Researching Affiliate Niches in 2012

Ways to Find Offers

1) Get out onto the field. My favorite way (also free) to research offers is to start browsing websites. If you have a specific niche in mind, Google relevant websites and look in the ad spots for ads that look like they’re affiliate pages. If you want to see what the mainstream/high volume crowd is running, check out the ad spots in popular sites like Weather.com, CNN.com, etc. Weather sites are synonymous with rebills.

Facebook doesn’t have too much, but check out the adboard and to view different niches, make fake names with different demographic info: https://www.facebook.com/ads/adboard/. There are also a few Facebook scrapers out there that will scrape ads based on demographic info.

2) Tools tools tools. As was the case back in the day, tools are being utilized for research and spying. And naturally as technology progresses, affiliate research technology follows. I use a couple tools to scrape/research offers, but one of my favorites lately is What Runs Where. I might write another post explaining in detail how to research with What Runs Where, but it’s a pretty powerful scraper.

Basically you can pop a few keywords for niches you have in mind (much like typing keywords into Google in method #1 above), or scrape from a list of URLs (like choosing the broad option of Weather.com). WRW will show you hundreds of ads, both text and image. This gives you the best “full scope” as to what’s being run today.

3) Networking. Another oldie but goodie is simple networking. If you don’t have many friends in the industry that know their stuff, affiliate managers are always a free resource. The affiliate industry is nice because it’s pretty capitalistic and free; meaning networks are in good competition with one another. This encourages them to go above and beyond, and one of those areas is with affiliate managers.

I’ve had some duds, but I’ve also had a few really smart and resourceful AMs that I still talk to. I still chat with Fraser and he was my first AM with Azoogle 5 years ago. Most networks email out “top offer reports” that on the surface aren’t that useful. Take that list and chat with your AM about where the traffic is coming from, what payout bumps you can get, and you might have a positive lead.

4) Check the trends. While spying on others is a great way to research what’s hot in the industry, the best thing you can do is be creative and make your own ideas. One way to do this is by looking at search and social trends. To see search trends, go to http://www.google.com/trends/. You can see the hottest searches and then dig deeper into those trends. To check social trends, just look at what’s trending in the Twitter sidebar. There are a few sites out there that aggregate twitter/social trends, do a few minutes of Googling and you’ll find them.

What you can do with these trends is both find untapped and new traffic sources/keywords, and also spin offers into them. If Steve Jobs is trending, you can make a “What killed Steve Jobs?” IQ quiz/email submit or something messed up like that.

What to do with these ideas…

Now that you know how to research for ideas and opportunities, the next step is doing something with those ideas. For me, the first step is usually jotting some general ideas down on a pad of paper. I’ll pick a few campaigns that I think have potential and jot down some general notes on what I’ll aim to target. Rather than make up a fake example, I’ll show you a shot of some random notes I jotted down a couple weeks ago:

It doesn’t have to be anything complicated or crazy. In the above example, I was thinking about some things to run on Plenty Of Fish (never ended up following through, the quality of diet offers sucks). I was able to obtain some traffic information/stats on the demographics there, and jotted down some notes on where I’d start my targeting.

Making these ideas come to life

Now that you’ve got a few ideas and notes on where you’re going to start, it’s all about starting. Shop around networks and get the skinny on what offers in your niche is hot, and what the best payout you can get is. Register a domain in your niche and set up 2-3 landing pages based on what you see out in the field. At the very least, test 1 replica page and 1 page that you originally make.

All that I mentioned above is the easy part. If you want me to do the work for you, things that are hot: rebills, mobile, co-reg, edu, dating, insurance. Shocker huh.

What’s hard is getting converting traffic to your landing pages. What’s even harder is getting cheap converting traffic to your landing pages. But those are for posts of their own. For now, get out there and put a unique spin on mainstream offers.

Making Starter Cash as an Affiliate

A problem I see a lot of new affiliates run into is cash flow. They read some blog posts or hear their friends talk about affiliate marketing and how great it is, get all psyched up, and then realize that it’s not free. They may even have saved up $100 to spend on a campaign only to lose it in a day or two and be back at square one. So how much money should you save up to run your first affiliate campaigns, and how do you get that money in the first place?

How much do I need?

As I’ve said many times before, campaigns will usually have a much higher failure rate than success rate. It’s just the way it goes, your friend may be making $500/day promoting dating offers while you lose $500/day trying to do the same. From the get go, you need to prepare to run more than one campaign.

