The Traffic Source Doesn’t Suck, You Suck

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.

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