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Successful Affiliate Marketer Shares Knowledge

Posted By Darren Rowse 9th of February 2006 Affiliate Programs 11

I was just surfing through SitePoint forums this afternoon and came across a thread that was well worth a read. It starts with a post by a guy by the name of Jon who posts a screen capture of his Commission Junction affiliate earnings. In the last couple of months he’s earned over $81,000.

Now one needs to take posts about high earnings with a little caution because they are often followed with a ‘buy my e-book’ link. But in this case I think he’s the genuine deal and offers some very good advice to others wanting to follow in his footsteps.

Unfortunately the thread degenerates into a flame war over whether his screenshots are real and it all gets pretty snarky at times – but it’s worth persisting for his advice as he goes. I’ve included a few of his comments below.

Keep in mind that he doesn’t reveal his sites, and I don’t blame him for this, but does reveal at one point that at least some of them have a financial focus. He used to do adult sites but has gone more ‘mainstream’ and has been at this since 1994 (worth remembering – this is a long term game). Here’s a little of what Jon has to say:

Some invaluable advice on Usability and Market Research:

‘Whenever people want to attract more users and more cashflow, they make the mistake of thinking too much like a website owner. Take a step back for a moment and look at it from the user’s perspective. Is this a site that you would tell your friends about? If not, what would make you do so? What stands out that’s different about your site from all of the others? It’s tough, but you need to go through this process and truly figure out what changes need to be made so that you stick out from all the rest.

Another thing you should consider is market research. Ask your friends, your family, even random users about what they think of your site compared to the others. Do some research on your competitor’s sites. What makes them so popular that you don’t have? Is it really just their name? Is it their content? Does the site load quicker? Are there fewer annoying ads? What’s the incentive to play there? Where do they promote? etc..

Market research is hands down one of the most important and overlooked processes by webmasters these days. Large and small alike. Why do you think the big boys are so darn popular so quickly? They do their research, and they continue to do so, nonstop. Every weekend, I dedicate hours and hours to market research on every single site I own, and all of the new ones I’ll be launching, just so I can keep myself well versed with everything in case a problem arises, or changes need to be made. Also, LOG EVERYTHING YOU FIND. Do this so you don’t forget it later. Sometimes the smallest finds can be your biggest assets.’

On focussing upon what you love doing:

‘I’m currently in my mid 20’s, and I’ve been doing internet marketing/advertising since the early-mid 90’s. Even though I am

My advice to everyone is that if you’re passionate about the sites you own, just keep plugging away at it and never give up. Be as creative and original as possible in both your content and advertising methods. With the internet, you truly do have the power to accomplish anything. Just keep learning and applying new methods, and you’ll be fine.’

Responding to a question about buying a lot of ‘turnkey sites’:

‘Here’s what you should do instead.. Buy 5 turnkey sites at most, and see if you can handle those. Market/advertise them the same way, but you may be able to tap into that $10k and give your sites a larger stream of traffic. I’ll bet if you take things at a slower pace, and give each site more love and dedication, they will grow into earning a lot more than just $1 a day from Adsense. Set small goals for yourself. Always log the information of what works and what doesn’t. You should be trying to create a system for yourself, so that you can apply it over and over again, and keep yourself at a fairly high success rate. Once you’re confident that you’ve reached the level of the system where you can give a 95% success rate to a new site, then all that’s left is to create volume. With your working system in hand, and a bunch of confidence on your side, you can easily create 100’s of new sites each year that work on the same platform and start taking in serious income.

On Strategy:

I guess the best system to follow that is pretty much the same for everything, is the very early stages of a site’s development. Before you even secure a domain name, lay out the idea of your site in front of you, either on paper or in Notepad. Weigh out the pro’s and con’s of the site. Research as many competitor sites as possible. Figure out which keyword themes they are ranking well for, do your research on those keywords, and figure out for yourself what is making them so popular on the engines. Once you’ve laid out some traffic information, start jotting down ideas to make your site “unique”. One of the primary goals your site should bring to the table is that it is different from all the other ones out there. Something about it needs to scream out to the crowd “LOOK AT ME, I’M DIFFERENT, AND BETTER”. That’s what can really make users keep coming back to your site over your competitors.

SEO is definitely a major player, but it doesn’t have to be your only option. I think the absolute best way to attract attention and traffic to a site is through viral marketing (word of mouth). Perhaps make a contest of some sort if you can. Hand out flyers to friends, just get the word out. Offline advertising can be just as cheap as online advertising….

