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|What exactly makes affiliate marketing so hard?|
I read the Advertising Sales and Affiliates forum every day, and I read all sorts of statements.
I read posts from people who claim they make so much money from affiliate advertising that they only come home one day a year after being in the Bahamas, and just take a look at their massive bank accounts. (OK, an exaggeration).
And then I read posts from people who say it's very hard work, and often boring.
I won't dismiss the claims of the former, but would assume that the latter group is more representative.
Without giving away your secrets, what is it about affiliate marketing that makes your job so difficult? And what makes it successful?
It was only months ago that I signed on to an affiliate program, and found out that I could make more money picking up discarded aluminum cans on the street and selling them to the recycler.
I've also found that trying to sell advertising direct to the end company isn't a very pleasant task, either.
Again, without giving away your secrets, please offer your observations and experiences.
Like every profession you have to read a lot about affiliate marketing - you have already done it- and try to find suitable and ethical ways to promote a product. It sounds quite easy. However, when you find yourself in an area where everybody doing same things, you feel the pressure of competition and you have to differentiate your methods of affiliate marketing to have a succesful result ( for example you can do affiliate marketing in nisch products or you can find very competitive but rare keywords). All these endeavours are quite time consuming and entails hard work. Be sure that hardwork work and intensive analysis always pays back.
Finding good merchants to promote is very time consuming, difficult and often a bit boring. The problems you face are:
- Traffic leaks on their sites
- Restrictions, brand bidding and display url etc.
- Reading long terms and conditions (I found one program yesterday looked GREAT but then saw they paid out once per year!)
- Low, un-realistic payments per sale. Some merchants rant about everything then drop in the last line that they pay 1%. Hard to get excited about that as an affiliate.
Those are some of the down sides to finding good stuff to promote for me anyway.
The hardest part ... and the most important part ... is getting your merchant's link in front of well-targeted eyes.
Figuring out cost-effective ways to achieve that is the sticking point for a lot of affiliates.
What makes it so hard? Competing with the other 97 million people trying to do it.
Barriers to entry into the space are very low, and 'gurus' are constantly recruiting and hyping for new suckers to sell their ebooks and software to.
Hardest part IMO is getting traffic. Two equivalent sites can vary in traffic by as much as 1,000X.
Next is finding the right program. Programs can vary in the way they convert on your site by something like 100X.
Finally is the placement on the page and any pre-qualifying and pre-selling you do. This can have an effect on results by as much as 10X.
(Obviously these are just ballpark numbers intended to make a general point. Don't take them too literally.)
This is somewhat of a rant so feel free to avert your eyes.
I'm beginning to think that there's not really that much to be added to what Drastic said 4 years ago.
The "secret sauce" pitch in most forums is 99.99% pure BS. The .01% of real secret sauce is not given away or sold anywhere. End of story.
Anyone have anything to improve on what Drastic wrote?
Post up some actual actionable educational material.
Anybody. Post up a tutorial. Pick a subject and just run with it.
I'll be grateful. The angels will wait to welcome you. The world will be a better place.
[edited by: encyclo at 2:20 am (utc) on Mar. 18, 2007]
Webwork, thanks for those links. Both were very educational threads.
So far, any attempts at affiliate marketing on my site have been disappointing. From reading those threads, I suspect it's because the niche my site is in is not profitable. A typical widget retailer is lucky if he can sell his widget for 20% over cost. 10% is more common.
So, getting a small percentage of an affiliate sale that itself is not particularly profitable means very little return from the affiliate program.
Oh, well. Lots more to learn and think about.
For me there are two things that make affiliate marketing difficult:
Selling a product is not the most exciting job, especially when it is not your product.
When I started out in 2002 there was much less competition and traffic was a lot easier to get. I had no knowledge of affilliate marketing back then and still I could achieve top 5 results in Google for some very competitive terms with a very amateurish looking website full of code errors. Totally different story today.
My biggest mistake when looking back: not thinking long term, not trying to build a real business instead of focusing solely on selling.
What makes AM hard?
