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|What does it take to be a successful affiliate marketer?|
...do you have what it takes?
I've just put down my current month's issue of Entrepreneur, which has motivated me for about a year with daydreams of escaping the rat race, when it occurred to me - I'm doing AM, and there's no way I'd want to start a offline business - too much hassle, stress, etc. Too much like real work. :) Funny how picky we can get.
I'm good doing what I am - if and when I bring it to the next level, I'll be getting all the benefits as if I had a million dollar revenue company with a 10th of the work. Who wouldn't want that? Sounds like a no-brainer, right?
Well, but interestingly enough - not everyone when posed with this huge carrot in front of them, care or feel they can take move onwards. Just like I feel I'd be overwhelmed with trying to start a 'real' business, others feel like this html thing is too complicated to sort out. Others (for instance our brethren in the Webmaster forums) rather work as consultants and get paid that way - the risk of starting a website and not know if it will pan out being greater than what they're willing to risk. They have the technical skill, and yet that's not enough to be successful at AM.
And then we have musicians, writers, psychologist and people from all walks of life decide to throw in some content in a webpage, and find themselves richer beyond what you'd think a puny hobby site would yield. Things can get that weird!
So what does it take to be a successful affiliate marketer?
...do you have what it takes? is the carrot orange, juicy and big enough to get you through the ups and downs to the top?
What motivates you?
What makes you a good AM? Persistence and no sleep for the first while :)
What motivates me? Money is a bonus. The challenge of becoming tops in the SE's for competative phrases is what drives me. I'm competative..I like to kick ass and that is what motivates me to go on. Of course, getting checks worth thousands motivates me to a certain extent too.
To kinda refocus this thread: if you're an experienced affiliate marketer, what challanges and frustrations did you run into when you were starting? what motivated you back then, and is that different than what you feel now? what did you bring to the table that enabled you to get where you are right now? and when did it hit you that 'hey, I can do this!'?
I think what prevents others from "making tons of money" in AM without putting in as much effort as would be required to profit equally from a "real job," is the fact that it seems too good to be true. It is too good to be true.
I can only identify three possible realities:
1) Successful AM folks are not the norm. Whether it be skill, luck, or a combination of the two, it is not something that anybody - even those with the technical know-how - can do. I find this one difficult to understand... I mean, you make it sound as if people are making an explicit decision "not to take a risk and make bundles of cash." I think since you have been so successful almost immediately, you don't know the struggles the average person runs into. Suppose you tried out 10, 20, 30 different sites before you made a dime. Suppose you weren't able to find the winning forumla... how long would you be willing to work for free before you cashed out and became bitter over the whole thing?
2) The economics of AM are correcting. The fact that you put in a disproportionately low amount of work for the money you make doesn't make any economic sense. In time this will correct itself and you'll either have to find another way of making an income or you'll be so filthy rich that you won't have to when things mature. That is, unless you have some rare skill that is very hard to learn. This is another subject I still don't understand, how people can suggest that SEO is an art of some sort. As far as I have been able to identify, SEO is one of the most technical and by-the-books professions in the world. Things work or they don't. You get links, you insert keywords, you churn out the content that the SE's gobble up... or you don't. I suppose there is more of an art to AM, what with understanding how people think and react to advertisements, enticements, etc... but, again, can't that all be distilled down to a science if you have enough information?
3) As another poster suggested, you're all planted posters working for ppc companies. ;)
it's one thing to know you need links to rank. it's another completely to come up with unique, successful, affordable ways to get those links. it's one thing to know quality content goes a long way. it's another thing to get that content- you can be a decent writer, or you can know where and when to outsource.
oddly enough, I make pretty decent money and some of my skills are lacking. I'm not good at design. I'm not good with graphics. I'm not good with coding.
I'm good at a lot of other things, though. I'm good at coming up with ideas. I'm good at seperating ideas that probably won't go over all that well from ones that will. I'm good at pumping out quality content if I'm in the right mood.
I don't think there's much that's universal to do well here. you do need to be good at *something* that directly applies to AM, though. from there it's just knowing how to compensate for the things you're not so great with.
What's content? ;)
I think an especially interesting facet is threads always turn out to be what people would like them to be, regardless of their original purpose. This seems to be the "what does it take to become successful at this AM thing (over and beyond motivation)".
Honestly, I'm not quite sure.
One man jobbers are difficult on the internet, even if you're a 'super genius' by todays standard. Personally, I used to be a graphics designer as well as a web designer, and I've had to take up database design recently. I even have a natural knack for writing. Over the last 2 years, I've learned CSS/2, XHTML standard and XML. Over the last 2 months, I've learned IIS, Apache, MySQL, SQL, and ColdFusion.
