What’s Your Day Job Exit Strategy?
Uncover Profitable PPV Targets With MixRank
The Art Of Successful Facebook Bidding Strategies

What’s Your Day Job Exit Strategy?

Are you ready to give up your day job? As appealing as a life on the backyard patio may seem, it can actually turn in to a downward spiral of depression and desperation.

Bold words. Now, I’m not trying to scaremonger the masses from wanting to quit their day jobs, but I do think you should think twice about your true motives before calling it quits. A day job, despite being the unglamorous cousin of entrepreneurism, brings security, stability and routine in to your life.

From my experience, people love to talk down the idea of routine in their lives. Many just-turned entrepreneurs will react with real spite when you ask them what they think of a Monday to Friday day job in somebody else’s company. Maybe it’s the burning need to stay consistent with their own life choices, but I believe that time will shine a light on the objectivity of those choices.

Many entrepreneurs later realise that the grass was indeed much greener on the other side. They see that being parked in an office cubicle ready to go by 9am is actually a much lighter burden than the self-inflicted misery of running an unsuccessful business and scratching around the bank to make ends meet.

It’s over 2 years since I worked my last day in Central London. I was a web developer, charged with pretty comfortable tasks and blessed with reasonably decent prospects. I was the youngest person in the agency where I worked, and probably the least likely to quit and start my own business.

I had no resentment towards that last job. Unlike many people who email me looking for answers to their own career slash mental breakdowns, I was content and had no reason to detest conventional employment.

However, I was passionate about wanting to run my own business. I developed a golden opportunity to do so in the space of six bat-shit crazy weeks, stumbling head first in to affiliate marketing and barely batting an eyelid as I wrote out my notice in a flurry of activity that still gives me a headache to look back on.

Who builds a sustainable business in six weeks? Inventors, Mark Zuckerberg and the occasional Einstein freakshow that I most certainly was not. I was in no shape or form prepared to start a business, despite harbouring some naive love affair with the idea of calling myself the boss.

Those first six months were a series of trials and tribulations of my own inflicting. I had a Plan A and a lot of newly established spare time, but little else. When my Plan A failed – within the first few days – I was faced with a sink or swim scenario where I needed to redesign a business from scratch or get back in the recession-struck waiting queue for another day job. Thankfully, keyboard sweat and tears paid off and I succeeded in reconstructing a profitable business.

What the entire experience taught me was that running a business, no matter how optimistic you may be, will always challenge you more in every way than the monotonous nature of navigating London Underground and reaching your desk before 9:01 every morning.

The nature of the challenge, or rather the acid test of how many hairs you’ll lose trying to succeed, can be boiled down in to an equation of preparation and then… lots more preparation.

You need a sensible Day Job Exit Strategy (AKA “How to escape the frying pan without burning your arse in the fire”)

You’ll have to forgive me for inflicting yet more misery-guts perspective on the proceedings, but it’s time to get real. Are you REALLY prepared for the challenges ahead? Here are some of the concerns you should be raising with your neocortex.

1. Do I have enough money to survive for 6 months if I’m not making immediate profit?

Entrepreneurs will give you varying answers for how much money is needed in the bank. I think six months of covered outgoings is a safe bet for online ventures, assuming your business plan is worth the paper it’s written on.

2. Who is going to handle my accounts?

The next logical question if, like me, you answer “Err…” to am I fully qualified to handle my accounting? My initial attitude towards taxes was one of complete disregard. I knew I would be expected to pay them, but my assumptions were about as well founded as a poor English bastard buying shorts in July. It’s not always obvious, but when you choose to become your own boss, you lose the accounting safety net of your previous employer.

3. Is my business built on moving ground?

Fads come and go. If your business idea is so niche that it isn’t capable of withstanding a small shift in the market – or the arrival and enhancements of new technologies – then you need to really think long and hard about the sustainability of it all. Don’t obsess over stealing a quick dollar in 2011. Anticipate how your business will meet a market demand for the next several years.

4. Am I mentally equipped to be my own boss?

I don’t mean this in a negative light, but some entrepreneurs are naturally better suited to the role of followers rather than leaders. It makes sense. After all, no economy can survive without willing servants to carry out orders. I think discipline and goal-setting is very important in this regard. To succeed with your own business, you have to hold yourself personally accountable.