I would say a range of 3-5 offers is a good starting point. Pick one campaign that you think will perform well with search traffic. Pick another that might work with social. Test out PPV on another. Pick one that you just think you’ll do a good job selling.

As far as cash goes, I would spend no less than $200 on each campaign (traffic alone, not factoring in any design/coding costs…do that yourself!). This will give you a decent sampling enough to see if there’s at least potential in the offer. Remember that if you lose money on the $200 you spent, that does not mean the campaign is a bust. For instance if you spend $200 and make $100, that shows decent potential in the offer. Work on getting your ad CTR up and optimizing your landing page, and that offer can easily be flipped around and profiting.

Now we know that we need $600-$1,000 minimum to run a solid test, it’s time to find a money tree to pluck the bills from.

Note: most of these things will require you to learn a new skill. Making money online isn’t always easy and can take a ton of work (especially in the beginning), so I don’t want to see any tears about having to learn Photoshop.

Method #1: Web Design

Web design is a great way to make money, but also probably takes the most skill out of any of these “free” methods. You have to be somewhat creative to make unique custom pages for people.

One type of way to make money designing is by designing landing pages for other affiliates. I’ve seen some pretty crappy looking pages selling for $40-50, or in $100 packages with a bunch of other crappy pages. Learn how to make pages that blow these types out of the water, sell them for the same price, and you’ll have your $1k in a month.

If you get good enough, you can branch out from simple landing pages and design full custom websites for people. It’s possible to make 5x the amount of starter cash you need from designing 1 site for a business. I pay one of the design firms I use $80/hr for their work, and it’s worth every penny.

Another way is by making skins for Wordpess and selling them on sites like ThemeForest.net.

My favorite way: find local businesses around you that have crappy websites. In 30 minutes I guarantee you that you’ll find at least 10-15 really, REALLY bad pages. Like 1995 AOL flashing text all over again bad, it’s crazy how outdated some businesses are when it comes to the web. Approach these companies and say you’ll design them a much more modern site, explain to them you’ll set up a “content management system” for them to easily change things, and that you’ll set up free SEO to boost their sites ranking. What you really do: grab one of the really nice WordPress themes from ThemeForest, customize it to add in the businesses logo/content, and then add a couple SEO plugins. They’ll most likely be blown away at how nice the site looks and should be willing to shell out at least $300-500 to you, sometimes more.

Method #2: Coding

Coding may take you a bit longer to learn, but takes less skill than design. If you plan on being an affiliate in the first place though, coding and design are two things I would strongly recommend learning.

Companies and individuals need coders all the time to fix problems and code sites up for them, whore yourself out on oDesk and make that money.

Method #3: SEO

Search Engine Optimization is a way to run affiliate campaigns for free. Instead of paying for fast, guaranteed traffic, you rank organically and get clicks for free.

SEO generally takes a little bit to learn and then traffic to your site grows slowly, but it’s free and beggars can’t be choosers. You can create regular affiliate landing pages to rank, or go the autoblog route and make hundreds of worthless blogs that make you $1/day from Adsense. I’m not an SEO expert though so unfortunately I can’t really give any pointers.

Kris Jones’ SEO Blueprint would be a decent place to start, or there’s unlimited amounts of free information on the mighty Google just waiting to be found.

Method #4: Fiverr Whoring

If you’re really desperate and want to make that $1,000 five bucks at a time, create an account on Fiverr and start posting things you’ll do for $5. I actually use this site quite a bit for mediocre work at slave-labor prices. Some of the users there will have 50 jobs in their queue, so you know they’re making money.

Check out the site, look at what people are doing for $5 and then check out how many orders are in they’re queue. If it’s hot, you should be able to make $1k slowly but surely.

Method #5: Blogging

Blogging is a great free way to make money. As with most of the other methods it takes some time to see the bucks roll in but, if you’re looking for fast money that’s going to be affiliate marketing…and you can’t afford that yet.

Blog about whatever you’re passionate about (as long as it’s not 18th century rocking chairs…but hey maybe there’s a market for that). Whatever topic you choose, become really involved in every social media outlet there is in that community. Join forums and post on them. Join twitter and tweet/reply to other people with similar interests.

After you have a few hundred readers, it’ll be time to sell some ad space and start pushing affiliate links in your posts/reviews.

Method #6: Write Articles

There’s always people looking to have somebody write articles for their SEO sites. I see article writing services published all the time in the Buy/Sell/Trade section of forums. Thanks to Google, it’s pretty easy to learn enough about any topic someone wants you to write about. Most of the time they’re just using them to boost their sites ranking and don’t even really care about your level of expertise on the subject.

