1
Why I Quit Launching Affiliate Campaigns
2
Convert The Unconvertibles
3
OUT NOW: A Complete Guide to Affiliate Marketing

Why I Quit Launching Affiliate Campaigns

About a year ago, I stopped launching affiliate marketing campaigns.

It was an easy decision, despite those campaigns being my primary source of income for the last decade.

As was the decision to quit this blog.

Well, as you can tell, I’m writing this.

Shutting my cakehole wasn’t nearly as sustainable.

Nevertheless, I thought I’d explain why I decided to get out of the CPA business. Maybe some of you can relate.

Why Give Up CPA?

To be clear, when I say that I stopped launching campaigns, I don’t mean that I abandoned affiliate marketing altogether.

I still have several toes and half a bollock in the affiliate industry.

What I gave up was the conventional CPA model of affiliate arbitrage.

That is:

Running ads on Facebook, Exoclick, PopAds, etc… Sending users to a landing page that forces an offer down their throats… Hoping to get paid more in commission than I lose in ad spend.

This model has made me a lot of money over the years.

And don’t get me wrong: it’s still a good model.

But I had several reasons for abandoning affiliate arbitrage:

  • Professional stagnation
  • Mental stagnation
  • Shifting barriers to entry
  • Desire to take more ‘ownership’ of my assets
  • Increased unwillingness to burn my bridges (and ad accounts)
  • Ten fucking years doing affiliate arbitrage

There was another factor.

Can you smell the billowing winds of change?

Or has my dog just farted…

When Affiliates Stop Talking About Affiliate Marketing…

I was listening to a keynote at a recent affiliate conference.

The talk was pitched around how to build your own product, whilst outsourcing the day-to-day management, and living happily ever after.

(Well, cheers mate. I’ll take ten quid’s worth…)

You hear more and more of this, don’t you?

“Build your own product…”
“Be so legit they can’t ban your Ads account…”
“Treat affiliate marketing like any other business…”
“Go work in an office…”

Hmm.

This would have been the prelude to a savage bottling had the speech been given at, say, Affiliate Summit 2008.

But times have changed.

“The difference between thousands of dollars and millions of dollars is building an asset, an ‘actual business’ that can eventually be sold — and what better way to build that business than by leveraging the remarkable powers of affiliate marketers?”

I’m paraphrasing here, but this is the grand takeaway in 2017:

Don’t be an affiliate. Use affiliates.

It’s funny because most of the room appeared to be sat in silent agreement at such an obvious idea.

And yet here we are…

At an ‘affiliate conference’.

Like preaching to the pigs that they’d be wise to move in to selling pork.

Only for the pigs to sharpen their knives with approval.

The industry has changed, clearly, and many affiliates are finding their interests piqued by topics that aren’t so much affiliate marketing, but entire business models we used to proudly avoid.

  • Developing products?
  • Dropshipping?
  • Ecommerce?
  • Building a large team?

“The indignity!”

These topics are front and center at affiliate events; they are the talk of the conference; but what’s so strange is how the traditional affiliate models we used to bumrush are falling out of fashion.

Affiliate marketing conferences are starting to look a bit like AA meetings.

Together we flock to celebrate tales of triumph, reform, and lucky escape, courtesy of successful ex-affiliates who still know how to slap together a completely irrelevant PowerPoint about PopCash.

We listen to ex-affiliates and never-been-affiliates drafted in as walking talking case studies to convince us that, yes, we too, can soon work on something that doesn’t involve ‘that thing’ that brought us here.

Namely: affiliate arbitrage.

The words lift us up.

We scribble hasty Evernotes.

“That’s it. I’m getting this shit together. I swear to god I am done hijacking back buttons. I refuse to refresh Voluum until I’ve mastered Shopify and White Hat Facebook™. NOPE.”

Nervously farting at the prospect of new frontiers is the state of affiliate marketing today.

Or, at least… it was for me twelve months ago.

One of those frontiers, a major rising trend in the affiliate space, is something we used to scowl at as the bloated ugly sister of get rich marketing rebills.

It goes to demonstrate the hilariously cyclical nature of our business, because that trend is called E-Commerce.

The Rise of E-Com

How about another flashlight, me old mucker?

Flashlight affiliate

If you’ve had your ears pinned to the ground — or simply not up your arse — you will have undoubtedly heard about the sophisticated funnel that has seen items like flashlights and survival kits blitzing every last corner of the social and native web.

While these offers have provided some excellent opportunities for affiliates using traditional arbitrage, they have also opened many eyes to a future after affiliate marketing.

To understand why, you need only look at the single greatest barrier to entry facing affiliates today.

Barrier to Entry: The Cloaking Economy

Generally speaking, arbitrage affiliates need to be cloaking to be competing on the largest platforms.

(The alternative is to be operating at a tremendous scale beyond the scope of most readers.)