Even when other people fuck up, it’s still your fault. Repeat the words, and learn not to take them personally.

As I personally found out, this awakening of responsibility can hit your social life with frightening force. Be prepared for the surreal shifting of priorities as “Thank God It’s Monday” becomes your new catchphrase.

5. Am I escaping a life I don’t enjoy, or creating a life I’ll enjoy more?

This is another hard-hitting question that only a very honest soul can answer. It’s a little like the analysis attached to “Is the glass half-empty or half-full?”

For many people in unhappy day jobs, starting a new business is an unfortunate learning curve that will take you to the realisation that two wrongs do not make a right.

Entrepreneurism is often a misread solution to the career crisis, when simply finding a better job would lead to greater happiness. If you’d do anything to escape your day job, there is always more than one answer to your problem. Starting an entire business is very much a niche solution, and 9 times out of 10, the wrong solution.

Your professional happiness does not hinge on running as far as possible from the office cubicle. It could be as simple as joining a different cubicle across the hall. For others, no cubicle will contain their aspirations. And for these people, starting a business is the only way to handle that burning flame of ambition.

Before you decide if you’re that person, you have to answer some basic home truths. The honest answers will lead you towards a sensible Day Job Exit Strategy. Behind all the glamour of being an entrepreneur, rest assured, it’s a living nightmare for the individual who answers those questions naively.

Recommended This Week:

  • Check out Filthy Rich Mind, a brand new project I’m collaborating on with a couple of other writers in the self-improvement market. It’s a fun project and if you like off-the-wall advice for improving your lifestyle, subscribe here for updates.

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Uncover Profitable PPV Targets With MixRank

I try not to read too much of TechCrunch. Every time I do, I’m left with the impression that 95% of the start-ups being covered are noteworthy purely for being start-ups, without a shred of consideration for the actual value they bring to the world. It’s Silicon Vanity gone wild. Mike Chiasson summed up my thoughts perfectly in one tweet:

“At what point can I stop calling you a startup and start calling you a total failure?”

But alas, one article caught my eye last week that I considered to be of actual relevance to affiliate marketers. It was a feature on MixRank, a brand new ad spy tool, currently in Beta release and free to use.

MixRank lets you search through an enormous compilation of Adsense ads, pinpointing the most profitable of the bunch (in theory) and locating where those ads are running successfully.

Sound familiar yet? There’s a fair chance it may. Spying on ads is beginning to feel slightly 2010. Services like What Runs Where and AffEdge have given affiliates plenty of options for staying in touch with the rest of the industry’s fun and games.

It won’t be long until I’m sitting in some battleship grey stained underpants, eyes straining and spying on what other spies are spying on. Who needs affiliate marketing? The real money is in knowing where the real money is for other people making real money!

Whether I joke about it or not, competitive analysis plays a large hand in the making of lucrative campaigns.

So what can MixRank do for you?

I’ll give you the breakdown of what it says on the tin:

  • MixRank is a “search engine” for display and contextual ads. Enter the target website, find their active ads.
  • MixRank lets you check exactly where a website is getting it’s traffic, and which ads are performing the best. Very useful for niche affiliate offers (Scholarships, education offers, and bizopps)
  • MixRank cuts through thousands of split tests to show you the best performing ad copies in whatever industry you’re researching.

While it’s nice to be able to monitor what Adsense advertisers are up to, it goes without saying that many affiliates are still harbouring sore arses from Google’s treatment in the past. Not everybody has an Adwords account, and I would suspect that most of the readers on this site will be turning their attention to a different benefit of using MixRank altogether – the ability to scale out PPV campaigns.

If I analyse the advertising efforts of Match.com, I can get an interesting perspective on where the cretins (and their affiliates) are finding the most joy with Adsense ads.

Mixrank traffic sources
Pages upon pages of hotspots for profitable Adsense campaigns

From the report above, I could judge that my landing page would be worth popping on ChristianFishing.com. Dating on a Christian fishing site? Well that’s not very obvious… what were Match thinking?