Method #7: Craigslist/Ebay Flipping

Simple tactic: Find a [Red Bike] on Amazon or Overstock for $75. List the [Red Bike] on eBay or Craigslist for $100. “Sell” the [bike] and then just buy it on Amazon and enter the Ebay persons address into the “Shipping Address” section.

I think I remember someone who used to do this all the time with watches. Not sure how well it works any more, but might be something to play around with.

Method #8: Create “Turnkey” Websites

Go to Flippa and search “turnkey”. You’ll see a bunch of crappy looking sites that people are selling for $100-1,000. Believe it or not, people buy these sites.

People will take a WordPress theme and just plug in an RSS feed along with the Amazon affiliate program and it will autopost different things on sale. The sites are pretty useless, but people out there think “It’s automatic and I’ll make money, automatically!” so they don’t really think twice before swiping their card.

Other people write an eBook, create a sales page for it, and then sell that as a “turnkey” Clickbank product.

Method #9: Make a Website

Remember that sites like Facebook started in a dorm room and virtually for free. Come up with a good idea of your own, fork over $10 for a domain, bust your ass getting a basic design up and coded yourself, and then promote the idea wherever you can.

Method #10: Credit Card?

Credit cards are probably the easiest way to solve cash flow issues, but can easily be the deadliest. Make sure that you’re going to be able to find some way to make back $1,000 if you lose it all and charge it to your Amex. Find a street corner and get to work.
 

I didn’t really go too in depth about any of the methods here (maybe another post for that), but I just wanted to get some ideas out there on ways to make money without having to spend money. There are other ways out there to really scrape for some cash, but the list above should give you a pretty good start.

What Internet Marketers Can Learn From Tyler Durden

I’m a fan of good movies, so naturally I’m a fan of Fight Club. If you haven’t seen it…see it. One of my favorite all-time quotes comes from Tyler Durden and can be directly applied to affiliate marketing. Then I started thinking, “Hm, I bet there’s a few quotes from him that can be applied to this industry.” Sit back, relax, and take some life advice from a fictional movie character…

It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.

This is one of my favorite quotes. If you’ve read my blog for the past few years, you’ve heard me say many times that Fear is probably the #1 obstacle to get over when starting a business. What if I lose all my money? What if I fail and look like a big loser? What if I let myself down? These are all questions you can’t be afraid of if you want to make it big, simple as that. That’s where this quote comes in and gives a delightful perspective on fear. Only when you lose everything are you absolutely free to do anything. Big deal if you risked all of your money on a business that bombed out. You gained experience, and now you’re free to restart and choose any path you want. Losing everything doesn’t have to be the end of the world, it can just as easily be the beginning.

Keep in mind all of this is said within reason, I’m not saying gamble away your life savings, but you have to take risks you might not want to take.

You’re not your job. You’re not how much money you have in the bank. You’re not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You’re not your fucking khakis. You’re the all-singing, all-dancing crap of the world.

The things you own end up owning you.

I’ve seen a lot of internet marketers fall victim to the belief that Durden points out with this quote. They think they are the car they drive, they think they are the money they have in the bank, the penthouse they live in, the expensive clothes they wear. The more successful you become, the easier it is to lose your identity and create a new one based on all the material things you’ve gained. The more material your identity becomes, the less personal, ethical, and moral you become. I’m certainly someone who has taken a walk on the shady side of things more than once and I can relate to this quote. The one thing I constantly try to do now is keep my identity in tact, and remain the person I was before I became successful. There’s much deeper satisfaction in life when you can fulfill something that’s not just material.

Without pain, without sacrifice, we would have nothing. Like the first monkey shot into space.

Internet marketing (and business in general) is certainly a rollercoaster of highs and lows. The higher the highs get, the further there is to fall. It’s important to remember that without the lows, there wouldn’t be a high. There’s been many times where I have campaigns that completely tank and go from hero to zero in a day. I sit back, tell myself “Alright, just do some work on it and you’ll revive this”. After a week of work, it’s not getting better. After 2 weeks there’s still nothing; it’s enough to just call it quits on that offer and move on. 2 weeks after that and I still haven’t found an offer I can profit on. The longer I go without seeing anything positive, the more bleek my reality becomes. Once I let that happen to myself, my motivation drops, I work less, and generally just become extremely counter-productive. The trick is trying to stay high even when things are low. This quote is a good reminder that pain and sacrifice are all part of the process, and becoming depressed and counter-productive about it won’t do anybody any good.

