Survived: Two Years Of Full Time Affiliate Marketing
Is A Blog Worth More Than A Degree?
Campaign Sabotage And Other Scumbag Tactics

Survived: Two Years Of Full Time Affiliate Marketing

April marks the two year anniversary of my luminous full-time career as an affiliate marketer. I could use this occasion to celebrate the arduous hours spent scratching my balls, surfing for dating pics, or munching reheated pizza over my inbox. But where would be the sense in that?

Two years is a long time in an industry that doesn’t know how to stand still. I quit my day job at the height of the rebill boom back in 2009. And I must’ve pissed off Lady Luck somewhere along the line because my last day at work happened to coincide with the death of all my profitable campaigns. What do they call that in the corporate world? Something like “a difficult period of transition”?

You haven’t felt a “difficult period of transition” until you’ve been sat in your new home office, on the first day, wondering how to make a living for the rest of your life.

The answer, as I eventually came to discover, was by scrapping and slaving away. It might not have been the most graceful jump in to running my own business, but I just about managed to keep my shit in tact. The first year was an eye-opener in every sense. I moved slowly from promoting rebills towards more sustainable offers that didn’t require a WHOIS registration just to sleep at night.

For all the success I enjoyed pushing shameless rebills, my business was in no way equipped to deal with any serious growth. That’s the price you pay for being obsessed with dollar signs but blind to the supporting acts that lay the foundations of any successful business. If you don’t have an accountant, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. If you don’t have somebody you can go to for expert business advice, bam, there goes your kneecap too.

Christ knows how much money I surrendered in 2009 through taxes alone thanks to my stupid tunnel vision. The attitude I adopted was paramount to poison.

Taxes? What do you think I am? A banker?” I didn’t register a company, I didn’t bother taking on an accountant and I sure as hell didn’t treat my work like a real job.

I had to learn that it wasn’t all about me. And no individual is smart enough to make the correct decision every time in all aspects of his work. So if my first year as a full-time affiliate marketer gave me a reality check, I suppose the last year has been spent acclimatizing to that reality.

I’m still no closer to being able to explain what exactly I do for a living (“Err, I build websites and market products… Ahh, forget it. I’m just a web programmer“), but at least I feel like my business is not about to be swept from underneath me.

One thing I can say for sure, if you’re making those first tentative steps in to affiliate marketing with a very limited budget, it gets easier. It might not feel like the shit is even possible when you’re still turning up negative ROIs, but it does get easier.

It’s amazing how in two whole years of doing what I do, the actual success formula has changed very little. Sure, the traffic sources come and go. The offers are swings and roundabouts. But making profitable campaigns is very easy once you’ve locked down the method in the madness. So much of affiliate marketing is about finding that one sweet spot, and then running with it until it stretches no further.

One of my most successful dating landing pages is something I threw together back in 2009 and have barely changed since. While I’ve learned a lot since then, and keep pushing myself to learn more, you’re never more than one small break away from making it in this industry. One moment of genius, one great idea…and so much can snowball from so very little.

The basic mechanics of affiliate marketing are as simple as they ever were. But moulding everything around it in to a successful business takes a lot more thought, a lot more work and a lot more time. Something tells me two years is just the start.

Recommended This Week:

  • If you’re based in the UK and worried about your affiliate taxes, now is the time to sort them out. Before the new tax year! I highly recommend Crunch for their flat-rate £60/month service. It takes a few days to get setup, but it’s worth it for peace of mind if you don’t already have an accountant – or fancy shafting your old one.

  • If you’re not already registered on PPV Playbook, you are missing a beat sunshine. Easily the BEST place to learn from marketers who are actually making money. It has some awesome case studies. The catch is that you will need to pay some of your hard earned pesos to access it. I swear from the bottom of my black heart, joining is worth every penny

  • If you’re a new reader, please add me to your RSS. Feel free to add Finch to your Facebook. Yes, this is the right link. My real name is not actually Finch. Also follow me on Twitter Love you long time. Thanks for reading.

Is A Blog Worth More Than A Degree?