But wait, like any good sales letter, THERE'S MORE! You see that's all it takes to make a website, but not neccisarily be in AM. Now there are new skills I've had to work with over the last year or so, SEO, Dealing with AM's, picking programs, learning business structure, basics of PPC, marketing, and much more.
This really is a one man job. It's like doing everything yourself, but getting no experience for it (business experience anyway). The problem with AM is that if you don't make money, you've gotten nowhere (with exception of maybe a life lesson).
To touch on the original point, everyone has motivation I think. You'd never run into a board like this if you didn't. People are driven by different things, but it all leads us to the same places, success or failure.
AM is a lot of luck, but it's in our favor. It's like a lottery with an unheard of percentage of winnings. Sure you can lose, but if you know how to play it, the chances are small. Whereas the lottery is a tax on people who are bad at math, AM is a tax on giant spammers, merchants, and corperations, vying for internet traffic. If these guys could do it themselves, they wouldn't be asking for us. It's a game where the little guy will always have just as much of a chance as the next player. A refreshing aspect of AM you don't see much else.
It's diverse, shapeable, unstable, and personal. AM is anything you want it to be, and people are constantly finding new ways to market old dogs (and then it runs dry and they write an ebook about it ;)).
AM is the best job one could have - if you have what it takes.
rfung - When I started out what motivated me was watching the size of my checks grow. I always set goals, so I always had a 'carrot' dangling in front of me.
When I have a low earning period, I would refocus and enlarge my goals. When I hit my goals, it gave a feeling of satisfaction (and a truckload of $$ too)
|What does it take to be a successful affiliate marketer? |
Depends on what you mean by "affiliate marketer." Some of us are publishers who use affiliate marketing the way it was envisioned at its conception in the mid-1990s: as a form of advertising on an editorial or content site. That approach can work well for some topics, if you've got the right kind of audience and enough traffic. It works especially well in combination with a contextual ad network like Google's AdSense, which helps to "fill the gaps" by generating revenues from content pages that don't send traffic and buyers to relevant affiliate partners. It requires a different set of skills than most full-time affiliate marketers have, though: Technical and SEO abilities are less important than editorial and publishing experience.
|Some of us are publishers who use affiliate marketing the way it was envisioned at its conception in the mid-1990s: as a form of advertising on an editorial or content site. |
Hey I know you have more experience than me EuropeForVisitors, but wasn't it envisioned as something that could make a company more money (no matter what type of site), much like it does today? I mean, that is the point of Affiliate Marketing at least from a companies perspective I would think.
BTW you have a nice and helpful site there which I enjoy reading.
All the Best,
|wasn't it envisioned as something that could make a company more money (no matter what type of site), much like it does today? |
Affiliate marketing, in its earliest incarnation, was an add-on for existing sites rather than an industry in its own right--hence the term "CPA" or "cost-per-action advertising."
The affiliate-marketing industry has obviously grown and evolved, and today most AM is probably on sites that exist for that purpose. My point is simply that the old-fashioned approach can still work on content sites with the right topics and enough traffic (which is why big media companies, not just mom-and-pop sites like mine, continue to use affiliate links and ads).
So, if a Webmaster's skills are more on the publishing side than on the technical or SEO side, it may be worthwhile to consider an information site that's supported by affiliate links and other forms of advertising. (I know a few editorial types who made the mistake of going the "affiliate site" route and failing because they lacked the technical and SEO skills to survive as pure affiliate marketers.)
|So what does it take to be a successful affiliate marketer? |
...do you have what it takes? is the carrot orange, juicy and big enough to get you through the ups and downs to the top?
What motivates you?
I think it takes a lot of hard work, trying new things, studying, more studying, learning new skills. It all takes time and could take awhile till you see some results. Most of these skills you have to learn yourself, unless you could afford to outsource.
I sure am glad to be here and learn from others who is more successful at this game. That is what motivates me is seeing your success and knowing there carrots at the end of the road ;-)
Well, back to work for me...
"AM is a tax on giant spammers, merchants, and corperations, vying for internet traffic. If these guys could do it themselves, they wouldn't be asking for us."
That's a very short-sighted view. I manage SEO and the affiliate program for a mid-sized dot-com, and we use AM to increase our presence on the web and reach remote corners of the web more quickly, and on a scalable level. It's not because we can't do our own SEO - because we can and do (none of our affiliates outrank us for our primary keywords in the organics). It's simply "smart business" for us to use AM to expand our reach.
