask.

Well, imagine having a campaign that does $5,000.00 one day and gets Google-slapped, as it were, and suddenly your beautiful $0.25/click bid goes up to a $10.00 minimum bid. How do you get yourself out of that pickle? It's a terribly discouraging feeling that I've had on multiple occasions and I wouldn't wish it on any of you. The truth is, all you can do is do your best to make sure your landing page meets all of the quality score guidelines and that your ads get as many clicks as possible (high CTR = good). You have to do all this, of course, while making sure you're in profit. It's a tightrope walk, no doubt about it.

But the pay-off is great. You'll have multiple-hundred and thousand-dollar days going for you every day, as long as Google likes you and your offer stays in tact. Make no mistake -- there is no auto-pilot about it. If you want to make this kind of money, you have to constantly monitor your campaigns or you will be killed. It's a cut-throat industry, so stay on top of it and you should be fine.

On a lighter note, you'll be working hard but hopefully, in much nicer clothes, a nicer car and a nicer house. That's the dream, isn't it? Good luck to you.

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Affiliates, Be The Best Or Die

SuccessLet's be honest for a second. Most people starting out in this business just won't stick with it for the long run. You'll have your people who quit when they don't make a sale right away, people who quit once they figure out they can make sales but it's not easy and then you'll have people who are somewhat successful for a while but can't quite tame the mad bull that is Affiliate Marketing.

So you're thinking "that is very uninspiring." You're right. For the majority of people who want to stop working for someone else, it's a depressing notion to think that you can't succeed at something where so many people are making money due to the aforementioned filtration system. But what you might not see right away is the beauty in the filter- for those of you who stick with it, your chances of being successful go way up. On top of that, you have this blog to give you that extra edge and strategy that will push you just that much further. (more…)

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