It’s easy to dismiss blogs as a colossal waste of time. They can be wild ego trips, or pointless attempts to feel more understood by your peers. Guilty as charged, that’s probably how it started for me. But when I say that blogging is the smartest career move I ever made, I’m not exaggerating.

I honestly believe that regardless of whether you’re trying to write for a living, make a few industry friends or simply spew your early morning drivel, blogging is one of the most powerful ways of adding value to your name. The value may not be immediately evident, but neither is a résumé until it’s delivered to the right mailbox.

I’ve been convinced for a long time that the blog is the new résumé. I don’t have a degree, or an academic background. I can’t rely on Masters honours to justify my ability to get a job done. To put it simply, there isn’t a single slip of paper in my filing cabinet that could pass as a certificate for my work. Christ, the only certificate I have at all is a swimming award from my primary school. And even that I somehow managed to fake.

One of the great appeals of working on the web has always been the level playing field. I love that it doesn’t matter who you are, where you are, or what your story is. You can be as relevant as you want to be in almost any field or industry, just by having the knowledge and putting it out there in the right way.

As we see on a daily basis in the “make money online” niche, it rarely even matters if you have the knowledge. Blogging is all about perception. It doesn’t matter how smart or dumb you are, just that your readers are buying in to the right image. But forget about the readers and the meaningless subscriber stats. Have you heard the saying, If you’re the smartest person in the room, you’re in the wrong room?

How true is that for bloggers?

If you’re the smartest marketer in affiliate marketing, why the hell would you be blogging about it? Exactly, you wouldn’t. But by blogging about a topic you’re involved with, you instantly make yourself relevant to the field. And when you become relevant, you get leverage with people that simply wouldn’t be approachable to Average Joe with no web presence. I’ve never seen blogging as talking down to a crowd. It’s a two way relationship, and a great way to establish a reputation.

Since launching an affiliate marketing blog over at FinchSells.com, I’ve pretty much guaranteed that if my business were to fold overnight, I’d only have to open my inbox to find work opportunities. That’s not to say I’ve done it well or achieved any more than the next blogger. It just comes with the territory of being relevant in my industry and establishing credibility through a web presence. In effect, my blog has become my résumé. Except I don’t have to read job listings or go combing for contacts on LinkedIn, because opportunity tends to present itself.

A couple of years ago, I saw friends leaving university with degrees and qualification to their names. But for many of them, it wasn’t enough to secure a job in the area they studied. How ridiculous is that? 16 years in education only to join the same rat race as the rest of us. Does that mean a successful blog has become more valuable than a degree?

Admittedly, it’s a lot easier to use a blog as a platform to a career in marketing than it is for, say, structural engineering. But if you have expertise, you should make every attempt to show it!

Blogs and portfolios are the way forward in 2011. The résumé deserves to die an ugly death for turning all of our individual qualities in to one uniformed template in Microsoft Word. If you have a special talent, or simply a career to fight for, you can often make it happen just by talking about it and becoming relevant.

A blog doesn’t have to be a profitable moneymaking machine. It can simply be a professional stamp of what you have to offer in your line of work. We all like to make fun of the stay-at-home-mum bloggers who write piles of sweet nothing to a circle of fans that eat it up anyway. But if you’re sitting on your degree and expecting qualifications to carry you up the ladder, I think it’s time for a reality check.

It’s not about the talent you have, but what you do with it that counts. Perception is everything to so many careers. And a successful blog can make you relevant in whatever industry you’re trying to crack.

Recommended This Week:

  • On the subject of putting value in yourself, I highly recommend Awaken The Giant Within by Anthony Robbins. That man has a way with words that can light a candle up even the pluckiest of arseholes.
  • Like this post? Feel free to subscribe to my new FinchSells RSS feed. And if you don’t already follow me, add FinchSells to your Twitter.
  • If you’re feeling generous, you can also do me a favour by simply retweeting this post or recommending it on whatever hellhole of a social networking joint you use. Every little help is appreciated!

Campaign Sabotage And Other Scumbag Tactics

Do you ever get the impression that you’re fighting for survival in an industry full of complete and utter arsewipes?