Learn to think beyond your own box. What you term "success" may be a very, very limited view of the word. To me, a businessman (or woman) who starts a company and employs 25 people is far more "successful" than one person who sits at home in their basement building web sites and cashing 5-figure checks each month. It's all in your perspective...
Well I for one prefer to be the one man in the penthouse cashing in 5-digit checks a month and having 25 people working under a manager I hire, while I think about the next enterprise to start. :)
Seriously though, I would find a certain satisfaction/sense of success in being a one man show in a basement/beach in the bahamas earning about the same or more than a 25 person strong company with a 9-5 and a traffic jam commute. Considering that a business is part financial reward, part the sense of seeing something grow that you put your effort into, if I had to compare, a real business has a lot more headaches for the same reward. Of course, the likelyhood of AM'ers earning at the same level as a 25 person strong company is unlikely, and a real company can probably go into the millions of dollars in revenue and aquire equity value.
A lot of it has to do with American society and the 'live to work' mentality, but that's another topic alltogether.
...just my humble opinion.
What I'm trying to say is, (almost) anyone can make THEMSELVES successful. It takes real knowledge, skill, passion, and leadership to build a company that contributes to the local economy and helps a few dozen or a few hundred other people put food on the table, pay the mortgage and send their kids to college. It may not seem as "glamorous" to some of you, but try doing it! Rather than always being about "me, me, me!" think about how much better it is to improve OTHER people's lives sometimes.
I'm honored to work for a brilliant dot-commer who employs 120+ people, provides retirement benefits, stock options, etc., all in an environment that challenges me to learn and grow and get better at being a leader of other people. That's something I couldn't do sitting in my basement.
Not saying one perspective is right or wrong for YOU - just offering a DIFFERENT perspective. Keep doing what you love and are successful at, but don't look down upon corporate America, and don't buy the LIE that 9-5'ers hate their jobs and their lives...because it's simply not true in all cases.
When I first started the most frustrating thing for me was the scope of AM. There's so much that you need to know, and so many possibilities that it turned into a big sensory overload for me at the time (bear in mind I started when ecommerce exploded several years ago). Ideas and business models of all kinds were making the scene and it was difficult to figure out where to get in.
I would love to see a 5 digit paycheck every couple of weeks (so would my wife! lol). But right now my full-time seo/webmaster job and my side projects cap me at 5 digits for my total annual earnings (I plan on breaking the 6 digit barrier this year though!).
Once I hit that mark I'm buying a large plot of land out in the farmlands and building a large house. My wife has a big thing for animals so we're going to startup a horse ranch with some other fun animals when we can afford it.
That's what motivates me:
-knowing that once I reach a certain point in the next year or two that I'll be able to spend alot more time with my family and friends
-knowing that once I reach that point I'll have my own property
-knowing that once I reach that point I'll be debt free *I'm 20k in debt right now*
-knowing that I'll never have to say "we can't afford that" to my wife ever again
-knowing that I'll be able to spend time with my daughter when she's born in May (9 more weeks!)
-and the biggest motivation is knowing that I won't have to work for somebody ever again. I hate working for people. Your life is in their hands. If they decide to fire you, then you're screwed.
That's what drives me :)
At this point I think we've established both sides of the equation, and I have no qualms in accepting that it exists _but_ I'm having a hard time digesting that most 9-5ers would choose to remain where they are if given the choice. I think to assume that they're happy with that is the true lie :)
I've read many stories of telecommuters and work-at-home types who miss the social aspect of regular jobs. In short, working at home, they get lonely.
Also, at 5:00 in the afternoon, and especially at 5:00 on a Friday afternoon, there is a sense of closure to work. ("Ah, now I can relax and enjoy myself.") Working at home, on the other hand, some feel like they're always "on the job," that they never feel at ease.
Just two reasons why some people, many people, would prefer a regular 9-5 job over working home alone.
I definately had to add a few things to this thread.
Similarly to Rfung's other post, I too was fresh out of college (didn't finish however) and went directly into SEO in LA after four or five years of web design experience. I've been working now full-time for about a year now, 9-7 or 7:30 with a few saturdays too a month. Add LA's magnificent traffic and the day easily 14 becomes hours. I can't possibly understand how this can be what life is about. I dread the very real possibillity that I would have to do this for another year, and I can't even begin to imagine doing this until retirement age. i have recently jumped into the AM market and have so much enthusiam for the chance to do this fulltime. Although the possibility is very real to make alot money, personally, I feel my aggressive drive into this business is about personal and financial freedom. I will take the stress of search engine algorithm changes, merchant disputes, etc any day over the consistenly more volatile situation where I work presently. Furthermore, with adequate persistence and a pinch of lunck, I can gain this freedom to actually experience life each day and not live in that semi-conscious slog M-F ,along with doubling or tripling my income. Now is going to argue with that?
|What I'm trying to say is, (almost) anyone can make THEMSELVES successful. It takes real knowledge, skill, passion, and leadership to build a company that contributes to the local economy and helps a few dozen or a few hundred other people put food on the table, pay the mortgage and send their kids to college. |
I would much rather be a one-man operation cashing five figure checks every month than to manage employees and all the complications that come with having employees.
