Written by: Guest Author, Danny Iny
Affiliate marketing is the ultimate level playing field.
Anyone can get started, and if they’re smart and hard-working, they can be making money in a matter of days.
All you’ve got to do is find a good offer, run some good ads, and watch the traffic convert into sales.
Well, maybe that used to be true, but it’s not anymore…
The Low Hanging Fruit Is Gone
It was definitely true in the early days of affiliate marketing, for several reasons; first of all, there was a lot less for sale in the online world, which meant that any affiliate marketer had a much larger share of voice just by virtue of being there.
The regulatory environment was also a lot more lenient, which means that it affiliate marketers had a lot more room to maneuver in selling their offers (it’s good that this has changed, otherwise the whole industry would have been in trouble!).
Most importantly, though, there was a lot of low-hanging fruit when it comes to advertising opportunities; keywords and phrases that had a lot of buying intent behind them, but that weren’t very competitive yet, and could be had for mere pennies per click.
And yes – when you can buy high-converting keywords for cheap, it’s hard not to make money.
But times have changed, and you can’t do that nearly as easily as you once could; most of the low hanging fruit has already been pulled off of the online tree, and the affiliate marketing game of finding the next hot opportunity has changed into a different game altogether…
It’s an Optimization Game
Now the game is about optimization – finding an offer that converts, and then optimizing every factor that you can control until you max out your deal value. Here are some of the factors that smart affiliate marketers will do split-testing on:
- Lead Sources – This is where the leads are coming from in the first place; you’ll find that your Google AdWords traffic converts differently from your SEO traffic, which converts differently from your Facebook ad traffic, and so forth. Not only that, but your cost per lead for each of those lead sources will be different. With enough testing, you can find the lowest cost per conversion.
- Ad Copy – The actual text of your ads will change both the cost of running the ad, the click-through rates on the ad, and the likelihood of the clicking-through traffic to actually buy whatever product you’re promoting.
- Landing Pages – The landing page is where the most testing is traditionally done. You can test everything, from your headline, to the page format, to the colors, to the trust seals, to your affiliate disclaimers, to when the buy buttons are presented on the screen – they can all make a difference to your conversion rate, and to your bottom line.
- Affiliate Offers – Finally, you can try swapping out the actual offer for something different. Maybe your leads are more interested in one brand of affiliate product than another, and maybe the second brand – even though the deal value is lower – will end up delivering more profits by virtue of a higher conversion rate.
When you’ve maximized your conversion rates and deal value, and minimized your cost per sale, you’ve got a smoothly humming affiliate marketing machine. And yes, doing that does take time, money, patience and skill – but once you’ve got it, boy is it a sweet deal!
That is, until Google stops liking you…
Until Google Stops Liking You
The trouble is that most of the major lead sources that most affiliate marketers rely on are owned by bodies like Google, Microsoft, or Facebook.
What does that mean for you?
You can work your way to the top of the affiliate marketing world through diligent split-testing, until you’ve got sales streaming through your marketing system at bullet-speed… until someone’s algorithm changes, and their engine stops liking you.
Then your affiliate business is dead in the water, and you’ve got to start from scratch if you’re lucky, and work your way off of Google’s blacklist if you aren’t.
So what’s an affiliate marketer to do?
The answer lies in the old adage that “the money is in the list,” but with a twist…
The Real Money is in the ENGAGED List
If you have a list of eager buyers, then you don’t have to worry about Google messing with your traffic sources – whatever happens, your followers will continue to follow, as long as you maintain the relationship, and keep on living up to your end of the bargain.
With a list of eager buyers, you don’t have to keep working off of one-off traffic, because you can sell more than one thing to the same person – and research shows that someone who has already bought something is eight times as likely to buy from you again!
You probably agree that a list of eager buyers is a good thing to have… but where can you get such a list?
The answer is that you’ve got to build that list yourself – and for that list to be as eager to buy as you want them to be, they need to be engaged. In other words, you need more than a list – you need an engaged community.
You need an audience.
How to Build an Engaged Audience, from Scratch
Building an engaged audience from scratch is part science, and part art. You don’t have to learn it all through trial and error, because others have already done that, and you can learn from their mistakes, and from their successes.
To get you started, here are three things that you can do to convert your one-off affiliate traffic into a loyal list that will stick with you for the long-haul:
- Start blogging and showing your true nature. The days of the anonymous affiliate marketer hiding behind a copied landing page are over; too many people have been burned by false claims, and for your prospects to trust your recommendation, they will have to know who you are. So tell them – start blogging, and give them a reason to keep coming back, so that even if they aren’t ready to buy now, they can start following you, and buy from you in the future.
- Create a value-adding auto-responder sequence. People are justifiably careful about who they let into their inbox – so don’t just offer some PLR e-book and start marketing to them non-stop. Instead, give them something that they will get real value out of, and that will demonstrate to them just how trustworthy and credible you are (like we do with our free video course about how to Get More Cash Out of Any Business, Website or Blog).
- Offer an incentive to buy through your link. Instead of just recommending your affiliate offer, why not give people an incentive to buy through your link? This is great for improving conversions, but the best part is that it gives you a good reason to keep on interacting with your prospects after they have made the purchase – which means that you retain control of the customer relationship, and you will have the opportunity to sell to them again in the future.
Of course, this is just the start, but if you start with this, you’re already three steps ahead of most affiliate marketers, and that much closer to the pot of gold at the finish line.
And if you need a little more help…
Yours Free: Engagement from Scratch!
All of these ideas are expanded with pages upon pages of details and ideas, which I compiled into my new book called Engagement from Scratch! How Super-Community Builders Create a Loyal Audience and How You Can Do the Same!
Today, the book is launching, and I’m very excited to be able to share it with you – for free!
Yep, that’s right – the book is free. You can download the entire book without paying a cent. Just visit the book’s website, click on the download link, and tell me what email address to send it to, and moments later you’ll the full-length PDF waiting for you in your inbox.
Prefer a hard copy? Spend a few extra bucks and get the paperback version so that you can read on the couch or in bed, and write notes in the margins.
About the Author
Danny Iny (@DannyIny) is an author, strategist, serial entrepreneur, expert marketer, and the Freddy Krueger of Blogging. Together with Guy Kawasaki, Brian Clark and Mitch Joel, he wrote the book on how to build an engaged audience from scratch.