How To Fight Back Against Rising Click Costs
How To Brand Yourself And Your Blog
The 1000 Fan Theory

How To Fight Back Against Rising Click Costs

If your inbox is anything like mine, your Monday mornings are probably spent combing through network emails of what to promote, what to test and where to send your traffic. Of course, working out what to do with our traffic is a minor point. Getting it profitable is the hard part where we’d most appreciate advice!

Good old fashioned affiliate arbitrage is beginning to feel like running from a tsunami of problems.

Spiraling click costs, weaker inventory, stubborn advertisers. Sound familiar?

If it does, we have something in common. I’ve been looking at several ways to combat the challenges faced in advertising on the major social platforms. Let’s face it, neither Facebook or Plentyoffish are getting any easier to crack. You can concede defeat, or you can retreat and regroup.

So what actions can you take to avoid becoming the next affiliate casualty?

Open your mind to new bidding strategies

This is particularly important on Plentyoffish. Bidding strategies can make or break you. Making a simple change can completely turn around your fortunes. For example, I’d gotten it in to my head that bidding $0.67 with a frequency cap of 4 was the sweet spot for one of my campaigns. For a long time, this was very profitable. But you shouldn’t be afraid to bid on different groups of traffic. When my campaign ran dry, I was forced in to a change. Eventually I regained profitability on the same offer, with the same creatives, just by bidding $0.48 with a frequency cap of 7.

Sometimes you have to bid less, and live with the lower conversion rates, to achieve a greater ROI. For Christ’s sake, don’t live and die by your conversion rates. Live and die by what’s making you money.

Dayparting, weekparting, monthparting, retardparting.

Have you scrutinized your stats and analysed them on an hour-by-hour basis? If you’re working in the dating niche, this is pretty fucking significant. Forget about conversion rates. Look directly at the EPCs vs. CPCs over a 24 hour period.

You also need to consider a variable bid approach. Many affiliates say that you simply shouldn’t advertise dating offers during certain hours. On the flipside, traffic is a lot cheaper for those of us who decide to take that path. Probably because those saying you shouldn’t bid in the morning, are the same idiots bidding the same fixed amount 24/7 and then wondering where their profitability went. Well, duh.

Use language that sells your offer twice as hard.

If you’re not yet using landing pages, you might as well be a dinosaur dodging asteroids. It may be fun for a while, but sooner or later it’s going to be game over. Something I always look to do when my ROI drops is sell the offer twice as hard. Particularly if I’m in a small demo where a lot of eyeballs have already seen my main sales pitch.

Go back and look at your landing page. Give it a language makeover. Take every single descriptive word and ramp it up a notch, particularly the words that are being used as anchor text. Bust out a thesaurus and leave no corner of your landing page untouched. Every single conceivable concern or restraint from joining Site X now needs to be dispelled and extinguished. You simply can’t afford to lose as many clicks as you used to.

And for this, I’d give you one piece of advice. Don’t write on your own level. You’re not trying to sell a Rocket Science degree. Write as if your landing page is going to be read by the dumbest idiot in America.

Scale away from the competition.

This is the single easiest way of regaining profitability that you’ll still choose to ignore. It simply involves taking the components of your most successful campaigns, having them translated, and targeting non-English speaking markets. By advertising in non-English speaking countries, you instantly eliminate the competition that inflates your prices elsewhere.

But you’ve got to remain patient. Just because your campaign is nicely formalized in the mother tongue of the poor bastards you’re advertising to, that doesn’t make it a guaranteed success at the first time of asking. And many affiliates give up because it’s not as easy to optimize a campaign in a foreign market. There’s also lazy scaling syndrome. Where you translate your creatives but don’t bother with the landing page because it’d mean shelling out a few extra dollars.

This is particularly mind-boggling logic when it comes from the very affiliates who know first-hand what difference a landing page can make to ROI. Don’t be a fuck nugget. Do the job properly.

If straight arbitrage fails, capture the data.

The way we operate as affiliates, our mathematics are very simple. We need to get traffic cheap enough so we can sell it and make a profit. Okay, great. But most affiliates leave themselves exactly 5 seconds to play God with that data. If the click doesn’t convert, it’s forever lost.

Just yesterday, I received a network email advising me to target users earning over $100,000 to maintain maximum quality on an offer. It got me thinking. This moron earns $100,000 in a year and he’s clicking my link, just like I asked him to. In the absolute best case scenario, I’m only going to make $7 from him – if he converts on my offer. How much money am I leaving on the table by not keeping the schmuck to myself and upselling like there’s no tomorrow?

By building your own email lists and capturing data, you can afford to compete with the rising click costs. Because each conversion is worth so much more. You don’t even have to build an email list. Just brand your landing page in such a way that if the user decides not to click through, he has somewhere else to go where he can provide value to you. That’s a gigantic tip right there, and I’ll let you interpret it as you wish.