No surprises there.

Personally, I don’t like cloaking campaigns.

Over the years, I chose to focus on niches and traffic sources where it wasn’t a prerequisite for profitability.

It’s widely accepted that to run the more ‘traditional’ types of affiliate campaigns successfully on Facebook or Google, you will need to cloak.

Sweeps, adult, casino, dating, anything related to a rebill… good luck running that shit naked, cap’n.

Previously, you didn’t have to cloak on the smaller platforms.

The Tier 2s.

There was enough volume to get profitable through fresh new offers (often unregulated), unsaturated markets, and novel creative angles.

My view is that, while this may still be possible today, the traditional lines of affiliate attack are increasingly leading to attritional bloodbaths — rather than the rampant profiteering that made them desirable in the first place.

If you are not willing to cloak, how do you compete with somebody who does?

Bear in mind, many of the most popular offers are ‘forwarded’ to affiliates precisely because the owners don’t want to get their own hands dirty.

Some affiliates, undeterred, are convinced of a middleground.

A grey hat nirvana.

They’ll ask:

  • Isn’t it possible to profit running White Hat campaigns but simply “pushing the envelope” to the edge of compliance?
  • Surely there’s a way to run aggressive CPA campaigns on Facebook, profitably, without risking an account ban?

Well, perhaps.

But what are you?

A fucking masochist or something?

This is the famed ‘guideline straddling’ that allows a Facebook rep to speak with a straight face to a room full of CPA affiliates and insist that yes, it really is possible to co-exist on our platform with just the tip of our penis in your arsehole. Be our friends. It’s worth it.

The truth is that not cloaking, for better or worse, increases the barrier to entry of large-scale affiliate marketing success.

And even if you do cloak… you can’t sleep any easier. Your ad accounts can, and probably will, hit the skids eventually.

So, how does this fit in with the rise of E-Com?

Well, as one door closes…

The barrier to entry for launching profitable affiliate campaigns has increased, but the barrier to entry for launching successful products via traditional E-Commerce has decreased.

Affiliates, over the last two years, have found themselves enviously glancing at other industries where the potential for rapid growth is just as big, and the payoff arguably even greater…

Many trends have aligned:

  • Platforms like Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, Teespring and others have brought total convenience to selling online.
  • Crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, GoFundMe and IndieGoGo have erased entire start-up costs (and cannily allowed entrepreneurs to pass risk on to the consumer).
  • Marketplaces like Amazon FBA have opened up insane ready-to-tap economies of scale.
  • To top it all, any Tom, Dick or his sister knows how to source cheap products from China.

Whichever way you look, there are companies — start-ups and giants — making it easier than ever to bring tangible products to market on a scale that matches the potential of rapid wealth accumulation associated to affiliate marketing.

Consider some of our biggest pet peeves:

  1. Caps
  2. Lack of exclusivity
  3. No control of the funnel
  4. Requirement to cloak ads
  5. No tangible business to sell
  6. No ability to project long term growth

Who wouldn’t want to sample post-affiliate life?

There is a price, of course.

Many affiliates, including myself, have come to accept (through gritted teeth) that our best efforts can be multiplied exponentially only with the backing of a good product.

The likes of which are seldom found in the CPA space.

Good products.

I know, right?

Affiliate Summit 2008 and they’d be sticking a fork in it.

Good products are the inevitable future of affiliate marketing for anybody who cares about advertising on Facebook, Google, etc.

So, while the affiliate industry of today is becoming harder to penetrate without a competitive edge — such as cloaking — many affiliates are deciding that to commit to a competitive edge, they might as well take ownership of the product itself.

It’s the carrot of more work for a considerably bigger reward.

Of course, an explosion in E-Commerce doesn’t have to come at the expense of affiliate marketing.

As a few gajillion flashlight sales attest.

What’s changing is the incentives for the individual.

Turn back the clock ten years and one of the reasons why we LOVED this industry was because we could try X on Monday, Y on Tuesday and Z on Wednesday. Get rat arsed on Thursday. Sleep on Friday.

It was easy to sling shit at the wall and something would stick.

These days, the big opportunities in affiliate marketing punish such a lackadaisical mindset.

It doesn’t take a genius to see how E-Com is turning so many affiliate heads.

It offers the same flexible terms, minimal risk, and insta-scalability that brought us to affiliate marketing in the first place.

With the added advantage that you can build your own asset.

And share a bed with Facebook Ads.

I expect a slow exodus of arbitrage affiliates as the platforms we love work harder to clamp down on products that customers do not.

Not because of ‘failure’ on the affiliate’s part.

But rather a better payout elsewhere.

Seriously, though…

My decision to step back from this blog, from writing about affiliate marketing, and from actively launching campaigns day-after-day… was rather simple.

I got sick to fucking death of it.

Who wants to be doing CPA forever?

