If I Were Starting Affiliate Marketing in 2011

Theme note: Just messing around with some different simple themes from WooThemes, not even really sure if I like this one. I’ll mess around with it a bit more over the next few days. If blog traffic picks up again I’ll just have another custom one built.

It’s 2011 and maybe you decided that this is the year you try to learn how to make money online. Maybe it’s 2011 and you’ve been doing SEO for the past couple years and want to make the move to paid marketing this year. In any case, I’m going to approach this article from the standpoint of anybody just getting started this year.

As mentioned before, I’ve been working on a physical product for over a year now (it’s a slow process)…gotta make money somehow though. A couple months ago I got back into affiliate marketing a bit and am still testing new offers and working on optimization, so it’s almost like I’m starting new in 2011 as well. So hopefully I have a bit of a fresh perspective on things.

Completely New to Affiliate Marketing?

If you’re a brand spankin’ newbie, you’ll want to head over to the affiliate marketing guide I’ve put together. It could actually use an update (something I’ll do this week), but for the most part the articles are all still valuable information and good insight for someone just getting their foot in the door.

Affiliate Networks of 2011

The first thing that popped up in my mind when getting back into affiliate marketing was, “Ok, where should I get my offers from?” I’ll mention a few networks here, and why I’m looking at them :

Ads4Dough – Ads4Dough is a popular network among a lot of successful affiliates, a lot of it due to the relationship with the owner, Jason (smaxor), who I also happen to be good friends with. It’s not the prettiest interface of all time, but that really means nothing. They’ve got offers in every vertical, and are a good source for edu and dating.

Neverblue – Neverblue used to be one of my old favorites because back when everyone had DT, they had their own custom tracking software that worked great. I also became pretty good friends with a few of the people there and they’re all really cool. Solid interface, solid tracking, solid support, NB is definitely somewhere you want to sign up.

Epic Advertising – Formerly Azoogle, I used to have my first “big” days in affiliate marketing with Epic Ads. While I personally haven’t run much traffic to them lately, I’ve had a few people tell me of some high volume offers that affiliates are running through Epic. Don’t quote me on this, but I think they’re strong in rebill offers (last I heard). I think they also have some good insurance offers.

EWA Private Network – Ah, the Eagle boys. While not everybody is a personal fan of Ryan Eagle’s persona, nobody seems to have a problem with the way he does business. EWA gets tagged as a “broker network” by a lot of people, but the fact still remains that they have a lot of happy affiliates. They take small margins and pay out weekly, and really do want you making money. If you’re looking for a network run by younger guys with perhaps a more current insight into the industry (more like you), check out EWA.t

Firelead – I’m throwing this one in here out from left field. Firelead isn’t the biggest affiliate network out there, and I haven’t ever personally run offers with them. But I’m good friends with the owner Mike, and he’s a great guy. You’ll get more of a personal treatment (something very good for beginners), and these are guys you can trust. Maybe I’ll look into running some offers through them and report back on how it goes. I spoke with him earlier today and his network is private (referrals only), so if your app gets denied and you’re not a fraudster let me know.

There are a bunch more affiliate networks out there that I’m close with and would recommend, but the networks above are definitely enough to get you started with finding a few offers. Once you’ve got a couple offers that are running, shop around other networks to compare conversion rates and negotiate payouts.

Affiliate Offers of 2011

What offers are going to be the hot offers of 2011? I’ve talked with a bunch of affiliate managers and friends about what verticals are performing right now, and started to do some testing in these verticals myself. Here’s what’s going on…

Online dating is something that continues to grow more and more, and continues to become more of a “normal” thing for people to do. If you asked 100 people 5 years ago what the most consistent affiliate offer was going to be over the next 10-20 years, I’d bet that over 80% of them would say dating.

In addition to dating being a growing trend across the world, winter time is the best time to run dating offers. Back when I used to run some volume in dating (~3k leads/day), my quality in March-September wasn’t good at all. I’d get cut from a bunch of offers and payouts dropped. But once fall/winter came, that same “bad” traffic was great quality for dating offers.

So as long as things are relatively consistent with how they were years ago in dating, we’re at the tail end of the good time of the year. Still plenty of time to get in there, competition is pretty fierce with it though. A couple months ago I ran a private label through Neverblue, so check them out if you’re interested in that.
Groupon Style Offers

If you’ve been on the internet the past year (…), you’ve seen a Groupon ad somewhere. Whether it be on a weather site, a porn site, or a how to give your dog a bath site…Groupon is dominating Planet Internet. If you’ve been keeping up with the times you’ll also note the $6 billion Google offer that Groupon respectfully turned down. Now personally…that’s a hell of a lot of money to turn down. But the company is HUGE, and only growing.

Everybody isn’t just sitting back and watching Groupon take over the coupon space though. There are basically Groupon clones out there with affiliate programs, and there are a lot of affiliates running them now.