Sometimes, you’ll run into a dead end and the only wise thing to do is abandon the project or save it for a rainy day sometime next year. Don’t be afraid to give up on a site, many times I do the same, and then I figure out how to make it work months later. I know I say never give up, but sometimes, a dying site needs to be cut loose, and it takes a lot of guts to disband from a project you may feel passionate about. Only cut it loose though if it’s doing more harm than good. Sometimes people feel that a non-profitable site is still profitable in other areas (spreading the word about something).

Read the full thread at SitePoint Forums – Screenshot: My CJ Stats

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
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  1. Pat Ashley says: 02/09/2006 at 2:13 pm

    Very valuable, thanks, Darren. It all boils down to content that is refreshed on a daily basis. I liken making money in blogging to watering a garden – plant some seeds, water daily, and in few months, things really start to grow.

    I don’t think this is a get rich quick scheme; but maybe a get rich slow scheme, which I can deal with!

  2. hi Darren,

    I pretty much agree with what you mentioned in the post. As owner of two sites, I found marketing research and contents building take up huge number of time. I hold a day job, and spend at least half of my free time developing my sites. I do my best to make my site useful and unique. And because I really focus on quality, the quantity of the pages are not satisfactory! I sometimes find it frustrating as there are so much to do and so little time!! What’s more, I work as engineer. Therefore, I used PC a lot, both at work and at home(webmastering).
    This is definitely not good for health. Sometimes I have muscle strain due to overuse of mouse.
    I do not buy the get-rich-quick scheme and I work hard on my site. However, I sometimes feel tired as there seem to be sooooo much to do.
    Well I will stop moaning here. Thanks for the post anyway :) . Your blog is always an inspiration to me.

  3. That’s a great thread alright…thanks for posting Darren.

  4. Nice read, thanks Darren! :D

  5. Thanks for the link, Darren. I read the whole thread on sitepoint (10 pages so far!) and I think it contains some valuable ideas to think about. The main concept to remember is this: money making on Internet is the result of long and hard work as on the offline world. “Easy money” is so only for people selling crappy ebooks!

  6. Good find Darren, the thread has a number of interesting points that you’ve managed to quote in your post.

    I think the most important piece of information is that it has taken time and hard work to get into such a strong financial position – this isn’t a fly-by-night, here-today-gone-tomorrow business and to earn the sort of amounts talked about takes dedication.

    Its also highlights the importance of research – know your subject and know your competition.

  7. Good stuff – but I say the same thing in my ebook which you can buy for $999/day…. :)

    Seriously, though, it is good to see more success stories willing to freely share their secrets.

  8. I love this quote

    “Three ways to make money; work hard, find a unique angle or idea and exploit inefficiencies (he said he isn’t in to the first one)”


    I created a few sites recently and the one that has been the most successful has been my budgeting site. I owe that to it solving a problem with a unique angle or idea.

  9. Out of all statements, this is probably the most true
    “Sometimes the smallest finds can be your biggest assets”
    everybody at times seems to forget this

  10. Darren,

    Thanks so much for sharing this sensible and inspiring post by someone so young yet so wise.

    Even when we know that get-rich-schemes don’t work, it’s easy to become impatient when we read reports of high figure profits from other website and blog owners. This post tells what we already should know, but need occasional reminding: success is a result of hard work and tenacity.

    I feel so encouraged that I’m on the right track: set goals, research, log my changes, work to create unique sites with quality content and most of all, be patient with myself.

  11. Darren — What a find! That is a good discussion and you pulled out the nuggets of wisdom. It is absolutely “doable” to get where he is by following those principles. Way too many small business owners want the quick payback without laying the foundation. You know very well it doesn’t happen overnight.

    There are many affiliate marketers who are making huge bucks on the internet. Most of them don’t talk about it — they do it. For a sneak peek at some interesting stats, take a look at the excerpt of Shawn Collins (affiliate marketing consultant) AffStat 2006 report over at Internet Retailer (good mag and it’s free) — http://internetretailer.com/article.asp?id=17458

    Also, just this week, I was on Anita Campbell’s Small Business Trends radio talking about making passive income on the internet. The show is archived at http://smbtrendwire.com/making-a-living-on-the-internet-through-passive-income/ where anyone can download the mp3 plus get a free 22 page guide I put together just for show listeners.

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