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6 Reasons Why Campaigns Fail (And How to Fix Them)
How 1 Weird Table Keeps Me Motivated in the Morning
My First Month in Bangkok and Laser Eye Surgery
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6 Reasons Why Campaigns Fail (And How to Fix Them)

It’s 300 years since alchemy went out of fashion, but some affiliates still believe in the principle of a philosopher’s stone:

A magic formula that can turn very average materials in to gold.

It’s catnip for affiliates.

“What one technique can I inject in to my marketing for transformative results?”

Be careful with this mindset.

My view is that pragmatism will bring you closer to success.

I believe ‘getting it right’ is less a pursuit of magic formulas, and more a game of cutting out enough mistakes to understand simply what is.

In this post, I have listed six reasons why campaigns fail.

We’ll start with the very obvious…

#1. You bypass research and the process of idea elimination.

If you skip research, you will launch half-baked campaigns.

Research can be as simple as asking your account manager whether an offer has received traffic from other affiliates.

“Did it convert for them?”

If the answer is no, or more likely — a polite deflection, and a suggestion to run Offer Y instead — consider that an important insight.

Many campaigns avoid failure if subjected to criticism before your mind has raced away with the imaginary profits.

I often tell affiliates to stick to one traffic source.

A good reason for this is to develop your understanding of the platform’s ecosystem.

  • What is a good CTR?
  • What is an average CPM?
  • How high do I have to bid to get traffic?
  • How much traffic can I get in this country?

By focusing your efforts on a single platform, you will establish baseline performance metrics.

This information helps you eliminate dozens of campaign ideas where the maths are stacked against you.

How fast you eliminate bad ideas is a key factor of success.

Before launching any campaign: detach yourself as the author.

Imagine you are vetting it for a complete newbie.

Now, unleash the cynic inside.

Establish the key assumptions that must be proven true for the campaign to succeed.

“He’ll need a CTR of at least 30% to break even.”
“If he’s direct linking, he’ll need to convert at 3%.”
“He’ll need enough margin to bid $1.50 if he wants traffic in Germany.”

Then ask yourself:

What evidence do I have against this amateur bumberclart succeeding where others have failed?

If you can’t find any, steal his campaign.

#2. You run too many campaigns.

How many campaigns are you juggling today?

Dunbar’s number: By using the average human brain size and extrapolating from the results of primates, Dunbar proposed that humans can only comfortably maintain 150 stable relationships.



Eat a sack of my balls, Dunbar.

You think affiliates give a shit about brain capacity and human limits?

Most of us are too busy launching a blitzkrieg across seven new traffic sources on four different continents. Are we discomforted? — yes. But only by the factory line of ripped banners spilling out of our pants.

And that is the point.

Many of us are too busy to question the wisdom of our ways.

My bet is that for every 10 campaigns an affiliate tries to manage, he loses 50 stable relationships.

Resist the temptation!

Covering so much ground creates an illusion of progress — especially if you pick up some profitable campaigns along the way.

But having equity in so many territories makes all of them harder to defend.

You’ll spend the best part of your career extinguishing fires.

Before running any campaign, ask yourself: “What is the best possible outcome of working on this?”

If the answer can’t pay for your career all by itself, keep looking.

#3. You compete in a crowded market without a competitive advantage.

What distinguishes you from every other affiliate promoting the same offer?

What is the USP of your affiliate business?

If you don’t have a competitive advantage, you have something entirely less constructive: a headache.

Understand that larger, bitter-fought markets do not weaken over time.

Many affiliates stroll on to the battlefield thinking their energy and optimism is enough to disrupt rivals who have been scrapping fiercely in that market for many years.

Energy and optimism are great traits; but so is realism.

If you are entering a crowded market, the first step is to submit to your ignorance.

Resist any suggestion that you know what you’re doing, and simply observe:

  • Who are the major players?
  • How are they succeeding?
  • What are their strengths?
  • What are their weaknesses?
  • Is there any part of the existing market they are failing to serve?

Arbitrage is a brutal game.

The only way you survive is by carving out a competitive advantage.

That could be an exclusive offer, a higher payout, better technology, the ability to monetise non-converters…

What you don’t want to rely on is your ability to work harder than everybody else.