Hitting bottom isn’t a weekend retreat. It’s not a goddamn seminar. Stop trying to control everything and just let go! LET GO!

Sometimes campaigns just won’t work for you, no matter how much you try to make it work. At a certain point you have to be bold enough to just accept that you lost X amount of money, and move on. The more you try to control the situation, the deeper into shit you’ll become. Letting go is something any good marketer knows how to do. The skill of it is learning exactly when the best time to let go is.

You wanna make an omelet, you gotta break some eggs.

You can’t expect to magically turn $10 into $100 on your first try. You’re going to lose money, you might partially “break” your bank account, but that’s the only way you’re going to learn how to really make money.

That concludes philosophy hour for today. I’ll try to post something more tangible soon.

Cross-Browser Compatibility Calamity

This is a guest post written by Kate Carpenter, a designer over at a newly started design and development studio focused on web-only projects, Fireworksable.

Just to summarize this post for you; I’ll be discussing the issue of cross-browser compatibility, it’s implications for affiliates, and focusing on things that you can do to combat it.

So, what the hell does “cross-browser” compatibility mean?

Please excuse me if the title of this segment sounds a little, belittling. However, I know as an affiliate before I was thrust into the world of design and development, that I had no idea what the term meant, or how it impacted me, so I’m drawing from experience :).

Here’s a basic non-technical meltdown; web-browsers aren’t all equal. Sure, FireFox is a more robust platform, and Chrome is more free-flowing, but it’s not just the speed and usability that differs from browser to browser, it’s the way that web pages look too.

While a newly created web page may look stunning in FireFox, there’s a good chance it might not be as good looking in Chrome, and will most likely be very different in Internet Explorer.

Coding web pages so that they are cross-browser compatible is something that we as professional web designers have to deal with on a daily basis (and believe me it’s a pain in the ass), however as affiliates it’s probably something that you’re not particularly aware of, and if you’re used to hiring that random dude off of WarriorForum who’ll whip you up a nice landing page for $100, it’s likely that he or she doesn’t take it into account, and in the long run, you’ll probably end up paying for it.

Seriously though, it can’t have that much of an effect on me can it?

Unfortunately it can. With the spring up of Google Chrome over the past couple of years, all three major web browsers (FireFox, Chrome and Internet Explorer) all have substantial market shares (hovering around the 30% mark across the board), and therefore make it imperative that your landing pages are built for all three.

Take a look at the web page below when viewed in Chrome and Internet Explorer. This is just a simple page, but already you can see how you can go from fairly decent in one browser to completely unflattering in the next;


Unless precautions are taken when coding up a web page, these are the kinds of issues that can arise, and when they do your conversions will take a considerable hit.

Combating the illness of browser irregularities

I’ll go out on a limb here, and assume the vast majority of you reading this post don’t have much coding experience. If I told you to add a CSS reset in, you’d probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

So, I’ll stick to picking out certain things that you can do to help smooth out potential kinks in your campaigns:

Identifying where the issues lie

If your landing page is very basic, or your developer knew what they were doing, there might not be any kinks at all. Rather then running off assuming there’s something wrong, you can check with a simple browser testing tool. My personal favorite is Adobe BrowserLabs, it’s free and allows you to test with 99.9% of the browsers people use. Just create an account, pop your url in, and browse through screen shots taken with the different browsers.

Forms, watch out for them

One of the most common elements of a web page to get dismembered by lack of well placed coding are forms. Internet Explorer, the dinosaur that it is, won’t even allow you to set a custom height without aligning the text to the top of the form, looking pretty ugly and rather unprofessional. Look out.

What’s your audience using

If you’ve got Google Analytics installed on your web page, you’ll be able to see what portions of your audience use what browser. Even as a developer it’s impossible to have all websites looking completely the same in all browsers (because not all standards are supported by all browsers), but it’s certainly possible to optimize for the type of browser your audience uses most. For example, if you’ve got a web savvy audience, chances are they’re going to be using FireFox and Chrome far more than they are Internet Explorer.

I Didn’t Die Again

Past month has been the busiest of my life. Sold my house (officially closed Friday) so I was packing that up 5-6 hours/day. Also brought 4 new people into a company of mine, so between those two things + affiliate marketing…no time to blog even if I wanted to.

Just don’t want anybody thinking I was pulling a fakeout…coming back with a few posts and then vanishing again. I’ll have time to post again this week, going to finish that split testing mini-series.

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