No, I never got that impression either. Until seeing first hand the depths some “marketers” would plummet to stay ahead of the competition.

Campaign sabotage is something that happens a lot more often than you would care to think. It’s something you probably don’t even realise is happening. But it is. A lucrative industry with such low barrier-to-entry guarantees one commodity by it’s very nature; an abundance of dickheads.

There’s very little regulation in affiliate marketing. You don’t have to get the go-ahead from above, or the sign-off from a superior before blazing ahead with a new project. This creates a community of undomesticated outlaw entrepreneurs, willing to do any and everything to keep making money.

This is fine. Most affiliates have to utilise aggressive tactics to stay competitive with more and more hungry hands bidding for the same traffic. We can take action to game traffic sources, or to enhance our search engine rankings with black hat methods, but where I draw the line is purposefully – and directly – fucking with somebody else’s business.

Unfortunately, it’s almost impossible to prevent somebody driving a stake through your profitable campaigns if they really want to. There are always methods to fuck with your competition. And while preventative measures are available (redirecting affiliate IPs from your landing pages, for example), none of them are foolproof.

I’ve just recently received some raw data feedback on one of my dating campaigns. Most of it was to be expected, but I noticed several batches of fraudulent leads being posted by some bell-end out of Nigeria.

That’s weird, I thought. I’m pretty sure I would have remembered not to select Nigeria in my targeting options. There is such a thing as a niche too far, people.

Sometimes, users signing up to offers from countries outside your targeting can be explained by a perfectly genuine reason. The user could be an expat, somebody on holiday abroad or just the victim of IP scrambling.

But when a series of leads are posted from the same IP, in a country like Nigeria, you just know there’s a little arsefeeder rubbing his hands somewhere. Probably salivating at the thought of how much cheaper his traffic is about to become when you get booted from an offer for fraudulent leads that you had literally no control over.

I’d like to say a giant “fuck you very much” to whichever mopes happen to be guilty of spending their days cruising the web resorting to such bum tactics. I’m almost grateful. It’s prompted me to spend the afternoon combing through campaigns and planning out some preventative methods to handle these kind of tactics. But there’s no such thing as an airtight strategy.

You can’t stop a scumbag from making your business his own. But what you definitely can do is maintain a good relationship with the companies you work for. By ensuring that your campaigns remain transparent, you can limit the damage when shit turns hairy. In my case, inviting chargebacks on the fraudulent leads was the best option.

I think affiliates can be too quick to adopt a Me against the World attitude when it comes to receiving chargebacks. We assume that every lead posted is genuine, and that any chargeback is the result of a network or merchant giving us a stiff one up the jacksy. Personally, I would much rather accept the fraudulent leads than receive a blanket notification that I’ve been kicked off an offer.

Much of the time, the affiliate marketing community manages to regulate itself. We have some pretty loose rules against “outing” other people’s campaigns. The shadow of the FTC has cut short many of the renegade marketing ploys seen everywhere at the height of the flog phase.

But campaign sabotaging smegheads do exist, and you should be ready to deal with them. If you’ve ever played a game of Whack-a-Mole, you should be well prepared for the task of maintaining a profitable campaign.

The broader those campaigns become, the more likely they are to be seen by scheming little tricksters with less ethical latitude than yourself. Keep it in mind when you’re crying wolf at the next batch of chargebacks.

Recommended This Week

  • If you’re not already registered on PPV Playbook, you are missing a beat sunshine. Easily the BEST place to learn from marketers who are actually making money. It has some awesome case studies. The catch is that you will need to pay some of your hard earned pesos to access it. I swear from the bottom of my black heart, joining is worth every penny

  • If you’re working in the dating market, check out Adsimilis. Definitely one of the better networks with a wide range of dating offers, all on high payouts, including lots of stuff in Europe and South America. I think you’ll like them.

  • If you’re a new reader, please add me to your RSS. Feel free to add Finch to your Facebook. Yes, this is the right link. My real name is not actually Finch. Also follow me on Twitter Love you long time. Thanks for reading.

Copyright © 2009-.