This advantage is only viable in the short-term.

It is blunted by time and success.

A good plan is to build structural advantages in to your business.

These are advantages that cannot be replicated while you sleep.

#4. You lack judgment with your blacklisting and whitelisting.

The heart of optimising a campaign is learning when to blacklist, when to whitelist, and when to shut up, stay patient, and do nothing.

This is something I talked about extensively in Premium Posts 2015.

Blacklist: to block placements, devices, ads or other targeting criteria from your campaign.

Blacklist example: is unprofitable so you blacklist it and prevent your ads from appearing there.

Whitelist: to allow a pre-defined list of placements, devices, carriers, etc.

Whitelist example: Nokia is your most profitable device, so you whitelist it and show your ads only to Nokia users.

Affiliates are notoriously trigger-happy with blacklisting and whitelisting.

Understandably so.

It’s their money at stake.

Larger companies, and brands, are embarrassingly slow.

“Hey, I need to set up a meeting with John from Marketing. It’s about our blacklist.”

“Shit, you mean we don’t have one?”
“Yes… next Friday is fine.”

Your optimisation philosophy will define the type of career you have as an affiliate.

Will you soar to dominate mass-markets with gentle use of blacklisting and offers that appeal to the mainstream?

Or will you whitelist your way to profit using obtuse targeting combinations that deliver healthy margins… at the price of scalability?

What I see all too often is affiliates choosing strategies that do not align with their goals.

My view is this:

The big money is made with a blacklisting approach.

The seed money, on a tight budget, is made with a whitelisting approach.

No money will be made if you adopt either approach before it is merited.

Mastering this feel for optimisation is essential for any marketer who wants to pay for advertising and remain solvent.

#5. You spend too much time looking for cheaper traffic.

I often get emails from affiliates asking if Traffic Source X is ‘cheap’ compared to another, or if $3.00 is a good CPM for Country Y.

My first response is obvious: “I don’t know. And until you run the campaign, neither will you.”

But I can see how this mindset is fed.

An affiliate enjoys some minor success on Platform A; makes some money, then gets driven out by rising click costs.

He turns his attention to Platform B.

“It’s 20% cheaper and converts just as well,” he says, “I’m back in business!”

This model — a form of cruising the advertising world for ever cheaper clicks — is not fit to sail.

It ignores the elephant hanging from the mast, which is this:

A competitor who can muscle you away from one platform, can do the same on another. And another. And another.

The solution is not to run towards cheaper traffic.

(Your competitors will find that too.)

You must build slack in to your campaigns instead.

That means increasing the revenue from your funnel to above the market average.

Until your campaign is inherently ‘better than average’, it will always be next in line to turn red.

Costs will not stay the same whilst mediocrity = profit.

The guy who has slack will pay more to take that profit away from you.

Stop looking for cheaper traffic.

Aim to squeeze more revenue from what you already have.

#6. You are competing fairly in a market that resembles the Wild West.

I hear industry veterans preaching that success is created by sacrifice and hard work.

Whilst this is partly true, the reality is somewhat less marketable.

Many of the top affiliates earn their money using techniques considered misleading, or disingenuous, or quite simply — a bannable offence from the platform where the advertising is placed.

What does this tell you?

It says that risk aversion and moral disposition may be slightly more relevant to success than often credited.

It says that behind many an affiliate’s Success Story lies an equally sizeable Confessions page.

I’m not here to lecture on whether this is right or wrong.

It is reality.

There is a clear correlation between how far an affiliate is willing to push his creative license, and how many opportunities are open to him in this industry.

For every step you take away from the grey lines of affiliate marketing, you will have to work that much harder to catch up.

Remember: the prices you pay are controlled by who can profit the most.

Who has the most slack?

It shouldn’t take a genius to see how the methods that work so well for some, may be untenable for others.

This bears consideration in your choice of niche.

Are you muddling through a market that has been cornered by wolves?

Barring a spectacular effort, you will find yourself out-gunned by affiliates who could not give a solitary shite what a ‘T&C’ stands for.

The only response is to focus on markets, platforms and specific offers that are well regulated.

(Don’t be surprised if you find yourself naturally gravitating away from CPA at this point.)