I’m guessing many marketers are finally recognising how replaceable an affiliate engaging in straight arbitrage actually is. It’s not too late to do things differently. But don’t say you didn’t see it coming when Plan A hits the wall.

Recommended This Week:

  • Looking to finally get your campaigns translated in to another language so you can start making money again? One Hour Translation is fast, cheap and thankfully much more accurate than the badass copy and pasting skills that took Finch to an unexpected C grade win in his French GCSEs. Viva Mon Francais!

  • 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.

How To Brand Yourself And Your Blog

This is NOT a step by step guide for how to become the next Make Money Online guru. I don’t want to be known as the guy who suggested our industry needs a hundred more self-proclaimed experts of the “make money by talking about making money” skillset.

Instead I want to talk about blog branding in general. And this applies to every blog owner, whether you’re a scumbag pick-up artist, a music journalist or just some crazed motherfucker with access to a WordPress.

You see, blogging as a means of making money is a lot more complicated than simply spunking random thoughts in to a journal and hoping your friends click the Facebook link. To make it a viable business, you have to brand yourself effectively.

Step 1: Understand what makes a trend setter in your niche.

Before you can brand your blog, you have to understand the very unique perception of what makes a trendsetter in your niche. For those of us in the “Make Money Online” market, that’s pretty straightforward. You want to portray yourself as a Made Man. A big trousered, fine dining, sunbed lounging, rich, son of a bitch. But in other markets, especially if you’re blogging about topics you’re not experienced with, it can be a little tougher to pinpoint the trendsetter gene.

For example, if you’re a music blogger, how can you create an illusion of importance? You could be exploiting the leaked albums market for a start. Getting to reviews before any of the mainstream sites and then claiming you were sent advance copies. Is it bullshit? Absolutely. But to your readers, you appear one step ahead.

If you can muster photos where you’re posing with the stars after a gig, get them featured in your header banner. To you, it’s a cheesy fan picture where you’re blushing bright red. To your readers, it’s the evidence you get invited to the hottest after-parties in town.

It doesn’t take long studying a Pick-Up Artist blog to establish where the trendsetter gene is at. You need to show as many drop dead gorgeous bombshells hanging off your arm as your page load time can handle. For most of us, this means creating a false blogger identity. Or, you know, going to a Playboy Mansion party.

The point remains the same. Whatever market you’re blogging to, a good brand is one that should be viewed with importance, jealousy or just plain admiration. You win nothing by sounding ordinary.

Step 2: Say what other people can’t put in to words.

Some of the best bloggers in the business, in my opinion, are those who find ways to phrase what their readers simply can’t put in to words. They convey general sentiment as if they’re voices of the people. This is an insanely effective technique that can propel your readership through the roof by viral power alone.

To do it well, you need to become the ear to the ground of public sentiment. It’s necessary to be exploring the very heart of your niche, in the trenches, so that you can write in such a way that appears genuine and honest.

The most successful posts I’ve ever written for my affiliate marketing blog, are those where I don’t give away a single tip that can be used to make money. But rather they’re the posts where I dig down and really get to the bottom of the stresses that come with being an affiliate. It’s effective because everybody can relate to them. If you can have somebody nodding their head while they read, you’re already halfway to branding your blog. Exploit unspoken public sentiment, and your blog will become relevant.

Step 3: Invite readers in to your world.

One of the easiest ways to build trust in a product is to whack your face on the Sales Letter. It’s bullshit logic, but it’s tried and tested. By the same virtue, including your face on a blog can give identity to your work. I personally can’t stand this craze of including cartoonized avatars as blog photos. Are you really that self-conscious?

You’re fighting for individuality in an ocean of rival bloggers. It might not change your fortunes, admittedly. But including a photo – whether it’s the real you or not – can help readers establish an image of your personality.

You’ve probably noticed how I love to flood my blogs with endless invitations to get in touch, to follow me on Twitter, to add me to Facebook. You’re probably thinking, Christ, it won’t be long ’til he’s asking me out for dinner and riding his hand up my leg. This isn’t some cybersleazey attempt of mine to find a BFF. It all boils down to being open with your readers and instilling a sense of trust.

How many of the acai berry floggers took the time to create fake Facebook profiles for their superhero “Before and After” characters? You should have tried it if you didn’t. Just one subtle illusion of openness that completely skyrocketed conversion rates, both for myself and the few other urchins I tipped off about it.

An open accessible brand is much more likely to leave a reader with positive thoughts, especially if you’re in the business of selling something.

Step 4: Remind your readers how important you are.

Listen, there are ways to show that you are a voice of authority without coming out and saying “Hey, you better listen to me, bitch. I’ve got a thousand subscribers.”