Just because I don't have employees doesn't mean I'm not helping the local economy. I paid for several man years worth of labor when I built my new house. I pay more in real estate taxes than most people pay on house payments, and that helps support our local schools. The new cars I've bought have helped provide jobs for salesmen and auto workers. We help support our local restaurants, too. I don't see a lot of difference in spending money on employees or spending money with companies who hire employees. In either case, the money goes back into the local economy.
I agree with your assertation that it's more difficult to build a business with employees than to go solo. I don't really care, though. I don't want (or need) the hassles. I'm able to automate much of what I do and eliminate the need for employees.
|Also, at 5:00 in the afternoon, and especially at 5:00 on a Friday afternoon, there is a sense of closure to work. ("Ah, now I can relax and enjoy myself.") Working at home, on the other hand, some feel like they're always "on the job," that they never feel at ease. |
Please bear in mind we're just discussing this topic - by no means I'm attacking anyone's opinion, and I apologize if it may seem like that. This is a really interesting topic for me, if only because we all know which side of the fence i sit, and where I just came from :)
The above comment, represents an interesting view in life - my best friend who knows what I do, tells me quite frequently - "oh, you don't work, you don't get to enjoy weekends like other people who work regular hours do." she actually makes it seem like I'm missing out on something. In my head, I'm thinking, duh?.. EVERYDAY is weekend for me. Sure I don't get to feel excited over the upcoming weekend, but why do people feel that in the first place? "Weekends" is a socially accepted construct for a working lifestyle - it's a reward and a break from work - people can't wait for the weekend. People hate mondays. TGIF got coined, not TGIM. People get _paid_ as a motivation to work. It is not because they like work.
The other thing that the above comment tells me is that it implies people need an outside structure to give order to their lives, which again seems like the easy way out of taking control over one's own life. Someone to tell them that 'hey it's 5pm, you can enjoy your life now'. Once you're in full control over your time and your money (i.e when you open a business) then you're really searching for that last ounce of motivation to get you going or to keep it balanced, because you have no one else to blame but you.
Working a 9-5 is so engrained in society - less than 1%(?) of the world population can have the luxury of having an income and not be trading their time for money - that it's just accepted. Up until recently I could not imagine a life without a job - how else can someone survive, right? but AM seems to open a new avenue where that life does seem possible, and it opens up one's mind to so many other things you could/wanted to do that you would have never thought about doing.
I'm not saying working a 9-5 is a bad thing, but if they _truly_ stay at their work, is because of other rewards - helping out people, the challenge of making a company go public, or the 'prestige' of being a stockbroker/lawyer/doctor, a hobby turned into a profitable enterprise, among several other reasons that only their psyche can answer (and I doubt any of these jobs involve working as a telesales or tech support drone in a corporate environment). Everyone else, from UPS delivery guys to all the fast food chain workers, nope, I don't think they would stick around if they had or were offered the choice.
Hate to sound 'preachy', but that's my take on it.
|EVERYDAY is weekend for me. |
Yes, but you achieved (early) success and are able to ease up, at least a little.
Some of us are still struggling at this. I work at AM and improving my websites evenings, through the "weekend", every moment I can. Sometimes I will wake up at 4:00 AM and head down to the basement to begin my days "work".
I mean, I am putting in 15-18 hour days, day in and day out.
There are many times where I'd like to relax and play a computer game, spend more time with my family, practice my music more, or get more than five hours of sleep at night. I don't do it, though, because I feel driven to succeed at this.
Don't get me wrong. I share your opinion. I *hate* the thought of returning to a 9-5 office job, abhor the idea of spending 2+ hours every day commuting to and from work, feel intense disgust for office politics, etc.
It's just that I can see where other people think differently, have better job situations, truly love their conventional work lives and the social and other satisfactions it brings.
Not me. I'm perfectly happy to work by myself at home, set me own (insane) hours, call my own shots.
It helps if you're an asocial loner, I suppose.
Work smarter, not harder. I always hate that saying, but there's some truth to it. Focus on the things that are most important.
Automate everything you can.
Don't neglect your family (for AM or for a 9-5). Take time to relax. You'll work much better if you're well rested.