Possibility one: Many Christian fishing enthusiasts are actually single and responsive towards dating ads.
Possibility two: There’s no correlation. The advertiser has spunked 30 days of clicks on an unprofitable ad.

How do you predict what will happen? You don’t. Such is affiliate marketing, mon amis. Spying on ads can give you inspiration and potentially fantastic starting points, but seeing is only one piece of the jigsaw. The 99 other pieces involve actually doing.

This is not rocket science, and it’s not a guaranteed formula for success, but we can draw reasonable conclusions that the ads running for the longest on the same traffic source, are good places to start with a targeted PPV campaign. Particularly those generating a large number of page views so you’re not wasting your time.

There are many tools for scraping URLs to build out PPV campaigns, but I often find that generating serious volume with collections of pages can be difficult. Dealing with dribs and drabs of traffic has proven to be a much bigger danger to my campaigns than the thought of actually losing money.

If I can’t attract volume, I often abandon ship. My recycling bin of failed PPV campaigns consists mainly of creative ideas that never met the acid test of enough eyeballs. Scraping targeted pages prevents heavy losses in the testing phase, but it also stunts the growth of your campaigns.

By using MixRank, you can jump straight in to bed with a broader, and much more scalable, method of demographic targeting. You’ve probably heard PPV publishers preaching that the big money is in scaling sideways; in finding closely related websites that appeal to your demographic, without being so fucking obvious that your targets can only include life_insurance_for_nannies or the deal is broken.

There’s no volume for affiliates who aren’t prepared to think in term of demographics.

MixRank cuts some helpful corners. Conventional URL scraping wisdom would be unlikely to uncover such diverse targets unless you were purposefully scraping some very obscure terms. And that’s the kicker. MixRank isn’t so much a ready-made campaigns to-go service, but a colossal database of clues that should point your PPV efforts in the right direction.

I’ve used Match.com as an example, but in true form of this blog, it would probably be one of the worst examples to test. I recommend you stick to analysing sites that are lesser known brands where the online advertising is seen as critical to their business models. Direct results are the order of the day.

You want to research only the websites where somebody with a brain is going to notice if a URL target has been seeping a heavy loss for the last 30 days. A giant brand like Match.com is unlikely to be as clued in to what makes a profitable target as the smaller dating agency that spends 100% of it’s advertising budget seeking immediate returns on tighter margins. And I would even suggest that you ignore dating sites altogether.

Log in to your affiliate network of choice, preview a bunch of offers, and run the landing page URLs through MixRank’s reporting panel. It shouldn’t be long until your brain is bursting with PPV possibilities and niche angles that essentially add up to stealing somebody else’s “thinking outside the box“.

The service is currently free to use during beta phase, so register your account while the trial deal lasts!

Recommended This Week

  • There’s that new social network doing the rounds. Everybody has an opinion on Google+, and yet nobody really knows how it will fare. If you’d like an invite, drop me an email on finch@finchsells.com.

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The Art Of Successful Facebook Bidding Strategies

Until Google+ introduces an ad platform that we aren’t automatically banned from, Facebook remains the go-to social network for self-serve advertising.

I seem to publish a new Facebook post every quarter, and with each time lapse comes the news that it just ain’t as easy as it used to be. I’ll save you the doomsday speech and get straight to the point. There’s still a lot of money to be made on Facebook, but the bidding process could easily convince you otherwise.

I’ve seen some suggested bid prices that resemble first class tickets to bankruptcy. Want to advertise to over 30s in Australia? That’ll be $1.50/click, says Facebook. You know you’ve been doing this shit for too long when you find yourself staring at a delicious Ginster sandwich in your local petrol station, and mentally equating it to the cost of two Australian housewives accidentally clicking your ad.

What make a successful Facebook bidding strategy in 2011? Christ, that’s not even contemporary enough, is it? What makes a good Facebook bidding strategy as of 6pm GMT on Monday the 11th July 2011?

I don’t have the inside scoop, but I can offer some perspective on what works for me.

Costs are going to continue to rise, artificially at least, so it’s important that we roll with the punches. If Facebook decides to raise their suggested bid prices, we have to follow suit if we want to lay claim to the same volume of clicks.