Finding a relatively uncompetitive niche which nevertheless has a large enough number of programs and high potential amounts of traffic for long-term sustainability.
|High No. of merchants + High potential traffic + Low competition = AM Niche Holy Grail |
I think once you have found that niche - the 1% inspiration - it's all just writing content from there on in - the 99% perspiration.
The 99% perspiration (ie. all that research and writing!) is time-consuming, long and slow but it's thinking up the niche that ticks all the boxes which is the real tough one.
Just for the record, it took me my first seven months of experimentational development on my site before I stumbled across what the site's targeted niche should be.
What makes AM so hard? More competition, pitiful payouts, merchants not paying on all sales, scumware stealing affiliate commissions, click fraud, and on and on. BUT, if you can get past all of that and rise to the top then you can make a lot with affiliate marketing...Still.
Affiliate marketing is "hard" for anyone just starting out. The learning curve is really steep. It's part luck, persistence, patience and just plain hard work. If you're geting bored of what you're doing, mix it up a little by trying to tackle a different niche!
[edited by: encyclo at 2:23 am (utc) on Mar. 18, 2007]
It's not hard. That's why dullards like myself have made a bunch of money doing it :)
Seriously, there is increased competition but there is also increased inventory (web traffic and BUYERS). Learn how to make a profit, any profit and you are over half way there...
|Anybody. Post up a tutorial. Pick a subject and just run with it. |
I'll be grateful. The angels will wait to welcome you. The world will be a better place.
Called. Will have something shortly. No BS - only proven tactics.
What about the parasites?
I may be wrong, but I'm basing this on a couple of things
1. I'm still finding clients whose machines are riddled with parasites.. All too many of the merchants and programs are tolerant of parasites. You put up the page, the parasite takes the profit.
2. When do some analysis of the performance of my affiliate programs when compared with adsense on the same sites I keep reaching the same conclusion. The only thing that makes sense is that either I have completely bungled the affiliate links for all the programs or something is siphoning off clicks and purchases.
What I think happens when you hear people who are successful is that they have some or all of the following.
- massive traffic so that the parasitic percentage is offset by volume
- The are smart enough to do some programming that counters some of the common techniques of cookie stuffing or affiliate Id swapping.
[edited by: eljefe3 at 3:05 am (utc) on Mar. 19, 2007]
Many, probably the vast majority of, affiliate programs do not allow those techniques to be used. You can read the T&C of each agreement to find out. I don't really know the statistics, but I'd bet that websites and spyware using these specific techniques are now rare.
No offense, but if youa re blaming your lack of success on parasites, you need to first look in the mirror - you are much more likely to find the cause of any failures there.
Either use trusted affiliate programs that do not except adware companies, do private deals where you actually collect the data or do enough volume where it just becoames part of the cost of business.
You think the PPC affiliates don't have to factor in click fraud?
A VERY, VERY high number of *big* network affiliate programs have adware or loyalty affiliates on board - and it can make a HUGE difference in the click to sale ratio. I mean HUGE - for the same stuff you can get steady sales with, with a "clean" merchant.
To me, it sounds like it's the OP's particular site and niche that's the problem.
A big part of aff marketing is learning how to research and pick the right corner of the right niche, and picking the right merchants with the best terms for them. That may (and likely will) involve having more than just one site in one niche, which isn't the way to go to judge what's hard and what isn't. It can take doing 10 sites in a variety of niches, using a variety of merchants and relevant topical products to find 3 niches that work.
>only months ago that I signed on to an affiliate program
AN affiliate program only means that THAT affiliate program doesn't work. Or - it may be that the topic of the site/topic itself doesn't lend well to affiliate marketing.
[edited by: Marcia at 2:51 am (utc) on Mar. 20, 2007]
The thing that makes AM hard is that it takes a bunch of different skill sets or lots of cash if you're going to give the PPC niche a go.
On the organic side:
You need a great idea for a site, you need to be able to build the site for SEO, for visitors, to sell but not to distract to much from sending people off to the merchant to buy.
You need to bring them in on keywords that indicate they are more likely to make a purchae or they have already done some research and just need a little nudge to break out the cc. It helps to have writing skills, design skills, some scripting/programming/database skills.
