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So you’re completely new to affiliate marketing and want to test the waters for your first campaign. That’s great, but I can tell you the biggest mistake most new affiliate marketers make is rushing into affiliate marketing rather than taking their time, making sure they are prepared fully to tackle making their first money online with paid CPA marketing. Let’s get down to what you need to know!
Step 1: Be Prepared with Everything you Will Need To Start
There are several tools and information you will need before you actually want to start doing any affiliate marketing. First up – affiliate networks. People always ask me which ones are the best, and that is a tough question to answer. Typically, the best would be the one that makes you the most money, but that’s dependent on your lead quality, how much each network/advertiser shaves, payouts and too many other factors to list. Your best be is to go to AffPaying.com and sign up for multiple affiliate networks? How many? As many as you can. The more options you have, the better off you will be. Don’t limit yourself, and don’t be lazy by saying “these 3 are enough.”
You absolutely, positively need tracking, and you need it on a great hosting provider. I would recommend Prosper202 or my personal favorite, CPVLab, on at least a VPS of some sort. I use Wiredtree for their great support, but there are others out there that work just, as well. Shared hosting will not cut it, so if you are thinking you will be okay on your $5 a month hosting, think again. You’ll be throttled or be sending clicks to a dead page if you start sending too many people at one time. NEVER USE SHARED HOSTING! You’ve been warned.
You will want to consider research tools, as well. There are freebies out there like Quantcast Planner, Google Ad Planner, Compete and Alexa. But there are more advanced tools available like WhatRunsWhere, AffPortal, paid forums, tools like Scrapebox, ad spies, or premium services that can help you speed up your process. Plan according to your current budget. You can get most information that you can get from these paid tools for free, but they help you do it much faster. Time or money, you’ll have to decide which one you have more of.
And that brings me to another point. Time and money are also things you need to prepare. Attempting to become an affiliate marketer with $200 on hand isn’t going to get you very far. Just as well, if you only have 1 hour a day of free time, all I can say is good luck. Try to have $2000+ and at least 4 hours per day when you are getting into affiliate marketing. Anything less and you’ll be limiting yourself far too much.
Also, prepare some skills. Get a basic understanding of Photoshop to create banners and HTML to create or edit existing landing page templates. Be able to use Excel to compare costs versus revenue. And build up on your relationship and communication skills, because even though most affiliate marketers start as a one man band, the better you can communicate, the further you’ll propel your earnings.
Step 2: Pick a Traffic Source
As a new affiliate marketer, you’re probably well aware of several different traffic sources. I suggest you pick one and stick with it, then scale out to other ad networks. I see far too many newbies hopping around from one traffic source to the next using identical campaigns and not going anywhere. Avoid this by sticking with one traffic source and making one proven offer work there by trying new angles and strategies.
Let’s talk about the different networks you have available:
Social – Facebook and PoF are two of the bigger contenders here. Facebook has a lot of traffic and is one of my favorite places to test many new offers. It is especially good for non-English speaking countries, and is where a majority of my current income comes from. On the other hand, it can be expensive to test. If you have a decent budget and are willing to test a lot, this is a great place to start.
PoF is another network very similar to Facebook, but with much less traffic, especially internationally. It’s great because you can micro target very specific angles for a large ROI, but that is also its downfall. You typically won’t get any traction going broad and you will have to spend a lot of time managing all these small campaigns to make a decent amount of money.
Mobile – If you have the money to test here, mobile is the future. Pick one carrier and a couple different handsets and start testing ugly, simple banners. Due to the lack of determining what clicks are real and which are misclicks/fraud, this can make mobile marketing expensive. Also, there is a lack of any real tracking available to the public (that will change very soon though). The lack of tracking makes this only a good option for those with $5000+ to test and good organization/tracking skills.
Search – Google Adwords is the biggest contender here, but they straight up hate affiliate marketers, or at least our fairly simple tactics. Unless you’ve got some legitimate cloaking, don’t consider it an option. Bing and Yahoo (Adcenter) are okay with affiliates and I’ve had limited success here and there. If you are coming from an SEO background, you might enjoy working with search and have an easier time with it. 7search is also an option, and they are very open to affiliates, but traffic quality can be hit or miss.
PPV – Pay Per View or Cost Per View (CPV) is another good option for new marketers. It’s relatively simple to work out. Find similar targets to your current offer, optimize out those that don’t perform profitably. As you advance you’ll start using angles and landing pages to broaden out the actual amount of targets you can hit and make a good ROI off of. In order of quality, the best PPV networks out there are TrafficVance, LeadImpact, MediaTraffic and DirectCPV. There are some others out there, but currently these are the only I’ve run traffic on before.
Display – Traffic sources like Pulse360 and SiteScout are included in this category. They’re usually the pinnacle of any affiliate marketers career. If you can get profitable here, you’ll probably do pretty well. That being said, it is very expensive. You will be bidding against many other affiliates, as well as branders with multi-million dollar budgets and hundreds of people managing their ads. If you are new and don’t have the budget, don’t start here.
Step 3 – Pick a Niche/Offers
I’m going to keep this step short and sweet. Stick to something you are interested in or know a lot about. The most profitable campaigns I’ve run are always about things I love and understand. I know the problem and I know how to find others who are looking for a solution to that problem. Serving them my ads relieves them of that problem.
Many newer affiliates get started out in dating, gaming and freebies. These are all great niches to give you good experience that you will use to scale out further down the line.
Step 4 – Put It All Together and Start Running
One of the best teachers is experience. Using the above steps, you should now be at a point where you can start running some ads. You’ve got the budget, you’ve picked out an offer or two, you’ve done your research, and you know who to target.
It’s time to put that all together and make some ads. I would recommend doing this all manually, being in full control of your campaigns when you start out. Down the line, you can indulge in outsourcing this task or buying into an ad submitter, but for now you need to understand how everything works.
Double check your links, landing pages, pre-write your ad copy, collect any images and put together banners, understand that you will have to split test and get rid of any worries in your mind. Don’t let 2nd guesses hold you back from testing anything. Grow a pair of balls and put your money on the line, but be aware you need to be prepared for 0 revenue in return. That’s how the game is played and if you can’t keep a level head about it, your wheels will only turn and slip rather than gain traction.
Step 5 – Understand and Optimize Off Your Results
So you’ve got your first ads up and running. Fantastic! I hope you were at least able to break even if you did enough preparation, but don’t feel turned away even if you lost it all. To get to profit, you will probably need to test several different variations of your ads, tweak your targeting and understand your data.
This is why its important you understand how to track. Did each of your ads have unique identifying sub-ids? Were you able to find these in your tracking software? How did each ad perform on an ROI basis. Did you have a high CTR and a low CVR. Did you have a high CVR and a low CTR. Change the ad copy or ad image, one, not both, and see how each change affects both CTR and CVR.
Optimization is a real art form and each person will do it differently. If you’re adamant about it, you could try to squeeze as much ROI from an ad as you possibly can, or if you are like me, you might stop and focus on scaling once you hit an ROI of 100% or so.
A simple walkthrough on how I optimize my Facebook ads is to first find a high CTR image, then split test that with several different offers and ad copies until I get one that performs to my needs. I continue to split test small changes in ad copy and that data helps me as I test out more and more different images.