I’m sure this article is going to connect with a lot of people out there. I get tons of emails from people asking how they get started in affiliate marketing when they don’t have the largest budget. My mindset and strategy is do not be afraid to lose a lot of money, and be prepared to spend a lot of it when trying to find out what works. Unfortunately, not everybody has capital to initially invest. I say credit cards to those people, but people still don’t want to take the risk if they lose all the money they charge. Again I say you need guts to get big, but that’s not everybody’s goal. So I’m going to write about starting a campaign up with little funds. First I want to get a quick couple of don’ts out when it comes to low budget marketing.
Low Budget Don’ts
- DO NOT make your bids ridiculously low because you don’t want to blow your budget.
- DO NOT choose offers based on how high the payout is. Just because an offer has a $50 payout doesn’t mean it’s easy money to get into. Don’t think that you’ll get $0.10 clicks and convert at 10%+ on a $50 payout offer.
- DO NOT start a sloppy campaign if you’re on a low budget. Since we don’t really have any money to lose here, we need to make sure everything is in-line before we start the campaign up. Make sure all your links are working, pixels are tracking, clicks are showing up in the affiliate network, etc. These things should all be done anyways, but it’s easy to get lazy or excited, start a campaign, and then forget you forgot to do this and that.
Now that we got a few of the bad things out of the way, it’s time to take a look at budget-saving methods of affiliate marketing. There’s ways to do affiliate marketing with PPC, and ways without paying for traffic. If your heart is set on becoming a PPC master though, there are ways to slowly and successfully build a great campaign on a low-budget.
PPC Marketing on a Low Budget
- Slowly but surely. As with a lot of the ways to make money on a limited budget, slow is the only option. Set up your campaign like you have millions to spend, but set your daily budget at what you can afford. It may take a much longer time to accumulate data and optimize, but that’s the price you have to pay for not spending a lot.
- Utilize vouchers. Yahoo is always offering free voucher options that you can use as many times as you want. Just the other day I saw a link for a $100 voucher. You have to deposit $30 into the account, but they credit you $100 in free clicks. I’m not sure of the exact rules, but just set up 10 accounts and get a free $1,000 in clicks to test out whatever you want. Use that $1,000 to find out what works, set up a real campaign with keywords/landing pages you KNOW are profitable, and then scale it out with a credit card. I know in the past when I first started and had no money I’d create a few accounts when a good voucher came along and nobody said anything to me about it.
- Negotiate with networks. Sometimes having a good friend at an affiliate network can help you succeed on a low budget. Or perhaps someone you know is a trusted affiliate at a network – this is where networking is key. Networks can always give you higher than shelf price when it comes to payouts, so tell them you need more money on the offer so you don’t lose money and are able to keep running it. Or tell them you need to start with bi-weekly payments because you have very little money to start, but want to eventually become a very large affiliate. If you’re some random guy who doesn’t sound like he has a clue as to what he’s talking about, networks probably won’t be that flexible. But if you come off as smart and have connections, the network will likely be happy to work with you.
- Start with sources of cheaper traffic. Google can be quite the beast sometimes and require a bit of money to get rolling well. It’s where traffic is at, but it’s not for the faint of heart or budget. This is where you can start by utilizing cheaper traffic. Yahoo is cheaper and even better converting than Google. MSN is even cheaper than that. Things like Ask, Looksmart, Bidvertiser, etc are all very cheap, but the traffic quality sometimes SUCKS. I spent $2,000 on a test for ringtones in LookSmart and made like $100 back. But other places like Ask, I’ve had pretty good success with. Volume is a lot lower so again it takes more time to see big returns, but you get what you pay for.
- Don’t freaking give up!!! Low-budget affiliate marketing is still affiliate marketing. Some things simply won’t work, and some things will lose you money. Just because you set your daily budget lower doesn’t mean your ROI will be any higher: it won’t. Realize that you will fail, and you will lose money. You never really lose money though, you’re paying to learn. Learn from your mistakes and use it to make more money.
Utilize Free Traffic and Think Outside of the Box
There’s plenty of ways out there to get free traffic, not all affiliate marketing is PPC. Some ways are well-known, and other times there’s ways to get free traffic by thinking outside of the box. It’s not something I can do for you (as if I find a really great way, I’m not going to tell anybody), but do some thinking and research and you may have a eureka moment. Here’s some ways to get free traffic :
- Organic SEO. Chances are if you know what affiliate marketing is, you know what SEO is – as you’re doing it. Aside from paid search, there is also organic search engine optimization. There’s methods, strategies, and secrets just like there are in PPC, but organic traffic is free traffic. Your site will naturally fall under Google’s search results without you having to pay to be there. I’m not an organic expert by any means so I can’t help you there, but there are affiliates making really nice money from organic sites. And it’s 100% profit.
- Craigslist and Gumtree. Both are sites where you post local classified ads (Gumtree is in the UK). Not all networks allow this kind of traffic, but you can find places that won’t catch you, or don’t have restrictions against it. There was an eBook out a while ago that went over some shady tactics to make money from Craigslist. It went something like this (note that I do not condone or use these methods) :
Post a classified ad saying that you’re Roxie, some hott college girl who just wants to have a good time and possible one-night stand. Say “send an email to roxie [at] gmail [dot] com to talk to me more”. Once they email you, have an autoresponder send a message like “Yadda yadda I’d like to know you, sign up [here] and search for my profile”. That sends them to any dating offer you want. Pretty shady as you’re straight up lying, but it’s free targeted traffic to that offer. Now I was curious about this, so I actually posted a short ad like that on craigslist, just to see if anybody actually responded. I got maybe 30 emails that hour from interested people. I didn’t set up an autoresponder or anything so I didn’t make any money off it, but it did get traffic. Now I don’t do anything that “blackhat” (even though there is MUCH worse), but I got thinking of another way to do it that’s not as raunchy lol and deals with a payout higher than $3 :
Post a classified ad that says you’re an employer looking for eager individuals looking to work from home and make $500 a week part time on the computer. Then when they email you interested, hit them back with a work at home offer (there’s about 8 million of them out there) and tell them they need to ship those supplies to their house. I haven’t tried that and like I said I don’t do anything like that. But if you’re really desperate and don’t care about ethics, maybe it’s an idea for you. I’m sure it’s done before so find out what works best.
- Message boards. There’s a message board out there for everything. If there’s not, make one and profit off it yourself. You don’t have to spam in order to make money from them. It would take more time as you’d have to make a few posts so you don’t just have 1, but get some posts and then make a thread in a car forum about “this cool site where you get a free car insurance quote and you actually saved $200/year”. Again I never tested this way, but it could be a way to get a few free leads to build up some initial capital for bigger projects.
- True blackhat/shady traffic. I’m most certainly not going to post any of those methods here, as some of them can get you into pretty big trouble. I don’t do any of it myself, but I do know people who have told me some things that they do. There’s really shady ways of getting free traffic (or almost free) out there, maybe you’ll meet someone at a seminar and they’ll tell you after being friends with them for a while. If you have no concern for ethics whatsoever and want to run the risk of getting caught, help yourself.
I hope this article helped a lot of you out there who were looking to really get started into affiliate marketing but don’t have the resources to just dive right into it. It took me a while to write this up so you bastards better like it. Seriously though, not everybody wants to be King Tut, and not everybody wants to risk the savings that support their family. My goal with this article was to simply open up some different windows so you can actually get started and start making some money.
Good luck and God Speed.