Payday Loan Blog - Affiliate Marketing
Yesterday while leaving the grocery store on the way home from work I noticed something on my windshield. While my first reaction is the usual "son of a f*#$* as*(#$* sh#$@%">sh#$@%* jerk" [yeah, like a sailor], I thought I'd take the opportunity to see if any interesting marketing ideas could be gleamed from the brute force marketing approach being employed.
I laughed for about 5 minutes straight. Why?
The person leaving the flyer was trying to sell me a payday loan, but if that weren't enough, the URL used was of the obfuscated CJ.com variety…seriously, 70+ characters that would have been nearly impossible to fully type in due to the recent rains occurring in the Phoenix area.
There are some important affiliate marketing lessons here:
1. Know your market - the parking lot of AJ's probably isn't where your target consumers are hanging out.
2. Know the medium - if you are trying to sell something online, and are using an offline approach, you need to make it as simple a transition as possible. The 70+ character URL probably won't get you any consumers…it got me to check, but only after a couple tries of mistyping the damn thing to make sure you weren't promoting us.
3. Know your product - financial products and services usually require a higher trust factor for a consumer than something like buying a book, the reason being the type of information required in order to complete such purchases; a sketchy flyer on a windshield with an insane URL is a very low signal of trust.
You gotta love affiliate marketing; it takes all kinds.
We’ve all heard the phrase that it isn’t what you know, but who you know. I personally encountered this saying multiple times back during my undergrad years when I was interviewing with guys like Deloitte, Compaq, and KPMG. A person could be brilliant, but lose out to someone with better connections (i.e. nepotism); it was usually the difference between an offer and an interview elsewhere.
As we get more ingrained in our respective industries, especially true in affiliate marketing, it isn’t just who you know, but who knows what you know, and who they know. Yes, it is a mouthful, but worth understanding.
My mother-in-law and my mother are both heavily connected in medical communities; as a proxy relationship, I know a lot of “who” individuals. However, it doesn’t do me much good because they really have no concept of what it is I do for a living, yet alone why my firm is better than company X, etc. If I were a newly minted doctor, it'd be striking gold, but I'm not (and I hear about that decision at least once a week).
That takes care of the importance of the first two pieces, and now the final. Let’s say that you know a lot of “who” individuals in your respective industry since you’re ancient, but they also understand what it is you know that makes you so special. This is a fantastic step, and if you are at this point in your career, you’re bound to be successful…now for the clincher and the whole point of social networking (the kind that mattered, before the likes of Digg): it is all about who they know. Metcalfe’s law is very, very important and will open up a sea of opportunities if you know how to use it to your advantage.
Below are some people in our industry that you should get to know for connections, that you should aspire to show off your unique talents to, and whom can probably connect you to an unbelievable amount of other contacts you might not even be aware of. Did I leave a lot of people out? Yes, but mainly because by connecting to these individuals, you are likely to run into the rest due to the size of their respective networks.
If you can impress just one of these people and can show that you are worth doing business with, it’ll make all the difference.
Initially the plan was to talk about where search engines might be in 10 years, who the big players might be, etc. I still want to do that, but I wanted to broaden the discussion to touch on more topics relevant to the affiliate community, since I believe other topics will significantly influence how the game is run. Below are a collection of some thoughts on the subject.
1. SEO and domaining will converge leaving zero distinction between the two; it makes far too much sense for SEOs to understand that as search evolves, the exact match (non-hyphenated domain) will have the highest likelihood of being the most relevant, everything else being equal. For domainers, to ignore a channel as big as search is silly…because of this I expect to see quality search agencies getting gobbled up by large domainers and large search agencies buying small to medium-sized domain portfolios.
2. Unsolicited commercial e-mail will shrink. As the intent understanding increases, and the message can be determined on the fly to be commercial versus non-commercial, a series of AI elements should be able to figure out whether you wanted it or not. Consider that the three most popular e-mail addresses are held by the three biggest search engines, and you'll see that the necessary AI advances will have to be produced anyhow. White listing services will be worth their weight in gold.