On the PPC side:
Ya gotta know what keywords people will buy on, generally w/o bidding on a merchants brand name.
You have to know how to pick apart the slightest variation in the keywords you target and track everything you can.
You need a budget to learn with unless you happen to get lucky right off the bat but if you're just starting out, chances are you won't get lucky.
You need to be able to float large amounts of cash until you get paid
You need to be able to be able to survive if a merchant is late on your payment
Payouts are often rediculously low and most merchant in-house PPC programs could never work in any kind of volume at the affiliate payouts when you take out bidding on their own names
To really rock, you need to be able to blend all those skills with some cash. Most agencies would probaby need a staff of 10 people to successfully blend all those skills and do what a top affiliate does if they could even do it.
As far as scumware goes, I'm sure that is somewhat of a problem but it often gets blamed when affiliates just don't do a good enough job of attracting the right traffic.
Bringing people in on keywords that indicate they want to buy might convert at 10% or better whereas another site that has the same traffic levels where the people are just looking for information or the site is built to show banners but not sell stuff.
Any industry where you can tell someone what you do in 10 different ways and people in the web industry still don't get it is probably rather challenging.
"To me, it sounds like it's the OP's particular site and niche that's the problem."
Marcia, I do believe you've nailed it.
If my niche dealt with widgets that had a good markup, I believe I could make some money.
But let's look at some facts. When you see a furniture store advertise a "half off" sale, do you think that store is giving away the furniture?
One of my clients owns a furniture store, as well as a widget store. He can sell furniture for half off, and stlll make a profit. But, at best, he can only mark up his widgets at 15% or so before he starts to lose money.
If I can only get a percentage of that 15% of what might at best be a $500 sale, I'm not making money.
I did not approach the idea of my site with the idea of making money from affiliate sales. I somewhat naievly thought that widget retailers would sign on quickly, and write their own advertisements.
I was wrong on both counts, as said widget retailers haven't the time nor the inclination to write advertisements for their stores.
And, so, I'm trying to find advertising or affiliate networks to fill the income gap.
Any more suggestions are very much welcomed.
Offer 30 days of free advertising on unsold inventory to give em' a taste to show what you can do?
The thing about making money online is the same thing doesn't work for two different people. Someone could tell you exactly how they make $8,000/day and even give you some of their tools. Quite often you won't be able to do even 1/100th of what they do. The best thing is to be creative and come up with your own ideas. Come up with ten different ideas, if your are the kind of person who has the ability to make money online, one of these ideas is very likely to work.
My problem is I can get the traffic easily but am lazy finding the merchants.
We have been doing $150k a month recently but that is coming to an end now for reasons I cannot go into. We have 6 weeks to find some nice paying niches. I would like to do some direct deals to get a better % but money makes you lazy and my staff are not too savvy. The thought of looking for merchants makes me fall asleep.
[edited by: Crush at 6:04 pm (utc) on April 4, 2007]
Selling true ghost story and paranormal books, via affiliate links, has proved to be the most difficult and frustrating thing for me, as webmaster of a top true ghost stories site.
Don't people buy paranormal books online anymore?
Having the same prob with selling ghost dvds too, but can I attribute that failing to the plethora of paranormal and ghost shows on TV at present?
You would have thought the reverse would be true, unless your reaching the end of the cycle
As soon as those TV shows hit DVD (they all do, anymore - season by season, usually), be sure you have links to them - and anything related. Sometimes the network or production company has an affiliate program with items you can offer that aren't generally available. It's often easier to cooperate with TV than it is to compete with it.
davewray is right about the learning curve. Once you get over that gigantic hump, the rest is easy. After that, the sky is the limit.
Id have to say the only complaint I have at this point is competition. Then again, there are still sooo many niches out there and so many opportunities that I really cant complain to much about that.
Now, I just try and focused on where my time is more valuable. Ive got so many things on the back burner I could start a fire.
This tax season has been a real wake up call for me. This year is all about getting organized. I just signed a year lease on an office and hired an assistant to help with running arons and such, so that I can free up more of my time.
