Are You Telling Or Are You Selling?
18 Months On From Quitting My Job…
My Rocky Relationship With SEO Is Over

Are You Telling Or Are You Selling?

Because there’s a big difference.

Good sales copy is an art that’s slowly being forgotten. Lost under the piles of misinformation about traffic sources, how to get the best CTR and whatever else is the current flavour of the month on Affbuzz. I get the distinct impression that affiliates are forgetting the method in their madness. The fact that wherever they buy traffic from, however many eyeballs they drag to a page, you still have to sell the god damn product you’re promoting.

A successful affiliate campaign is like a jigsaw puzzle. You can have all the traffic sources, all the hottest products and all the best ad ideas. But if you don’t piece them together correctly, you’ve got precisely jack shit. And in my opinion, the piece that keeps getting confined to the affiliate’s peripheral vision is the sales copy.

I don’t think many affiliates are actually that competent when it comes to selling what’s in front of them. And it makes perfect sense because, well you know, not many of us went to marketing school. I sure as hell don’t have a degree in the art (or any other art for that matter), but I have taught myself to appreciate the importance of creating a sales funnel.

And so should you.

I don’t know about the rest of the world, but in the UK we’re currently facing a spending crisis where you’ll often hear the term “we need to do more with less”. In a slightly different way, I think affiliates are going to soon hijack that quote and apply it to their own businesses. Prices are rising on traffic sources and it’s no longer as easy to get the same CTRs as you were scoring twelve months ago. So you’re going to have to make the most of your advertising outlay. And the best way to do so, in my opinion, is to stop publishing such shitty amateur landing pages.

Stop assuming that x amount of clicks will equal a sale, no matter how good or bad your landing page happens to be. Start working with the mindset of “How can I maximize the likelihood of a conversion with every single click?”

Good sales copy isn’t only noticeable in it’s ability to turn features in to benefits. I won’t waste my time explaining why that’s important. I’m sure most of you already know. But good sales copy is also adept at highlighting the potential stumbling blocks that could prevent a sale – and then eradicating them from the reader’s thoughts.

This is even more important than selling the benefits of a product. You have to be aware that before you make a sale, or a lead, the reader is weighing up two sides of an argument in his head. “Do I stand to gain more by using this product/service than I stand to lose by not using it?”

Unfortunately for you, nearly every potential customer is more inclined to find reasons NOT to buy a product than he is to find reasons why he should. We’re a generation that’s so trained to the monotone world of advertising that it takes a significantly greater number of incentives to outweigh the modern day consumer concerns.

Now you could argue that the acai berry craze proves the argument to be wrong. There was no shortage of buyers there, right? But I’d attribute the acai boom to some incredibly misleading advertising which sufficiently weighted the argument – for those dumb enough – in to making the risk worthwhile.

Look at three of the biggest concerns to the potential customer, and how affiliates neutralized them to eventually force the sale:

Customer thinks: Well, it sounds like it costs a lot of money to buy these wonder supplements and they might not work.
Affiliate says: Not at all! You can have a FREE trial to see for yourself.

Customer thinks: Well, they sound amazing. But has anybody actually tried them and seen results? Where can I find a review?
Affiliates says: I’ve got a dirty great flog with your name on, baby.

Customer thinks: Okay, it’s cheap to try and people are seeing good results. Why is this the first I’ve heard of it?
Affiliates says: Have you not SEEN my “breaking news” YouTube video? What about my box of copy and pasted “As seen on” TV channel logos?! Pretty sure you’ve just had your eyes closed all this time, fatty.

The way to nail that conversion isn’t to explain extreme weight loss in four weeks, list a bunch of exotic ingredients and hope for the best. But to ANTICIPATE what concerns the reader is reacting to as he/she reads through your copy. And if you can pinpoint the source, you can blast those concerns out of the water.

Before I promote any new product, I like to brainstorm as many questions as possible that a potential customer would have. And sometimes you have to dig a little deeper to really understand what’s going through your target market’s mind when you sell to them.

For example, I was doing a little background research to see what would stop a Facebook user from installing a dating application. I learnt more from that research than I ever learnt from posing the question “what do you look for in a dating application?”

One of the things I discovered was that a large percentage of younger users didn’t want to install a dating application in case their friends found out on their profiles. They didn’t want to be seen as virtual dating sad-acts of the twenty first century. It’s something I would never have worked in to my ad creatives before, but armed with the information, you can probably imagine some of the aggressive sales copies I came up with to combat the fears.