These 6 reasons for failure are a constant threat to your affiliate marketing career.

They are regular circuit-breakers.

They can strike at any time.

Knowing that there’s so much you can’t change about our industry, make it your mission to cut out the unforced errors instead.

I believe it’s true that while most campaigns do fail, it is not for a lack of creative spark.

(There’s very little true innovation in affiliate marketing.)

They fail because you commit a fundamental mistake.

The market punishes this mistake.

The market will continue to punish this mistake until you address it.

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

By deconstructing the way that you work, by questioning the processes and beliefs that you routinely follow on auto-pilot, only then can you succeed in changing them.


  • In case you missed it, my brand new 2015 edition of Premium Posts is available now. Need a recipe for affiliate success in 2015? You won’t find a single resource that covers as much ground as this. 375 pages of my very best tips and strategies.
  • The Premium Posts 2015 Edition is sponsored by Adsimilis. You know all about Adsims, right? They are one of the best CPA networks in the business. If you run any kind of mobile, dating or sweepstakes… then sign up an affiliate account, ca-ching.

P.S. You can read 40 pages of Premium Posts 2015 for FREE by opting in to my monthly newsletter below:

How 1 Weird Table Keeps Me Motivated in the Morning

Affiliates have a daily scorecard.

“Profit per day.”

There are many ways you can track your progress in this industry.

The one method that doesn’t lie is profit taken.

The problem with measuring profit per day is that it exposes your morning ritual to one of two negative emotions:

Complacency and impatience.

A good day can breed complacency.

A bad day can breed impatience.

Either emotion can have a ruinous effect on your decision making.

And that’s why we should look beyond daily performance metrics if we want to stay motivated.

One of the methods I use involves gamification and an imaginary league table.

Hold on tight. This could get a little geeky.

‘League of Affiliates’

At the start of every month, I create an imaginary league table of twenty affiliates and how much they will have earned by the end of the month.

I set prizes for finishing at the top.

Here is how the table might look for an intermediate, mid-level affiliate:

League of Affiliates

Make sure that first place is attainable, and not so far detached from your current affiliate level that it triggers a nose bleed to look at.

In this example, $30,000 profit represents ‘the perfect month’.

What I like to do is tie 1st place to a big reward.

Something that I really, really want, or somewhere that I’d really like to go.

It could be a dream holiday; a big purchase; the proverbial jackpot that keeps you ticking.

If you have debts, it could be ‘Pay down Credit Card X‘ or ‘Wipe X% off the mortgage‘.

The idea being that if in 30 days time you have equalled or bettered the John Doe affiliate in 1st place, you get to treat yourself.

And not feel guilty about it.

I also create rewards for positions 2-4.

These positions should represent very good performance relative to what you would normally expect.

The rewards might range from a fancy week-long holiday in second place, to dinner at a top restaurant in fourth place.

For beginner affiliates, lower targets and smaller rewards will suffice.

(If you really want to be ironic, you can set a 5th place reward as a trip to the underbelly of Europe on Thursday night — and a Liverpool shirt. That’ll fucking teach you for getting complacent.)

In one of my own recent tables, I rewarded a ‘top four’ finish with the laser eye surgery I’ve been wanting for five years.

It was a real incentive to keep pushing myself for 30 days.

At the bottom end of the table is your absolute minimum income target. Set it in 17th place — just above the relegation zone.

No rewards for surviving relegation, or for doing a Stoke.

(‘Stoke’ is what I call my pub quiz team in Bangkok, btw. Or it was until last week — when we became QPR.)

If you succeed in getting yourself relegated, I’m not sure of the best action.

Perhaps a fist in the balls and a change of niche.

How does this improve my motivation?

Next to my table in Excel I have a running tally of my total profit in the current month. This is divided by the number of days in the month so far.

I take my average profit per day, times it by 30, and the table will tell me what position I’m in… and what rewards (if any) I have to look forward to.

Every day is another chance to improve my position in the table.

Sound fucking crazy yet?


I hope so.

This form of gamification may seem obscene to some, but I get valuable motivation from it as a form of data/progress visualisation.

Without a running monthly tally, it’s tempting to ‘write off’ bad days, or reward yourself prematurely after one good day.