It’s always good to refer to emails you’ve received, tweets you’ve been sent and questions you’ve been asked. Instead of writing a huge “How To” post for no apparent reason, explain in the introduction how a highly valuable client recently asked you to offer your thoughts, and now you’re ready to share them for any other listeners. Same content, but conveying a completely different image of your importance.

Through this technique alone, you wouldn’t believe how many actual high value clients have subsequently contacted me. Portray yourself as Mr. Big enough times and shit, people actually start treating you like one. Such is the power of the Internet where people can’t see you scratching your nuts, eating cheesy wotsits, and pretending to be a big deal on your Acer laptop.

Branding yourself and your blog is about more than finding the right Blogger colour scheme. It has to be something you consider with every sentence, every opinion and every post you publish. People are going to judge you by whatever you give them, so give them something good.

Recommended This Week:

  • 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!
  • 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

The 1000 Fan Theory

Last week, my girlfriend shared a theory with me that, I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical about at first. She runs a fashion blog so Internet Marketing is something we have in common. It’s not simply a topic I inflict on her over the breakfast buffet here in Bangkok.

The theory is simple. Any artist or creative person who has 1000 true fans, has the means to make a living. When you first hear that, it sounds like quite a flimsy theory. Then you remember that your judgment is probably misguided by the poor schmuck you saw selling Facebook fan page “likes” the day before.

True fans, in the blogging world, are those who will listen to your recommendations – whether you get paid for them or not. Those who will praise you when you offer nothing that hasn’t been read a thousand times before. Those who give enough of a shit to retweet your “New post!” and add you to their blogrolls. In short, true fans are hard to come by.

But with an army of 1000 true fans, it’s quite easy to see how a blogger could make a living from his craft. As this article on the Technium points out, the numbers are stacked in your favour.

If you could convince each of those fans to spend just $100 over the course of a year, you’d have a total annual salary of $100,000. That’s discounting the influence of your outer network. True fans are likely to recommend your blog to other readers who share mutual interests, if not always in the exact niche market you’re targeting. This dominos effect completely kills the pain and boredom of link building or marketing your site. Why bother when true fans can handle that for you?

More to the point, what good are 1000 search engine hits if you can’t retain a single user and find yourself forever optimizing for the next? The best way to build an online asset is to develop relationships and acquire fans. SEO can bring you traffic, but it doesn’t add long term value to anything you do.

Okay, so lots of fans can equal earning opportunities. But how do you actually gain fans? That’s the problem for most bloggers, nevermind the theory itself. How do you get somebody to read your meandering shit and actually come back for more?

I think most blogs fail because they forget the vital ingredient that distinguishes a voice from the crowd – personality. The worst crime you can possibly commit, as a blogger, is to take the center ground. If you don’t have opinions, you become a news source. And if you compete with news sources, you’re instantly outnumbered and outgunned.

Oscar Wilde’s famous words, “The first duty in life is to assume a pose…” should be nailed on the dashboard of any self-respecting blogger who hopes for his ramble to be read. It doesn’t matter what pose you assume. You could be an offensive and controversial shit-stirrer in your niche. A deluded but always sweet source of encouragement. Christ, it’s plain to see how many people have already assumed the pose of “guru” (with varying degrees of success).

But to have no pose, no unique appeal and no committed voice…you’re sacrificing the very essence of any successful blog. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong. Most people are too dumb to care.

Do you think Pitchfork cares about counter arguments? I’m guessing when their editors sat down to create a business plan, they had the world’s most effective brainstorming session on “How can we be the BEST collective of pretentious Indie-hugging snobs on the planet?” Okay, probably not. That’s just my negative perception. But every negative has a flip-side. And to the Indie-hugging snobs out there, Pitchfork is the be all and end all of latest music news.

How about Nickelback? Nobody loves Nickelback. Never has a band stuck so doggedly to the middle ground and succeeded in sounding so unmistakeably shite. Do you want your blog to be like Nickelback?

Assume a pose, and let people judge you by it. That’s the way to gain fans. If you polarize opinions along the way, you’re probably doing a good job of avoiding the middle ground. The great freedom of blogging is that we have no obligation to report the truth. Invariably, the truth sucks. If people want the facts, they go to Wikipedia. For everything else, they’re fair game to your creative license.

So as you sit at your desk and ponder what to publish next, I would suggest you chuck those imaginary editor guidelines out of the window. You’re probably not qualified enough to merit any. And you’re not writing for a magazine. You can afford to be as wild and creative as your WordPress allows.

A pussy-footing attitude to blogging defeats the bloody purpose, does it not? So mark your ground, fly your colours and wait for fans to find you. When they do, they’ll either love or hate what you have to say. But it’s much better than being ignored. Only a complete tool writes to be ignored.

Recommended This Week:

  • Help a virginal Finch. 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!
  • 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

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