When you’re creating your sales funnel, it’s important to place yourself in the reader’s shoes. And don’t be afraid to ask questions that shoot holes in your existing sales copy. Your sales funnel is effectively a corridor heading towards the conversion. The reader normally can’t be bothered to play along and is looking for the first exit out of there. Poor sales copy leaves doors wide open for the reader to justify leaving at any time. It’s your job to keep those doors bolted shut and direct them towards the end of the corridor where your money is made.

18 Months On From Quitting My Job…

It’s now 18 months since I quit my day job. I guess the cliche thing to say would be that it feels like only yesterday. Well it doesn’t. All those vivid memories of clearing my office desk, elbowing a small mountain of coffee cups in to the trash, and setting off to live the dream. They’re pretty distant to say the least.

It’s hard to explain the things that go through your mind when you say goodbye and take your final commute home from the day job you hope you’ll never have to live again. It’s a combination of optimism, luxury and – in my case, at the time – a slightly paralyzing fear of “Oh shit, did I just quit my job in a recession?”

For those of you striving to make that dream a reality, I won’t shit on your parade. The first few weeks of rolling out of bed and being your own boss are like a paradise. But if you’ve been following this blog and reading my own journey, you’ll know that I’ve never been one to hold back from posting about the downsides.

But then, I’ve been facing several battles with myself that probably neutered any sense of reality. Most people would drop their day jobs in a second to have this luxury. And it’s something that I’m slowly starting to appreciate after the post-novelty trauma of adapting to working from home.

The most important lesson I’ve learnt so far is the importance of establishing relationships in an industry where trust and respectability are hard to come by. There’s always the temptation to become a profit scalping recluse. The kind of bastard who moves from pseudonym to pseudonym just to survive on the traffic sources that want him banned for life, only to pop up on WickedFire every now and then asking “How can I get a new Adwords account?”

This is the kind of bridge burning that can cost an affiliate dearly. And it’s the type of relationship that I showed no respect for whatsoever in my early days. When I entered the industry, I didn’t give a flying fuck how many search engine TOS guidelines I broke, or how many people I mislead with morally dubious advertisements. And it’s through a minor miracle, and some extremely exhaustive processes, that I can sit here and say that I still have access to every ad platform I might need in the future.

Other affiliates aren’t so lucky. Many are banned from Google, while a who’s who list of ballers are indefinitely exiled from Facebook. And even though last year’s profits might suggest it was worth it while it lasted, I would beg to differ. If you continuously exploit your relationships with these traffic sources, you’re inadvertently placing a clenched fist up your own arsehole. I promise you, one morning it will begin to hurt.

There is so much more value to coexisting with the Facebooks and Googles of this world, rather than forever ducking from their crosshairs. Are you happy to spend the rest of your days wincing whenever your Gmail shows a (1) because you know you’ve been a naughty boy?

I know many affiliates live and swear by the argument “Hey! It’s easy to get back on traffic sources – even if I’m banned for life! They’ll never catch me with my mum’s credit card, right? Wanna see how Gerard got ripped in 300?”

Well, yeah, I guess it’s easy to tell a girl you love her and then screw her over again. Sooner or later she’s gonna tear off your balls for going to the well too many times. You shouldn’t keep fucking with Facebook or Google’s little heartstrings. As impetuous as they may seem, your efforts are probably better spent holding hands and taking the next guideline changes with a sour lemon face but a long term vision. It’s better to be with than without where traffic sources are concerned.

At some point in the last 18 months, I started looking at my work as a business rather than a money making scheme. A different attitude is required to each. And I’m not saying you should agree with my own decisions, because some people ARE in this for the quick cash. In fact, ten minutes with the average Internet Marketer and it dawns on me how those of us who are actually here to build a business are the grand fucking minority. It’s an industry dominated by retards chasing a dream.

I’ve picked up certain tricks and exploits that could have netted me an absolute fortune in this last year. But they compromise my relationships with networks, traffic sources, advertisers, and the people who’d be reading my ads. If I was running a money making scheme, I probably wouldn’t give a shit. But I’m trying to build a business, so I’ve learnt to think differently. It’s just not worth getting greedy and burning your bridges.

I’m actually really excited about the next 18 months, thanks to the pursuit of some new projects that I genuinely believe in. In drawing up my business plans, it’s dawned on me the true value in having traffic sources like Google and Facebook at my disposal. I’m lucky to still have that luxury, and I’d be getting my little titties in a twist if I didn’t.