Most importantly, the table is directly tied to your goals.

I reset mine every month.

I set new rewards that I have to earn.

Visual representation of your performance is better than merely writing what you earned yesterday on a post-it note, soon to be buried by tomorrow’s avalanche of data.

It’s so easy to become obsessed with the last 24 hours… or the next 24 hours.

But a month is a loooooong time in affiliate marketing.

Use that knowledge to deflect any impatience or complacency that might be creeping in to your morning ritual.

Monthly targets
Imaginary competition
Real-time ‘keeping score’
Rewards you actually want
A healthy fire under the arse.

What unusual ways do you have to stay motivated?


  • In case you missed it, my brand new 2015 edition of Premium Posts is available now. Need a recipe for affiliate success in 2015? You won’t find a single resource that covers as much ground as this. 375 pages of my very best tips and strategies.
  • The Premium Posts 2015 Edition is sponsored by Adsimilis. You know all about Adsims, right? They are one of the best CPA networks in the business. If you run any kind of mobile, dating or sweepstakes… then sign up an affiliate account, ca-ching.

P.S. You can read 40 pages of Premium Posts 2015 for FREE by opting in to my monthly newsletter below:

My First Month in Bangkok and Laser Eye Surgery

It’s one month since I moved to Thailand.

I haven’t posted for a while, so I thought I’d throw up a quick narcissistic update to confirm that, no, I haven’t been digested whole by a black widow ladyboy, and yes, I will be posting about affiliate marketing (the alleged theme of this blog) very soon.

In the meantime, here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve been up to since the STM London meetup.

(There’s a subtle clue in the title and header image.)

A Skirmish in London

Unfortunately, I only caught the first day of STM London.

A cracking day it was, though.

I’ve never seen so many affiliates in one building.

Don’t get me wrong. There are larger affiliate events held around the world. But you’ll find a conspicuously small percentage of actual affiliate marketers at most of them.

(And an abundance of hot air.)

One of the things I appreciate about STM gatherings is their ability to attract Internet Marketers who operate daily in the trenches. It’s a ‘clued in’ crowd; some might say cynical.

That’s good.

Anyway, the first night was a blast. It was a pleasure to meet so many new and old faces.

As for the rest of the week, that was a different kind of chaos.

While the rest of the affiliasphere was gallivanting merrily around old London town, I was playing a furious game of Sell, Chuck or Donate with my entire belongings.

It’s not easy condensing a house full of clutter in to one 20kg suitcase to be exported to your new home on the other side of the world.

It’s even more problematic with two very live dogs who are coming along for the ride.

Alas, we have made it to Bangkok, and we have spent the last month settling in to our new home.

Even the pups have adjusted to the searing heat:

Pups in pool

Before moving, people would ask me, “Why Thailand? What’s the appeal of Asia? Wait– you’re not one of ‘those’ guys, are you…?”

I would try to answer, “For the beaches! The food! The weather! The way of life!”

Well, I can’t be bothered to elaborate anymore.

My short answer? Because it’s fucking awesome out here, that’s why.

Seriously, Bangkok feels alive.

Like it’s crawling up your shorts alive.

For some guys on Soi Cowboy, it probably is.

The New Apartment

You get a lot of bang for your buck in Thailand.

I’m paying 60,000 baht (around £1275) for a 250 sqm, 3-bedroom apartment on Sukhumvit Soi 31.

It’s a great area with a ton of amazing restaurants at a stone’s throw. Plus, a pool and a gym downstairs.

Living area soi 31

apartment in Sukhumvit


Special thanks to Don at Bangkok Real Property for hooking us up with a fantastic place to live.

Our apartment is in the Japanese district.

I have a karaoke club directly across from me.

I suspect it will remain untouched.

Partly thanks to my lack of dulcet tones, and partly because I think it might also be a brothel.

You can never be sure. The Japanese are unpredictable — especially when they’re horny.

Karaoke and sushi bars aside, this is a really cool place to live.

Awesome coffee shops, amazing restaurants and 5 minutes access to Phrom Phong BTS, which is becoming one of the trendiest hubs of Bangkok, and not only because I’ve just moved in to it.