One person, and I’ll tell you his name:

The Gingerbread Man.

The Gingerbread Man

He loves flirting with destruction, does the Ginge.

And in affiliate marketing, so do we all.

Which is why I asked myself:

If you don’t want to be doing CPA forever — and you’re successful enough to choose what you do — why the hell are you doing it today?

I did an excellent job of finding acceptable answers to that question over the last decade.

Answers that allowed me to continue focusing on A/B tests, without ever applying such a concept of open-mindedness to my own career.

My tendency to identify as somebody who focused only on CPA — rancid arbitrage and Voluum stats roulette — had become self-limiting.

And it was liberating to finally say:

Fuck it. This is utter bollocks. What’s next?”

Well…

It’s been a fun year exploring the opportunities beyond affiliate arbitrage.

Successes, failures, wake-up calls and all.

‘What’s next?’ is underrated.

Convert The Unconvertibles

There’s a lot of advice in the affiliate marketing world about how to build profitable campaigns.

Some good, some bad, some as healthy as a fist in the balls.

Much of this advice shields affiliates from the elephant in the room:

That no matter what we do, only a small percentage of our campaigns will end up profitable.

Probably something like 10% for most affiliates.

20% if you are well prepared, or exceptionally lucky.

From those winning campaigns, an even smaller percentage of the traffic turns in to leads and sales.

Let’s say you have a 10% success rate in campaigns launched.

And for a successful campaign, you have a conversion rate of 2%.

90% of your campaigns end up in the bin.
Of the remaining few, 98% of the paid traffic is left to rot.

The unconvertibles.

Users that you paid for but will never see again.

What can we discern from this colossal wastage?

There isn’t an affiliate marketer in the world that converts more traffic than he loses.

And what else?

We seem to be okay with that.

Affiliates tend not to worry about the traffic that got away.

Especially when they are winning.

When they are making money.

This attitude is embedded in a testing philosophy that goes like this:

  • Launch campaign
  • Ask: “Is it profitable?”
  • If yes, carry on.
  • If no, ask: “Will it ever be profitable?”
  • Continue in loop until answer is “Absolutely fucking no.”
  • Proceed to forget about campaign.

There’s a famous myth that the average human uses only 10% of his brain.

(It’s not true.)

In affiliate marketing, the data is your brain.

And I’m afraid the myth is all too true.

We have a natural bias to focus on the bright spots of campaigns; the 2% of conversions in the 10% of campaigns that whisper, “Money not wasted.”

And forget quickly about the failures.

Pretend they never happened.

For our sanity, it’s better to focus on turning 2 conversions in to 3, lifting a CVR from 4% to 5%; bumping a CTR from 20% to 25%.

This work occupies the brunt of our day.

We call it ‘optimisation’.

But the numbers suggest that a quantum leap in performance is only possible by asking questions of our zeroes column.

Which is precisely the column that most affiliates ignore.

The traffic that doesn’t convert, has never converted, and still wouldn’t convert if you took names, addresses and helicoptered each user in to personal submission.

What can we do with unconvertible traffic?

I’ve spoken a lot over the years about what I call ‘dual-purpose campaigns’.

My belief is that one of the greatest competitive advantages an affiliate can obtain is the ability to filter traffic intelligently.

We don’t always have control of the traffic that we buy.

But we do control where it ends up.

By filtering it well.

Affiliates seeking profitable campaigns by monetising 2% of their paid traffic are at a massive disadvantage.

When a rival learns how to monetise 3% of the same traffic.

The problem is, you will never obtain this quantum advantage if your business is 100% guided by creative optimisation.

The hard labour.

  • Changing landing pages.
  • Testing new banners.
  • Doodling new calls-to-action.

These actions are only effective within the parameters of traffic that might have converted in the first place.

And that is the minority of your traffic.

So tackle a different problem:

How do I increase the overall percentage of traffic that is convertible?

And the answer?

Use your imagination.

Like every successful affiliate.


comguideRecommended This Week:

A shameless sales pitch, that’s what.

I released A Complete Guide to Affiliate Marketing two weeks ago. I didn’t know how much interest to expect, but it has smashed my expectations out of the proverbial nutpark. The feedback has been immense.

Thanks to all who snapped up copies.

And those of you who didn’t?

Grab one now, sit back, and put your eyes out with 370 pages of enough filth to drown a medium-sized kitten.

OUT NOW: A Complete Guide to Affiliate Marketing

Complete Guide to Affiliate Marketing


In case you thought this blog had died and gone to Heaven Hell…

Nope!

I’ve been scribbling away in the darkness and I’m relieved/delighted to finally announce:

A Complete Guide to Affiliate Marketing

The book has just dropped in my store.

First question, how is it different from the Premium Post series?

This is a cohesive start-to-finish, step-by-step guide to affiliate marketing.