If you’re going to burn your bridges, make sure you bank a hell of a lot of money to justify the sacrifice. It’s a reckless streak you might end up regretting somewhere down the line.

Connect to me, baby

Do you have a UK based blog covering similar themes to this site? I’m currently looking for guest posting opportunities. If you’d be interested in letting me post a piece for your site, please get in touch via email.

Looking for more affiliate advice? Want to read the 140 character drivel of somebody who actually makes money on the Internet? Follow me on Twitter. If you haven’t already subjected yourself to enough of my bullshit, please feel free to add me to your RSS

My Rocky Relationship With SEO Is Over

It was a hot sweaty night in the land of Finch. The clock was ticking past 2am. My eyes were starting to strain from the glare of WickedFire’s traffic generation section. I had logged in with the intention of learning from the best to improve my SEO game. If you want to build long term assets, you need to rank well on Google, right?

Somewhere between reading about link wheels and staring dumbly at pyramid diagrams, the realization dawned on me. I fucking hate SEO.

If we’ve reached a tipping point where your success is determined by the number of Squidoo hub pages you’ve got passing link juice through to your money site, I would rather just forget about it completely. I’m sure if I sat here long enough, I could automate a script to dramatically increase the number of backlinks pumping through to my site. But beyond satisfying a phantom algorithm somewhere in Google’s underbelly, what exactly am I doing? I’m a fucking pawn in somebody else’s system.

In my opinion, the SEO brigade are deluded when they say that developing these naturally high-ranking sites is a long term business plan. I’m not going to deny that it’s incredibly lucrative. But long term? If your methodology is based on the science of link profiles, you don’t have squat diddly to bank your house on. SEO is just as volatile as any PPC campaign.

And as I sat there in the recess of the night, scratching my chin and scrolling through page after page on WickedFire, it really dawned on me that so much of what marketers do is complete and utter bullshit. It’s clever bullshit, don’t get me wrong. But I can’t help feeling that there’s more money in being the system, rather than trying to game one.

Over the last couple of months, my focus has shifted away from SEO. The safest way forward for affiliate marketers isn’t to learn advanced SEO or to become a wizard with a traffic source. Branding is everything. If you can develop assets that stand on their own two feet and command readership through the quality of the content alone, THAT is the only thing that can be deemed “long term” in this industry.

The problem with building a brand is that it’s an art best left to those who know shit about the subject matter. I’ve found it very easy to build a brand for this affiliate marketing blog, because that’s what I do. I can relate to affiliates and I can write in a way that strikes a chord with them. But if you asked me to write a blog about shoes or the process of learning a second language, I’d have my work cut out.

Many affiliates suffer from this. We want to monetize every niche, but we don’t know where to start when it comes to writing about topics that have no relevance to us. We end up with half arsed sites, branded as sloppily as a squashed lemon, and articles that’ve blatantly been slapped together by some copywriter who’s only interest is stretching his 437 word count past the 500 mark.

Outsourcing is one of those buzz words that sounds smart. Fuck yeah, I can hire some housewife to write me 20 articles for a hundred bucks. Invariably, you end up with a website that strikes a tick next to the proverbial mutton dressed as lamb box.

The reality is that if you want to become an authority in your niche, without the indefinite nature of SEO or PPC, you have to pay the premium.

Hire passionate people to write about topics they can spark to life with their own knowledge. I’ve gone from selecting the best value bidder on Elance, to selecting the candidate who has slightly sketchier grammar but loves the niche I’m trying to break in to. Inevitably, you’ll be able to publish content that looks less like minimum wage slave labour.

Affiliate marketers are untouchable when it comes to monetizing traffic. No agency or worldwide company can lay a finger on the creativity and innovation that some of us possess. But we’re also responsible for publishing some of the biggest piles of steaming bullshit ever to be labeled “articles”.

I think the way forward in 2010 is to develop websites that other affiliates would pay a premium to advertise on. Be the system, don’t be part of it.

Connect to me, baby

Do you have a UK based blog covering similar themes to this site? I’m currently looking for guest posting opportunities. If you’d be interested in letting me post a piece for your site, please get in touch via email.

Looking for more affiliate advice? Want to read the 140 character drivel of somebody who actually makes money on the Internet? Follow me on Twitter. If you haven’t already subjected yourself to enough of my bullshit, please feel free to add me to your RSS

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