We’re also close to Craft: the second most handsomely stocked bar in Asia for ales and draft beers.

(I have no idea what the first is.)

It’s like a tiny beer festival nook in amongst the chaos of Sukhumvit.

Craft received a visit from the famous Daniel Thaiger burger van over Songkran.

Now, this burger… is kind of a big deal.

Daniel Thaiger burger

I didn’t know what the fuss was about until I ventured to an affiliate meet up organised by Nickycakes and a group of Internet Marketers in BKK.


I’m no food blogger, but I’ll tell you this much for free:

If the opportunity arises, grab a fucking Thaiger burger and stick it in your face.

You will not regret it.

They are sold every day at the Game Over Lounge, which is a sort of restaurant slash bar slash ultimate nerd station with pool tables, a pile of board games, giant screens of Fifa, and lots of western expats.

Very good fun.

Fixing My Eyes

It was over a particularly strong 8.7% IPA at Craft last Sunday that I decided to book an appointment for laser eye surgery.

It’s not the first time I’ve tried to have my eyes repaired by lasers.

I had a consultation back at a London clinic in 2010.

Back then, I couldn’t have the surgery because my eye pressure was too high.

Ironically, I ended up spending the money that was supposed to go towards LASIK on moving to Thailand the first time.

Anyway, why laser eye surgery?

I’m not against wearing glasses, but they have always been an inconvenience.

If you want to play any kind of sport, say snooker or golf, they are a big burden. Likewise, if you want to swim in the sea…you better pitch a flag where you left your towel.

Many people settle for contact lenses, but I have never been able to insert them properly. Mainly because I am the ultimate pansy when it comes to things touching my eye.

It’s not that it physically hurts. I just instinctively blink, or twitch, or refrain.

All of my attempts to wear contact lenses failed miserably, so last Sunday I decided to go for the jugular, get over the fear, and book in another LASIK appointment.

One week later and here I am, three days after surgery, with the crispest long distance vision I’ve ever had in my life.

It’s an amazing feeling.

I’ve had a few people ask me about the surgery itself, so here’s what happened.

LASIK in Bangkok: Consultation to Operation

My initial consultation was on Thursday at Bumrungrad Hospital.

I had my vital signs taken, plus a basic vision test and an eye pressure measurement (it was fine this time).

After meeting the doctor and discussing the risks (“In thousands of operations, we have never lost an eye” — I should fucking hope not!), it was off for more tests aimed at measuring peripheral vision, the strength of my cornea and the composition of my tears.

I then had my pupils dilated whilst the doctor disappeared for lunch.

It’s funny, but Thais don’t often differentiate between breakfast, lunch or dinner. They call all three meals ‘Eat’.

And they are pretty bloody adamant that you do not fuck with ‘Eat’.

Woe betide the poor bastard on life support as the clock strikes feeding hour.

This break gave me about 45 minutes to stumble downstairs in to Au Bon Pain for a motivational Whoopie Pie.

After one more eye examination — the most awkward of them all, where the doctor inserts a weird lid on to each eyeball — he gave me the sweet music to my ears.

“You are a good candidate for surgery.”

Followed by a strange Thai hard-sell, “You want it – yes or no?”

I was delighted just to have passed the tests, “When’s the earliest I can have it?”

“Tomorrow, 4pm.”

Well fuck a rubber duck, OK then.

I was relieved to get a slot in the next 24 hours.

It gave me no time to worry about it.

I went home with sore eyes, ate at Au Bon Pain for the third time in a day, then sloped off for my first Thai lesson.

Surgery Day

My girlfriend had work so I went in for the surgery alone, marginally bricking it.

My vital signs were taken again — blood pressure through the roof.

No surprise.

The doctor gave me one last examination then sent me outside with a cup of water and some Valium.

A gift from the Gods.

A few sips later and I was being hauled out of the building in a wheelchair and whizzed over to the 5th floor of the adjacent hospital.

This was news to me.

I thought the surgery took place in the clinic.

I wasn’t expecting to be wheeled past intensive care, asked to change in to full hospital garb (with an ill-fitting pair of pyjama bottoms that I had to hold up) and then parked in a busy ward.

The valium definitely took the edge off the experience.

I was transferred on to the trolley, and then rolled in to the operating room.