The way I see it is, if you want to get rich in any business you need 4 things:
1. Lots of free time
2. A business that you can automate
3. Another business that you can automate
4. A Damn good retirement plan on autopilot
My goal by the end of this year is to have my entire life (well most of it) on autopilot, so that All I have to do is think and call shots.
Other good things to have
A good CPA
A good mentor (s)
A bank where everyone knows you
Friends in high places i.e. make friends everywhere you go, send them gifts during holidays, write it off on your taxes, keep in touch.
A good woman/partner that supports you in everything you do.
Willingness to read and do your own research in everything you do.
Anyone want to ad to this list feel free.
I think there's a huge problem on these posts about what constitutes an affiliate - because it's such a big variance and type of business that sits behind it.
The only definition I'm confortable with, is a reseller of other's products ie a distributor.
I know affiliates that will struggle to pull in $1000 in gross sales per month at 5% commission.
I also know good affiliate operations which pull in $16M in gross sales per month at 20% commission. And there are many that do far better than that.
Basically, it comes down to how well you run your business, and the application of good principles.
[edited by: Whitey at 1:57 am (utc) on April 15, 2007]
|The only definition I'm confortable with, is a reseller of other's products ie a distributor. |
Well we could say AOL is an affiliate of Google as well. They probably make a decent buck off their share of the adwords click rev. :)
But if you read the original post it is quite clear this is not what the poster is doing so you can define aff marketing however you want but it is most helpful to try to get a feel for what we are talkig about. Myself - I have employees, partners (a business) but I still can totally realate to the one man shows.
|The only definition I'm confortable with, is a reseller of other's products ie a distributor. |
To discuss that kind of selling, I'd head over (up?) to the ecommerce subforum. In affiliate marketing, I don't sell anything - although I do try to "sell" the products, if you take my meaning. IMHO, it fits in the advertising forum and even lumping it in the subforum with advertising sales makes sense (referring to the meaning of "affiliate" online - in the rest of the world it can mean just about anything). Like direct advertising sales online, affiliate advertising is about getting someone interested enough in the product or service to click on a link to somewhere else, not to buy from me. What I like best about affiliate marketing is that I'm not responsible for taking care of the actual purchase, credit card checking, secure storing of customer information, shipping, etc., etc., that I would be if I were actually selling something, even if it was someone else's product.
Getting back to the OP's question, though, there are different approaches to affiliate marketing. My approach is not the one to take if you want to make a solid income from it: "I'm going to be building these sites anyway, because I'm passionate about the content, so how can I make some money from them?" I do make some money, but it hasn't paid for any trips to the Bahamas. Since, in your situation, you already have a site, it might very well not be in a good niche for affiliate advertising, because that's not what you set it up for.
The real-income approach is to start from the beginning with that goal, choosing niches/topics because they're good choices for affiliate marketing. You probably don't want to pick niches that you'll absolutely hate working with (because you'll avoid doing the work), but you don't have to be passionate about or even "into" all of them.
I learn aheckuvalot in this forum from people who have the second approach that helps me increase my income in the first approach. If your goal is the second approach, you can learn even more.
[edited by: Beagle at 4:43 pm (utc) on April 15, 2007]
|You probably don't want to pick niches that you'll absolutely hate working with (because you'll avoid doing the work), but you don't have to be passionate about or even "into" all of them. |
I'll vouch for this. However, in the niche that has been most successful for me, I have gradually become a fan of the niche as I have learned more about it. It helps that an understanding of the industry has bolstered my bottom line :)
|However, when you find yourself in an area where everybody doing same things, you feel the pressure of competition and you have to differentiate your methods of affiliate marketing to have a succesful result |
The answer for me has been to completely ignore the areas that are hugely popular. Even the most pedestrian affiliate offers can create a nice income stream, given the right treatment and appropriate volume. EPC numbers mean little to me.
[edited by: Greenboy at 3:46 am (utc) on April 16, 2007]
| This 31 message thread spans 2 pages: 31 (  2 ) > > |