If you're an organic player, the first time you get spanked by an update is a humbling thing. Losing a couple hundred dollars a day is an unsettling experience. Depending on how careful you are it may not happen right away, but unless you're targeting markets like fuzzy pink sock puppets from Death Valley, eventually it will happen, so be prepared. Multiple sites
|It's just that I can see where other people think differently, have better job situations, truly love their conventional work lives and the social and other satisfactions it brings. |
Warning: Bit of a rant - not necessarily directed at berto, but just other thoughts about this whole thing..
This may be a hardlined view of the world ( or some meta phylosophical Matrix-style BS :) ) but I assert that those people are happy within their scope of reality, as explained before. And, if they were presented say, with a winning lottery ticket (i.e the red pill - a shock to the system and to their concept of 'what my life should be'), I dare bet most would get away from their jobs, no matter how much they love it or enjoy it's social aspects. We work primarily because we get paid for it. Everything else you can get somewhere else.
That most people can't separate that, is why I feel people are trapped in the rat race and why I 'look down' on the corporate world. BTW, I've always felt like this ever since getting out of school, and in fact it was this longing for something more that made me fall into AM - the 'quarter-life' crisis, the 'is there more to life than this?' questions - I know most of my peers have at one point or another felt the same. So I either know the most depressive people in the world, or maybe there is something there that's real.
I was talking to another friend about these phases we go through - which happens a year or two after college life - her answer? "oh, my two brothers were feeling the same thing, until they realized they looked better for their age than others, had decent jobs and all in all they were doing okay with their lives". Decent jobs? Doing okay?....what da..? Society's inexorable hand bringing them back into her fold. Give it a couple years more, and they'll actually truly enjoy their life - within the scope of their reality :)
Like I said before all this rant - from my experience, I just can't believe "'most people' like working a 9-5" - Blasphemy!
Anyway - lest anyone think I should get off my high horse because I was able to be fairly successful - the only difference is that if I hadn't been, I'd be a depressed sod doing a very tedious 9-7 weekly routine until I learned to like what fate put on my plate, and start looking forward to getting yearly 2% raises, 1 extra day of vacations, and enjoying the weekends. Some people might enjoy working a 9-5. Most people don't.
[edited by: rfung at 4:43 am (utc) on Mar. 15, 2005]
|If you're an organic player, the first time you get spanked by an update is a humbling thing. Losing a couple hundred dollars a day is an unsettling experience. Depending on how careful you are it may not happen right away, but unless you're targeting markets like fuzzy pink sock puppets from Death Valley, eventually it will happen, so be prepared. |
Thanks for the heads up! reminds me of a saying in the motorcycle world - there's two kinds of riders. Those who have dropped (the bike) and those who will :)
Well said rfung.
|Don't neglect your family (for AM or for a 9-5). Take time to relax. You'll work much better if you're well rested. |
For one of my sites, it's not just about, or even mainly about, making money. It promotes a "cause", something I set aside as a younger person and now, in my mid life crisis, feel compelled to promote.
It helps that another family member has decided on this "cause" as the focus of his/her future life.
For the first year I was doing this, I gave no thought to affiliate marketing or serious e-commerce and was guided by a naive "business model" based on a lot of fantasy and wishful thinking.
For the second year I was doing this, I did it half-heartedly. I paid some attention to AM and e-commerce but really didn't have a clue.
Now that I have a clue--heck, more clues than I can handle--I'm making up for lost time. I don't mind working hard. I can relax later.
And rfung wrote:
|Warning: Bit of a rant - not necessarily directed at berto, but just other thoughts about this whole thing |
Hey, we think alike--about our personal situations. I prefer this life/workstyle, hate the thought of the 9-5 daily grind, no less than you do.
But if other people say they are happy in their work, whatever form that takes, who am I to judge or question them?
|But if other people say they are happy in their work, whatever form that takes, who am I to judge or question them? |
I don't go out there preaching or questioning other people's life choices :) Like I said from the beginning, my personal opinion being my own, and this was more of a philosophical exercise than anything else, and one could even say, a way to validate my own reality.
Graywolf: do you have any rule of thumb as far as how diversified is enough? Say I have 10 sites in 10 different industries, how spread out my risk is? or, in other words, have you seen anyone come down across multiple industries like that?
One way of diversifying is moving offline for some investments or opportunities. Common sense, I know. If you are able to develop a fairly automated income that isn't connected to SE rankings or SE's in any way, you'll feel very good.
Diversify within AM: multiple sites, multiple merchants, and all that.
Diversify offline: real estate, financial markets, buy/create businesses that other people can run for you.
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