3. Search will remain an oligopoly, with 4 major players and little else outside of it. Google, Microsoft, eBay and Amazon. Google remains primarily due to their current status and edge, developing algorithmic solutions based on the world's content and historical linking data, with relevancy that varies the way that slot machine payouts vary [and for the same reason]. Yahoo will continue to purchase social media and community-centric networks, eventually showing more and more signs of financial stress, resulting in the company being unable to quickly tie the networks together; Microsoft will help ease the transition by purchasing them outright…the Yahoo/MSN brand is up for grabs, but Microsoft will slowly pull the data together, determining relevancy across and breadth and depth of user data that Google will not have (though they'll be close). eBay's purchase of Stumbleupon, integration of Skype and Paypal, and increased understanding of global markets will make them the number 3 player in search, as the premiere shopping engine; future purchases of shopping agent technology may also be necessary. The number 4 player will briefly be IAC, but after years of trying to make ASK a success in its own right, the technology will be sold to Amazon, who integrates the small but growing community into its own network, competing more head to head with eBay than either Microsoft or Google is capable of doing.
4. Text-messaging, IM, and E-mail will converge; the choice of communication will either be instantaneous or delayed, largely due to when a person is willing to carry on communications - they will grow to become a commercial communications platform, complete with voice and video. A person will have the ability to communicate hidden or in view, silent or aloud. Privacy and unconnected time will be but a flutter of a memory.
5. Affiliate networks will be replaced with affiliate platforms, which make it easy for offline companies to create boxed solutions complete with CRM, the benefit being it will be harder and harder to distinguish between the ultimate retailer and the actual affiliate, especially among the savvier affiliates that corner market after market. While the easy money will likely have disappeared much in the same way it disappeared after each Internet gold rush, there will still be a wealth of riches to be made by those capable of thinking differently and pushing limits.
6. Television and streaming online video will be essentially the same thing; leaders like Comcast will attempt to tie up the cable line monopoly, but intelligent distribution companies like Google, that have been buying up dark fiber and wireless distribution rights, will be able to circumvent the strict scheduling process that the outdated paradigm currently upholds. Entertainment will be real-time or it will be on-demand; product placement and internal advertising will replace commercials; Youtube and its future peers will replace ABC, NBC, CBS, et al.
7. Word of mouth will still be the most effective way to gain mindshare and build a lasting brand.
For those of you not intimately involved in social media, there was quite an event unfolding this evening on the popular social news site Digg.
It began with a story containing a HD-DVD key, which according to the DMCA is illegal. Digg, as a business, acted to remove that post.
Cue Russell Crowe yelling "unleash hell" because that's exactly what happened. Posting multiple stories and voting them up as quickly as possible, under the pretense of a revolt revolving around free speech and rallying against censorship, many Diggers made their voices heard.
Where do I as a person stand on this issue? Well...Digg is a business, Digg.com is owned by Digg, and the DMCA, while arguably an inane law, is still a law. Digg did what was right, and now Diggers are showing the world what many outside the cynical community already knew: it is time to grow up.
Does that mean that dissenters should have their accounts deleted? For simply dissenting, no. For posting illegal material? Yes. Hopefully this will all blow over soon so Digg can go back to just hating us SEO types and burying useful information without actually reading the content.
Update: Digg decided to ignore the C&D, for better or worse. Personally, I don't think it was a good idea to take that stance, and think it is even worse that he publically took that stance, given the ammunition the opposing lawyers will now have.
According to 7search, it looks like our industry is once again popping into the list of high keyword payouts, which isn't that unusual given the influx of competition (both on lead purchasing and lead selling).
At first glance one might be willing to say "wow, I should just throw some Adsense on the page and collect my money in the payday loan industry", but you may recall that I previously explained why I thought private label affiliate programs are better than Adsense. Does this explanation still hold up? Oh yeah.
First, from an affiliate's point of view the big question is: what am I getting paid?
If you are able to survive quality score updates, smart pricing, and have a premier site, you might crack that $4.50/click range, sometimes, maybe. Is that really what you can expect to earn? Not really.