It’s something to look into, a couple things I’d keep in mind :

-keep your CPC low, payouts generally aren’t that great on these offers (typically $3-5)
-experiment with direct linking and using a landing page, but if you’re using a landing page be prepared to be told that your quality isn’t good
-don’t forget to geotarget by city, these affiliate offers are all only for a select few cities

Edu offers are something I mentioned a while back, and is another pretty consistent niche over the years. The offers have always been around in some way, shape, or form.

For me personally, edu offers have come in and out of phase. A few years back I ran the offers with a lot of success (I once got an unnamed network into a little legal fiasco because they just got this offer from a school and I sent like $30k worth of leads in 2 days with a few other affiliates that did the same…they did NOT want that much volume to start haha). I ran them a bit last year, and it was off and on. Started of doing well, had to pause, and when I turned back on it magically didn’t convert anymore.

Is this niche long-term? Some people think so, but I have some reasons to believe otherwise. The thing about these online schools is that they receive almost all of their revenue through government loans. And with Republicans taking Washington back, I’ve also heard speculation that one of the first government funding programs they want to cut are these online school programs. If schools lose their money, they’ll go out of business or in the very least not be able to afford to pay $25 for a form submit.

I’m not going to talk much about rebills, because there’s not much to talk about. They’re not nearly as big as they were a year ago, but they still exist and I still see “Mom Teaches her 12 Month Old Baby to Make $2,443/day Online!” ads on weather.com.

My take on it? If you’ve got consistent sources of traffic that won’t slap or delete your Flog ads, go for it.
Penny Auctions

I remember like 3 years ago I stumbled upon a site called PennyCave.com. My friend had Facebooked me and said “You should check this site out, you can get TVs and stuff for a few bucks and it’s legit”. I visited the site and like a sucker, bought some bids to play around with. I got tired of having to constantly place bids with 1 second left and just left the site. A couple weeks later I was chattin with Volk-swagen and said to him “Check this site out, the idea is awesome. It’d probably be really profitable to make one and run traffic to it…”

Well, fast forward a few years and now there are 100+ penny auction sites out there. Some have shady rebilling set up, some have legit bid packages that are cost per sale, and I think all of them use bidding bots to jack up action.

You can find penny auction offers at most networks, with payouts varying. The more shady offers pay out $60-70+, while the legit offers like QuiBids and BidCactus pay out $30ish. I did a bit of testing myself with these offers and didn’t really have any success. It showed some potential (and there are affiliates running it successfully), but I’m not sure how long these offers will last and it just wasn’t really for me.
Tax Season

For whatever reason I never really ran seasonal offers, but I might give them a go with tax season coming up. People need their taxes done, and the traffic can get pretty high volume as the next few months progress. For the most part what I’ve seen in the past is people just making a simple landing page or direct linking.
Old Trusties

There are a bunch of old/consistent/long-term niches that are still around. Things like mobile, credit reports, insurance, etc. If you asked any affiliate manager for a “Top 10” report every month for a year, there’s a very good chance that one of these types of offers would be on the report.

For these types of offers it’s usually more of a slow build up. Typically search and content traffic which volume starts out pretty slow until you can optimize and scale. A lot of the other offers are offers you can blast traffic to from the start and see what happens. Which you can do with these offers too, they just typically require a bit more optimization than something like dating.
Talk to Your Affiliate Manager

The verticals I mentioned are just a few of many. All it takes it shooting an IM/email to your affiliate manager saying “Hey, what are some of the top offers affiliates are running with you now?” to get some more options.

Just beware that affiliate managers can sometimes inflate EPCs and make an offer seem like it’s a bit better than it really is. They want your traffic because that’s how they make money. That’s why it’s good to try to have a good relationship with as many networks as you can, you’ll get more honestly and transparency that way.
Offers: Where and How to Run

Now you’ve got a few offers in mind from a couple choice affiliate networks. Now you have to decide on traffic, and how you’re going to run the offer.
Search Engines

Google and Yahoo/Bing are still reliable sources to run traffic, both through search and content. In order to limit your spending in the beginning (as search traffic can be pricey), almost try to optimize your campaign before you get a general feel for the offer. Make sure your keywords are as related to your ads as possible, and that both of those are related to the landing page (same keywords, etc).

Google content network has always been a little “hidden gem” of mine for traffic. When a lot of people start off, they either just do search, or they mistakenly run both search and content on the same campaign and wonder why things are screwy with their CTR. If you know how to run G content properly, you can get a lot of traffic for 1/5 the cost of search clicks.

Word of warning: Google is extremely sensitive about going against their policies. One of my Google accounts was just perma banned a few weeks ago for cloaking. I made ads and sent them to QuiBids (legit with Google), and once they approved them I just redirected to another auction offer to test. I tested it for a day, paused it, never ran it again, and a week later I get the e-mail saying my account is terminated. Play nice children.
Social Networks

I kind of scaled back on my search traffic and upped my social traffic recently. If you’re good at it, clicks can come cheaper than search traffic. The offers run on social networks are obviously a bit different, and more catered to the younger crowd. Dating, app installs, edu, things like that. Mobile is big with the younger crowd but Facebook won’t approve those ads, go through Myspace for them.
Ad Networks

Most of the rebill stuff I see being run are run on ad networks like Pulse 360 and Adsonar. These ad networks have really high volume so if you can find something profitable to run, you can really ramp it up. The downside is that usually the traffic is pretty low quality, so don’t expect a real high conversion rate.

