Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Unmastering Affiliate Tactics- How I Unlearned What the Experts Taught Me

It started innocently enough. I dived into the world of affiliate sales because I was looking for some extra income to support my other, non-income generating, websites. There was no aspiration to make thousands a day, or find the ultimate wealth system. So when my friend told me that he had the perfect system for my relatively low ambitions, it seemed like a reasonable proposition.

He said, "Open up a Google Adwords account and a Clickbank account and carefully craft ads pointing to Clickbank products." He went further and handed me a campaign, product, keywords, bids and ad variations, that he had used himself successfully.

While I generated sales running his campaign, I never made a profit or came close to breaking even. At that point, I went in search of better information.

If you are diligent, there are any number of products right on Clickbank that will offer you the perfect affiliate strategy. The problem is, they inherently appeal to your greed, offer a lot of verbiage for minimal content, and let's face it, there is a lot of conflicting advice to be found. So I decided right away on a few tactics. 1) I was not going to spend $47, $97, or $147 for how-to e-books with master resell rights. 2) I was going to sign up for every free newsletter from their squeeze pages and read through their e-mail newsletters to divine whatever I could divine about affiliate strategy.

It proved to be an enlightening mission, even if my yahoo account now gets a solid forty e-mails a day from marketers. But for all the months I spent reading up on the tactics for driving traffic, making conversions and exploiting Adwords, it reached the point where I was aware of so many divergent possibilities that I couldn't sort through it all. And I still wasn't earning any profit.

So I decided I had to unmaster everything I had learned from the experts and start from scratch. Here's what I untaught myself.

1) Adwords can drive conversions
There is a notion out there that if you're creative enough, you can identify keywords with marginal advertiser competition but high search volume. But this strategy completely ignores the entire problem with pay-per-click advertising, which is that more clicks does not equal more sales conversions.

There is a critical mass, especially with products with master resell rights, that means your competition is trying just as hard as you to find creative ways to advertise. Your only solution with Adwords then is to be at the top of the search results, which is expensive if you intend to pay for it, and no more directed at bringing in quality traffic than creative search terms.

2) I can write an e-book myself, and probably should
Just about every marketer will tell you to sell your own product, but that is the most unnecessary and unjustifiable advice they can offer for two reasons. For one, it's never simply as easy as taking what you know about something and trying to write a convincing and worthwhile book. Just like someone can't build you a website and expect you to know how to generate sales from it. I have seen a few of these offers to create your very own sales portal but it is just a website with links to products. You still have to find some way to not only drive traffic to that webpage, but convince people to buy from that webpage.

But more importantly, the truth is that most niche e-books don't sell in overwhelming quantities. Because unless you're writing about something that a lot of people are interested in, there won't be an enormous rush to read it, much less buy it from you or your affiliates.

3) Traffic equals sales, just play the percentages
Banner swaps, pop-ups, pop-unders and other traffic generators all sound very enticing for encouraging people to your sales page because you figure if you swirl enough traffic through your url, you are bound to make a reasonable percentage of sales just on the sheer volume of visitors.

But this completely conflicts with the underlying structure of the internet. People search for a specific subject, keyword or answer to a question. Once that need is satisfied, they're done surfing. So if that is the case, why on earth would your invest in random, purposeless traffic just in order to make your visitor statistics look good. That kind of traffic is rarely profitable.

Through all of this unlearning though, I'm like you, I don't necessarily know what the correct answer is. But knowing that affiliate sales takes a lot of determination and experimentation, and a heck of a lot of patience, to have any quantifiable success means I can't rely solely on the advice the experts want to sell me. Knowing what not to do doesn't seem to hurt either.

Andrew Marx writes about how to successfully unmaster your affiliate techniques. He stays tapped into the industry with affiliate alerts.
He created his very own sales portal on the web just to see what it would look like.

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