The Traffic Source Doesn’t Suck, You Suck
How To Stop Thinking Like 95% Of Other Marketers

The Traffic Source Doesn’t Suck, You Suck

What do successful affiliates have in common?

Is it fast cars, heavy wallets and eyes shaped like dual-screens?

Maybe, but there’s something else. I don’t think you’ll find a single successful affiliate who hasn’t shown a good knack for understanding his traffic sources. It may be one traffic source, it may be many. But without that working knowledge, you’ll find it painstakingly difficult to generate profit.

Self-serve advertising platforms like Facebook, Plentyoffish and AdWords are enduringly popular with affiliates. I mark this down to two reasons. The ease of launching a campaign, and the abundance of case studies readily available for digestion.

However, these platforms are only a small segment of the online advertising space. A few affiliates have commented on my Facebook related posts saying that, actually, it’s not even worth bothering with Facebook these days. The big money is in advertising on display networks and nailing down media buys.

While I would disagree that Facebook is no longer worth the bother, there’s definitely truth to the argument that display advertising is a lucrative and sustainable replacement.

The problem with display advertising – and by twisted logic, the incentive – is that affiliates find it much harder to launch profitable campaigns off the bat. They become disheartened when the inventory shrinks at closer inspection, many of the featured sites refusing to run ads in popular affiliate verticals. They see CPMs of $3.50 that set the alarm bells ringing.

In many cases, the control panel itself is a sprawling mass of more options than a “no bells and whistles” Facebook advertiser could shake a stick at.

So the affiliate does what could be expected of him. He runs back to Facebook’s loving arms, willing to sacrifice the great unknown for super tight margins and bitching interns. Whatever makes you feel at home, right?

There are hundreds of traffic sources that can be called upon. Why do so many affiliates choose the same two or three? In fact, let’s elaborate on that. Why do so many affiliates settle for being mediocre on the same two or three?

I’ve linked to this article countless times, but it’s value never diminishes. So once again, here is a list of traffic sources that could keep you busy for the rest of the week.

Now, back to the question of what do successful affiliates have in common?

The answer is patience, determination and perseverance to cancel out distractions, take one of those ad platforms, and sponge up every last piece of information about it.

You can do this by signing up and hacking together a campaign to test the waters. I don’t recommend it though.

Have you seen what happens when you try to port a Facebook campaign to Plentyoffish? It doesn’t work. No two traffic sources are the same, so porting a campaign to another in the hope that it will become profitable straight away is very optimistic thinking.

Before advertising on a new traffic source, I like to contact my account manager and interrogate him for some perspective on what other affiliates are doing. This shows that I need direct results and that I don’t have budget to piss my message in to the wind on a branded hope and prayer.

Once I have a good idea of how suitable the platform is for direct response marketing, I’ll make a decision on whether I want to go ahead and inject whatever holding balance is required. This is a small step, but it saves me the bother of 2009 revisited.

2009 revisited? Yeah, having a leftover balance of $982.94 in seven different traffic sources after losing my Google account and depositing a grand in to every alternative I could find. Binge depositing is bad, kids.

If you’re going to try a new traffic source, it’s only logical that you extend it the same level of patience as you would with Facebook. If the first campaign bombs, you probably had a shitty campaign. Don’t blame the foreign traffic source for your own ineptitude or one size fits all marketing.

Gather some test data and then drop your account manager another email. Ask for some advice on how you’ve configured the campaign. Does it look right? Are you missing any obvious tricks that other affiliates are cashing in on?

As always, it’s necessary to measure campaign variables in a strategic manner. You can only do this with a clean slate. I’ve been working with an adult traffic source lately, and even though I’m dealing in the same vertical (dating offers), I’ve had to assume the identity of somebody who knows nothing. I split test variables that I needn’t even worry about on Plentyoffish because I’ve had time to key in those campaigns already.

Small details cause massive ripples of change. Imagine if you’d never played with the browser targeting on Plentyoffish, or the geographic filtering on Facebook. Christ, just imagine the carnage if you showed Facebook the same disdain that these new traffic sources receive when you can’t get your first campaign profitable.

Successful affiliates know this, whether they’re advertising on Facebook, AdWords or some shitty display network based out of the Angolan jungle. The money is in the detail, the planning and the execution. Learn the traffic source and you’re halfway there.

Recommended This Week

  • Above All Offers has been gaining some serious traction lately and if you’re not already registered, now would be a good time to get in the door. It’s run by some of the smartest guys in the biz, with a good selection offers, weeklies and laser fast support. If you were ever a fan of Blue Hat SEO (check it out, it’s semi-alive again!), you should know that Eli most definitely knows his shit. One of the early inspirations that attracted me to the industry, it seems that his network is going to end up just as well respected. Sign up, homes!