As with almost everything, it’s all about testing.

PPV is something I can’t talk much about, but is something affiliates have been using more and more to make money. There are a few articles in the affiliate marketing guide on PPV so I’d suggest to check those out.
How to Run

Any real major changes to landing pages in 2011? Nothing really from what I’ve noticed so far. First you should decide whether or not you’re going to direct link or use a landing page. I don’t know if I just suck at direct linking or what the deal is, but I’ve had better success using a landing page for 99% of the campaigns I’ve run.

As far as types of landing pages go, like I said haven’t noticed anything new and revolutionary like the Flog was. It’s hard to talk about what type of landing page to use without making an entire post about it. It’s pretty dependent on the offer you’re running and the type of traffic you’re running.
Anything I’ve Missed

I probably forgot to talk about something I wanted to talk about, but when it came time to get back into affiliate marketing again this year, these are the things I thought of.

One more old bit of advice that’s worth mentioning again: don’t take my word for it. Go out into the ad world yourself and see what people are running, that’s the best way to do research. You don’t need any special paid tools or programming skill, your competition posts their websites publicly for you to see.

Hopefully there’s some value in this post, more value than I’ve been providing lately at least. I’ll try to keep up with blogging more and also update you guys with how my campaigns are going. Let’s make some dough.


  1. King Zoob
    January 6, 2011

    Good post. The Democrats still have the majority in the Senate and the Presidency also, of course.

  2. January 7, 2011

    Pretty thorough post!

    About the G Slap / ban – you mention that you were cloaking – was it at the landing page or the actual ad?

    Running anything on AdWords during the past year has been impossible regardless of relevance, quality (reader value) etc. It’s a f’ing moving target.

  3. Ethan
    January 7, 2011

    Nice to have you blogging again!

  4. January 7, 2011

    This thing needs nested comments.

    @Max – the display url was QuiBids.com, the destination URL was a php redirect…first it went to quibids.com and once approved, switched it over to a different affiliate offer (tried both direct linking and news page)

  5. January 7, 2011

    It’s funny – our plan was to make a penny auction site… but we never got around to it. Big opp missed… but I’m sure there will be more! :)

    Glad to see you posting again

  6. January 7, 2011

    I appreciate the mention Paul – it kills me that people think we’re simply a “brokered network”, especially considering our top 100 offers are all direct. It feels good to be in line with the other guys here, they’re all great competition and they force me to grow!

  7. Jackass
    January 7, 2011

    Lol @ you trying to run a news page on google. You been out of the loop son.

  8. January 9, 2011

    Hey, I came across your tracking 202 interview from June 2009 tonight. I could tell you were already a little tired of being an advertiser back in 2009 just 1 week into it. So I thought I’d check out your site and see what success actually came of it only to find out you’re still digging away at getting your product on the market…sadly. But at least you’re honest about it…which is a rare quality in any sales culture. Thanks for the transparency and one of these days the clouds will part and the sun will shine on your efforts cuz you’re a smart guy…at least from what I gathered in your tracking 202 interview.

  9. January 9, 2011

    nice post uber.. and welcome back to the affiliate game…

  10. January 10, 2011

    Damn bro, you killed it on this post! NICE

  11. January 11, 2011

    Excellent post. I think you made a lot of good points, especially about affiliate offers. Online dating will surely continue to be a consistently strong offer for affiliates as an increasing number of members join national and international dating sites!

  12. Justin Dupre
    January 12, 2011

    Nice tips for those who are considering to start affiliate marketing this year. I think mobile niche will also be a big hit this year too.

  13. January 13, 2011

    Thank For your tips

  14. January 19, 2011

    Important information for me. Thanks for really competent informative article. Ill be in touch with U

  15. February 4, 2011

    i’m new. building my first web site now. thanks for some honest info. i still need a lot of help. got started with anthony morrison a few weeks ago. that was my intro to this new amazing world. he offered some good starting general information but nothing specific. I’m trying to find specifics from folks like you. his people don’t give you specifics. they just want to know how many credit cards you have and what is the available balance on each one. i decided to keep my credie card info and do some research on my own.
    thanks for your help. jim

  16. Chris
    February 16, 2011

    you and finch are going head to head for my favorite AM blogger great posts, I bookmarked ya.

  17. asmar
    February 28, 2011

    I work with SEM and I manage big accounts so I think I would be able to send good traffic to the venders. Do you use Adwords, for this kind of affiliate offers?

  18. Good article .. rebills are definitely a good offer that personally i’ve done good cash with, but they won’t be here for long imo.

  19. June 2, 2011

    Nice post……

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