My favorite method of learning something is jumping into it. I’ll usually start by reading all I can about a subject, then quickly try a real life version of something simple, then something more advanced….an “experiment” so to say.
So I wanted to try an affiliate marketing experiment in order to learn all about this industry. From what I understood, a lot of affiliate marketing had to do with creating effective landing pages and making people want to buy or take action. Basically that means out of 100 visitors to a web page, how many of them can you make buy/signup whatever. Since I run an e-commerce store, this appealed to me. Perhaps learning some of this affiliate marketing could help me increase the effectiveness of my own business.
For the month of October 2009 I decided to embark on this affiliate marketing experiment in my spare time. I first made a written list of things I wanted to learn from it:
- Learn why most affiliate marketers don’t go into much detail about their work.
- Learn more about what all this affiliate marketing stuff is about.
- Learn to make great and effective landing pages.
- Learn how to A/B split test landing pages using Google Website Optimizer.
- Further understand how to optimize paid keywords and conversion rates.
Even if my real life experiment lost money, this list contains some pretty valuable skills that could add much benefit to my own business. So it was decided, the month of October 2009 I would try an affiliate marketing experiment to see how this all works.
Start a Real Life Experiment of Promoting Something
So for the first part of this experiment I decided to try something really simple that could just be a proof of concept….just to if it could work. I wanted to do a simple campaign where I promote an affiliate link over Google Adwords. When someone clicks through to the ad and buys, I get a commission. So long as I spend less to buy the ads than my commissions ad up to, I make money. It works in theory, now to see if it works in action….
Step 1.) I had to find something to promote:
I could have either joined something like CJ.com or ClickBank.com to find affiliate offers to promote or find one myself. I decided to steer clear of the affiliate networks for this simple experiment solely to find something easy to promote without tons of competition doing the same thing.
I had seen some videos about this new thing called “electronic cigarettes” becoming popular in bars, and started Googling. I’m not a smoker, but this e-cig concept seemed like a brand new industry which has the potential to become big, but hasn’t yet.
I did a little research on e-cigarettes and first joined the BluCigs.com affiliate program simply because they had the best looking marketing material and easiest-to-buy-from website (See that link for BluCigs in the previous sentence? THAT’S an affiliate link in action! If you buy after clicking that link, I make a commission).
So now they gave me an affiliate link to place on my advertisements:
Whenever you click that link, it takes you directly to the BluCigs website and if you make a purchase after you click that link, I make a commission! Simple affiliate marketing in action. Understand?
I now have something to promote….e-cigarettes…and I don’t even know a damn thing about them.
Step 2.) Get some people to click that link!
I could either make my own ecigarettes site and build up a readership over time, but this is supposed to be a quick experiment, so the best way to get traffic is to BUY IT.
Since e-cigarettes aren’t such a massively popular keyword at this point, the traffic is was dirt cheap. I could pay $0.05 per click and still be in the top results (or only result) for many keywords.
I immediately made a couple of Google AdWords ads and posted them. Here was one of them:
Once again…Whenever you click that sponsored link, it takes you directly to the BluCigs website and if you make a purchase after you click that link, I make a commission! Simple affiliate marketing in action. Understand?
Step 3.) Make some moola
So now I just sit back and waste money on buying traffic to see if I make a sale. I thought this would take longer than it did, but sure enough in about 2 days (or maybe less, I didn’t check) I made my first sale! The BluCigs program gives me 20% of each sale, and it was a $59.95 sale, netting me $11.99 in commission….so far I’d only spent about $0.50 in ads! Pretty good return on investment!
This 24X return on investment was on an extremely small scale, so I was excited to see if that pace would keep up. However if it does, you see how certain people can make lots of money with very little?
A day or two later, I made ANOTHER SALE for $104.95, netting me a total of $20.99 in commissions! Even though this isn’t a whole lot of money, I was excited my dinky little experiment was giving a good ROI (return on investment). Using less than $5 I now made $32.98 back. At this point I still didn’t even really know what an e-cigarette was, but I was making money off them.
Step 4.) Get caught
Google first slapped my hand in the beginning of this experiment and and pulled my ad since cigarette-related terms cannot be advertised. I changed the text so it never says “cigarette” or any closely-related term:
This worked for two days, then Google denied the ad again saying the link-to URL was different than what was advertised (I guess since I had the referral link in it) so they asked me to change it. Unfortunately I couldn’t get Google to accept my ad anymore…..I’ve been doing an affiliate marketing experiment for only a few days and ALREADY I was caught for doing something shady! 🙂
Well, Google has a fair policy to ensure quality, so I decided an alternate and perfectly OK way of doing this….
Step 5.) Make my own domain
I bought a domain called BluCigsStore.com (if you recall the actually website is called BluCigs.com, without the suffix “Store”) and made an auto-direct script for the page to forward to my affiliate link. I immediately changed the banned ad to BluCigsStore.com and Google accepted the changes, I was back in business! This cost me about $19 to privately register the domain name (so my name is not immediately associated with it).
A problem I noticed earlier was if people browsed around the internet researching these BluCigs, they would invariably click on several affiliate links. Whoever was the LAST affiliate link gets the commission.
To help improve my odds of being that person, I made a simple frames page (just used a template in Microsoft FrontPage since I can’t even write simple HTML). Nothing shady or illegal about this, and it actually added some value to the customer because it makes it easier for them to navigate. I used Photoshop to make the graphic for the frame header, and FrontPage to create the simple frames page and picture-link the graphic.
Now when you go to BluCigsStore.com you see the normal store with a static header on it that doesn’t move. When you click around the site, that header stays up. If you want to navigate home, it has a button for that. It also has an EXIT button that is a link to my affiliate link:
Using the frame bar on my own browser made it easier to navigate the site for me, so I’m guessing other people probably found it helpful (and probably never expected it was an affiliate tactic…just part of the normal site).
So Google once again approved my ads and I started making more money…. To be continued.