Very strange seeing the fluorescent hospital lights passing above you. Eerie, even.

I was pretty relaxed.

Relaxed, but still not happy to be there.

The nurse scrubbed my face down and applied a couple more eye drops.

The eye drops were local anaesthetics. They burned initially, but pretty quickly my eyes were numb and being drawn on.

The doctor then talked me through the procedure, which involves staring at a blinking red dot while the machine clamps around your eye, lifts a flap in the cornea and surgically corrects the retina.

You don’t feel pain, but you certainly feel the dull pressure of machinery at work.

It was uncomfortable and took a lot of fist clenching to keep my head steady and eyes from twitching. But ultimately, it was over pretty quickly.

5-10 minutes per eye, I’d guess?

When the laser went to work, I lost vision completely.

All I could see was a fuzzy haze of stars fluttering.

The doctor then cleaned up, ‘brushing’ each eye as my vision returned and the red dot reemerged — sharper, clearer.

Good signs, I thought.

As I was wheeled away from the machine, I didn’t want to open my eyes again — they were streaming and shell-shocked. But when I did, the operating theatre was in sharp focus.

The results were good, and the valium took over immediately.

I just laid there, let the nurses wheel me back, plastic cones taped over my face.

They gave me 30 minutes rest; took me to fetch my clothes.

Not easy getting dressed immediately after laser eye surgery.

Think my bare arse was parked in the sink at one point.

My girlfriend had arrived from work by this point.

I delegated all existential functions to her, kept my eyes closed and felt myself bundled in to a taxi home.


A lot of people have asked about the initial 24 hours after surgery.

I was encouraged to go straight to bed when I got home (it was 8pm), and I did.

I had trouble sleeping from the mental exhaustion, and the awkward position required by plastic eye protectors taped to my face.

When I woke up, my eyes felt sticky and sore.

A bit like conjunctivitis.

Not painful, but again, I didn’t want to keep them open.

The discomfort went away within an hour or so.

I started looking around my apartment, looking outside, focusing on Terminal 21 in the distance.

And it was amazing.

Seeing clearly, for most people, is an afterthought.

Something you take for granted.

Not being able to has troubled me since I was 14 or 15, when I would struggle to follow notes on the school whiteboard.

I remember my vision declining rapidly through school, but being too self-conscious to get reading glasses. My grades would suffer. I’d dread the classes where I wasn’t sat at the front.

(Try algebra with bad eyesight.)

I would squint, and deny, and squint, and deny, and laugh about how bad my eyes were but never actually address it.

Well, it’s only April. But getting 20/20 vision for 80,000 baht (around £1700) is the soundest investment I’ll make this year.

Since the operation, my long distance vision has continued to sharpen to the point where it’s now as close to perfect as I could wish for.

The downside?

  • My near-distance vision is blurry, and will remain so while my muscles heal.
  • I have to wear sunglasses almost constantly for the next month.
  • I can’t wash my hair for 4 days (it’s a bit like Glastonbury, except I can’t get rat-arsed either).
  • I can’t use my pool for a month.
  • I have to apply eye drops, four times per day, for ten days.
  • I have to limit my time at the computer for the next two weeks.

Oh, and I have to wear these fucking things to bed for the next two weeks:

Bug eged Finch

A great look!

All in all though, zero regrets.

One of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

If you’re considering LASIK, I’d say… go for it.

There are a few hairy moments along the way, but nothing too bad, and the end result is life changing.

That’s what I’ve been up to.

Loving life in Thailand so far.

I’ll be back posting affiliate marketing bollocks in May.

Rayong sunset

On beach Rayong

Beach time Rayong


  • In case you missed it, my brand new 2015 edition of Premium Posts is available now. Need a recipe for affiliate success in 2015? You won’t find a single resource that covers as much ground as this. 375 pages of my very best tips and strategies.
  • The Premium Posts 2015 Edition is sponsored by Adsimilis. You know all about Adsims, right? They are one of the best CPA networks in the business. If you run any kind of mobile, dating or sweepstakes… then sign up an affiliate account, ca-ching.

P.S. You can read 40 pages of Premium Posts 2015 for FREE by opting in to my monthly newsletter below:

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