CTR is as important as it always was, and if you can score an excellent clickthrough rate, you will pay much less than your bid. This is the beating heart of what advertising on Facebook is all about. The confusion stems from where to start bidding, how to adjust as you go, and how to sustain the CTR.

I like to operate dual campaigns for whatever I’m promoting. This means I will create two campaigns for essentially the same offer, but changing the creatives for each. Fresh images and fresh headlines are my priorities, the actual ad text itself rarely makes a difference.

Assuming both campaigns have been tested and are pulling in good CTRs, I will run them alternately for a day each. This fights banner blindness and helps me to sustain each campaign a little longer. Facebook has been known to become a bigger bastard than usual if you attempt to resume a campaign that was already on the slide, grinding impressions to a halt. But personally, I’ve found this to be a non-issue as long as I keep pausing before the decline sets in.

I also like to create day-specific campaigns for my dating ads as another way of providing short term boosts to CTR that can also help to alleviate banner blindness. For example, “End Sunday With Her Phone Number” …followed by my buxom wench of choice, and a demand to register now before weekend registrations close.

As a general rule, I swear by lots of fresh high-CTR campaigns that I can alternate and switch out when necessary.

All this counts for nothing if you receive a grand total of 14 impressions, or spunk an entire budget on an hour’s worth of graveyard converting clicks. You’ve gotta know how to start the bidding, and in this regard, every affiliate has his own personal experience to draw conclusions from.

You can usually guarantee significant volume by bidding at the very bottom of the suggested bid range. So if Facebook is suggesting $1.11-$1.45, start your bidding at $1.11, and you should get plenty of clicks. For the overwhelming majority of CPA offers, Facebook’s initial suggested bids will prove utterly unsustainable. Over a dollar for a click to a dating offer paying out $5? On your bike, mon ami. You can tell the wife your summer vacation is cancelled at those rates.

However, and this is very important to consider, bidding at the bottom of the suggested margins gives you a window of opportunity to score a high CTR. If you can show Facebook that your ads are suitably click-friendly, the suggested bid margins will lower dramatically and your actual CPC will be a lot cheaper than what you tentatively opened the bidding with.

For affiliates promoting low-payout offers, the temptation is to scoop junk traffic by bidding way below the suggested price. It takes a certain quantity of steel in the balls to bid at 50% of your payout and still see profit on the horizon.

The problem with bidding significantly lower than the suggested price is that Facebook will only give you a very limited number of impressions, usually on lower quality pages, and if your CTR isn’t immediately impressive, that will be all she wrote. Unless your ad campaign puts the wowsers down your market’s trousers, it’s tough to sustain these types of campaigns.

There are some exceptions that I’ve noticed. Less saturated international markets and under 18 demographics are often easier to hit with low bids, presumably because the competition is lower.

I actually spoke to one affiliate who had the cunning plan of building an opt-in list of 17 year olds in the hope that he’d have a freshly plucked market of viable 18 year olds to send to dating offers in 12 months time. Scheming? Yes. Viable? No. Facebook does not appreciate the tactic, and I’m personally convinced that the dating advertisers would have harboured a few reservations about the quality of his leads too.

Full marks for creativity though.

Grooming for dating sites …the affiliate scumbag’s latest trick. Because no $5 registration is out of bounds!

If you’re wondering where CPM fits in to all of this, my opinion is that it doesn’t. Once upon a time, CPM was the most logical method of advertising on Facebook. Then Facebook decided that CPC campaigns should get first dibs on the best pages for ads – unofficially, but very noticeably – and the benefits in bidding CPM disappeared.

Some might argue that CPM still has a time and a place. Yeah, sure. For heavyweight brands who want their message on the page and don’t actually care about attracting clicks. There are similar exceptions for international traffic with CPM bidding, but even those are typically less profitable than the same campaign with a CPC bidding strategy.

As always, you’re welcome to take a giant dump on this advice by outing your own yacht funding CPM campaigns. I’d be happy to hear about them!

Recommended This Week

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  • My network emails tell me that YeahCPA is running a competition between now and August 5th, where practically any affiliate should be able to bagsy some nice rewards. Just $1000 commission required for a free Kindle, and $5000 for a free iPad. In cashback terms, that’s good cricket. Join YeahCPA to get involved.

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