It is a 419 page beast that tackles the complex issue of how I would teach somebody to make money from our industry.

There was an amazing response to Premium Posts Volume 2015, but the biggest criticism it faced was that people wanted more structure.

They wanted less nuggets, and more actionable advice.

I’ve had numerous requests for coaching, mentoring and private consulting along these lines, all of which I have refused.

I’m not interested in coaching.

What I can offer instead is this guide: a one-size-fits-all breakdown of the skill sets, philosophies, and challenges you will face if you wish to become a successful affiliate. And how I deal with them personally.

The guide is roughly split in two.

The first half gets newbies and rank beginners up to speed.

The second half ventures in to advanced marketing philosophies that should prove useful, and lucrative, for any affiliate.

I have included some of my own campaigns as examples.

You will see the logic behind their conception, the launch process, the optimisation process, reaching profit, and how I go about scaling.

Update: Unsolicited Feedback Since The Release:

No affiliate trust testimonials, right?

Here’s some unsolicited feedback I’ve collected since the launch of the guide.

ACGTAM


What’s in the guide?

74,314 words, 419 pages, and a lot of swearing.

The Reality of Life in the Affiliate Marketing Trenches

A sweeping look at the affiliate industry; the different business models; the personality disorders affecting us all… and everything you’ll need to succeed.

Intelligence: What You Know, Who You Know, and Why It Matters

A map of the dynamic relationships that will affect your success (or failures) as an affiliate. How to build an intelligence network that massively increases your chances of launching profitable campaigns.

A Complete Guide to Offer and Vertical Selection

Every major vertical in affiliate marketing analysed and assessed for difficulty and potential reward. Insider tips for promoting each vertical.

Going Mobile: The Biggest Moneymaking Opportunities Revealed

Everything you need to know about the Mobile revolution and how to run successful campaigns on the mobile web. Offer types analysed, best practices revealed.

Essential Types of Traffic: How to Make Them Work

An assessment of the major traffic types (and their various traffic sources), rating each for scalability, difficulty, barrier of entry and more. Recommendations provided for each.

The Creative Mindset: How to Turn Hits in to Conversions

A massive sweeping assault on the moneymaking process behind successful landing pages, banners and creative funnels.

How to Develop a Successful Campaign Optimization Philosophy

How to go from losing money (or breaking even)… to making money and laughing like a maniac. A practical look at how I optimize my campaigns, including the order of testing priorities.

A Template For Launching Successful Campaigns

The checklist behind every successful campaign I launch. (In my opinion, the most useful content I’ve ever released.) I’m including it, in its entirety, from start to finish. Follow every step and your chances of making money will improve dramatically.

3 Campaign Launch Examples

100 pages of follow along examples where you can sit back and watch what happens as I launch three campaigns on three different traffic sources — examples include campaigns for display traffic, popunders and native ads.

The Principles of ‘Super Affiliates’

How do you take the next step and become a super fucking duper affiliate? I’ll show you the key principles and what you can do to make the jump.

Moving Up: Thinking Big and Beyond Affiliate Marketing

This is the long-term strategizing that many of us ignore. How can you leverage affiliate marketing to build a successful career for the next 30 years?

Finch’s Extensive List of Affiliate Marketing Resources

It was already a monster list. It’s now updated with even more tools and resources for 2016. A genuinely fat burden on your hard drive.

Want Extras?

That’s good, I prepared some for you.

You will also receive:

  • Cheat sheets detailing each traffic type.
  • Cheat sheets detailing each vertical.
  • An editable copy of my Campaign Launch Checklist for you to use, improve and abuse as you so wish.
  • A special 170-page ‘Best of Premium Posts‘ compilation, including previously unreleased material.

What’s in the Premium Post Compilation?

Here are the contents:

  • Revealed: The Pay-Per-Call Gold Rush and How You Can Blow It Up
  • My Tips For Cost Efficient Testing
  • How to Win a Traffic Bidding War
  • 1 PPV Dating Angle That Magnetizes Eyeballs
  • CraigsList Marketing: A Shameful $XXX/Day on Autopilot
  • Jesse Willms and the $467 Million Dollar Landing Page
  • A Guide to Local Slang (and Super High CTRs)
  • Rules Psychology: How to Make It Pay in Every Niche
  • Agents of Persuasion: The Path to Skyrocketing Conversion Rates
  • Profitable Angle Creation Made Easy with The 7 Deadly Sins
  • How Laziness Destroys Campaigns And What You Can Do About It
  • How to Build a Performance Marketing Agency

Altogether, that is over 100,000 words and 590 pages of highly flammable affiliate marketing advice packaged in to the most comprehensive guide on the planet.

You are welcome to scour the web for a better introduction to affiliate marketing.

I’ll bet my left bollock you won’t find one.

Enjoy the read!

Cheers,
Finch


Copyright © 2014.