  • 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

  • New reader? Add Finch to your RSS.

How To Stop Thinking Like 95% Of Other Marketers

One of the benefits of being a “blogging personality” in the affiliate world, and hopefully a trusted one, is that a lot of people come to me with their best kept ideas and ask for my input. My inbox seems to attract some incredibly creative minds and it can be enlightening to hear some of the strategies that other marketers have devised. But for every innovative affiliate, there must be a thousand hopeless sheep.

A couple of years ago, it may have been possible to drag some bum off the street, teach him a trick, show him FTP, and hey presto – you’ve got an affiliate marketer. The barrier to entry was so low, and the competition so light, that anybody with half a mind for selling the bullshit dream could run wild with profit. Unfortunately, that’s no longer the case.

You can’t just plug in, profit and piss off anymore. There has to be method to your madness, because other marketers have upped their games to combat the rising costs of saturated traffic sources.

The key to success is no longer to apply some basic newbie guide, but rather to innovate and strike the market before your peers. The biggest money in affiliate marketing goes to the guys and girls who jump on an idea before everybody else. The problem is, there can only be so many ideas to go around. Having to innovate to survive is a scary thought because as we all know, moments of inspiration do not run on tap. They can be days, weeks or in the case of my good friends over at the Warrior Forum – cosmic light years apart.

But what too many marketers don’t realize is just how far one good idea can go.

Imagine being the guy who had that moment of inspiration and decided to submit a Facebook flyer with the simple title “Want A Girlfriend?” all those months ago. If I had to take an educated guess, I’d imagine that he probably targeted his ad to the usual 25-39 crowd in the United States. But because nobody else was cashing in on the same concept, it was easy money.

These days, entering the same market with the same simple concept is a challenge where most will fail emphatically. Those who succeed will have split tested until blue in the face, rinsed through a hundred different creatives, and probably still have trouble sleeping given the delicate margins between profit and loss.

Entering a saturated market means you have to be good at what you do. Damn good. So what’s the most logical business direction you can take?

Judging by some reactions, it would probably be to bitch, moan, and sob that Facebook doesn’t work. All the while glaring enviously at those who still seem to be profiting with the same god damn ads every single day. Isn’t it just a slap in the face?

No, the solution is to stop thinking like 95% of other marketers. If your to-do list reads like a bunch of tips from an affiliate marketing blog, then you’re not thinking far enough outside the box. You’re just one of the many sheep with the same list of ideas and the same half-hearted execution that will ultimately result in failure and more bitching and whining.

When I’m brainstorming new ideas, I like to ask myself – “How can I get rid of a few more competitors? How can I avoid as many other affiliate marketers as possible and still reach my intended audience?”

If I’m taking a dating offer, maybe my targeting doesn’t read like this:

United States

Because isn’t that what EVERY affiliate marketer will be thinking? You’re instantly competing with not only the established affiliates, but a thousand other newbies who’ve simply thrown up a “test ad” in the most obvious market. Thinking obvious gets you nowhere.

Let me just tell you that the single quickest shortcut you can take in the dating market is to switch that targeting from men to women. I guarantee that you’ll filter out 90% of the newbie slash retarded competition. You’ll still need to do a lot of work to find a winning concept. But it’s a step away from the obvious, a step towards your first untapped market.

Once you start taking those steps, it won’t be long before you’re marketing internationally, in foreign languages, to specific keyword subsets…carving your own niches out of the inventory. Whatever. Just know that if you’re doing your best and your best isn’t profitable, your best is not good enough. So move on and find a market which hasn’t already been raped up the arse by a thousand other affiliates.

If there’s one success story you should be listening to, it’s not that some dude is banking five figures a day on dating ads in April 2010. It’s that the guy who did it FIRST…had the easiest ride.

Do you want to spend the rest of your week scratching the margins, desperate to sustain a minimum CTR, because you know just how banner blind your target audience has become? Well, instead of split testing new titles, perving for 110x80s on Bing…why don’t you take matters in to your own hands? Find a market that every other affiliate and his dog hasn’t stuck his wang in yet.

Brainstorm your ideas, look at them carefully, and do the opposite. If you can stop thinking like 95% of other affiliate marketers, you’ll find yourself reaching markets that are still willing to listen to your bullshit.

Got a question for an affiliate marketer?

Seeing how I don’t like using AIM and emails get all too easily lost in the shuffle, I’ve opened a Formspring account where you can ask questions related to affiliate marketing, or whatever else tickles your fancy. No smart arses, please. I don’t like people trying to be wittier than me.

Click here to ask Finch a question

Copyright © 2009-.