You see the quality score updates and advent of smart pricing didn't exactly benefit the advertiser or the affiliate; it was a profitable move for the network. Before quality updates and smart pricing, it was possible to sell space on your site, hoping to get matched with quality content, which is not a given no matter how big you are. During that match, you were given a split of the proceeds with Google. Well my affiliate friend, times have changed. Nowadays, that split you get will be determined on a sliding scale, depending on whether they deem the quality of your site high enough - if it is in their interest as a for profit company to get as high a percentage as possible, what do you suppose happens?
If your answer to that is "I bet I don't get close to $4.50" then you'd be correct. That per-click is the ideal outcome, but in reality, doing a fair amount of testing, I know that it is usually not even ¼ of that, and for sites that are definitely of a high quality and relevant to the end user.
It hasn't been a walk in the park for advertisers either; while the smart pricing hurt honest affiliates trying to sell traffic from their site, quality score updates hurt advertisers trying to buy that same traffic. It was bad enough not knowing where the traffic was always coming from, given the lack of transparency woven into the Adwords system, but now the amount charged has a tendency to increase for arbitrary reasons hidden under the pretext of CTR, ad relevancy, and landing page relevancy. The same question is posed again - if it is in their interest as a for profit company to charge as much as possible given their higher percentage split from smart pricing, what do you suppose happens?
The answer in the short-term is that Google makes more money at the expense of both buyer and seller; the long-term answer is that both buyer and seller will move into more private label affiliate arrangements, where both know exactly what they are getting.
Don't be fooled by the search engine in sheep's clothing.
The Internet continues its constant churning, with heightened deal-making over the past few weeks. What do you make of the following?
eBay acquiring StumbleUpon?
CLEAR CHANNEL in advertising deal with GOOGLE?
Google to Buy DoubleClick for $3.1 Billion Cash?
Now, not everything above is a done deal and is certainly subject to change, but it reminds me of a different time, one that looked like:
eBay acquiring Paypal?
Ask Jeeves in advertising deal with Google?
Google to buy Pyra Labs (Blogger)?
Every few years in business there is an expansion, followed by rampant consolidation and excess VC funding, and then ultimately digestion and contraction; these business cycles aren't really anything new, and because of that, it can be possible to use them to your advantage.
In years of expansion we see little fishes get their start, among a sea of bigger fishes that don't pay them much mind. Why not? The larger fishes are a battled scarred from previous cycles, not paying much heed to these new nuisances; the larger fish are really only concerned with the other larger fishes. Time passes and those little fish start to bulk up a bit, maybe swimming faster and further than some of the bigger fish…suddenly, one of them gets eaten. At that moment, one of the larger fish just got a bit larger than the other fish, which frightens the others, fueling a furry of ferocious fish feeding. After that frenzy finishes, the remaining fish are bloated and lumbering, barely able to move…many die. Time passes and new fish come along.
While a bit cynical, that analogy isn't far from the truth, where companies at some point begin to buy anything and everything remotely related to the buzz phrases of that particular business cycle. Just 8 years ago it was a search for more eyeballs, without concern for profits. After the consolidation and digestion period, purchases were slower and the companies of the time that launched were uninteresting (read: profitable). Now the cycle is in full swing again with bubble 2.0, with the bigger fish again snapping up a variety of unprofitable companies that have a large number of social eyeballs.
Okay, okay. How do you make money in all of this craziness?
I don't advocate ignoring your core business because that business is likely the reason you are even in business (convoluted enough?). Instead, it might make sense to spend 10-20% of your time on a new buzz-related concept, building a tiny fish that looks like it might just be something a larger fish would eat…granted, the original larger fishes would likely sniff that venture and pass on for something more substantial, but the newly larger fishes that are on an eating binge generally don't taken into account true value - the logic seems to be that if it looks sort of like food, even if it isn't, chomp. Hook. Line. Sinker.
Just make sure your 2.0 clone is easily spun off from your core assets so you can go back to really growing your business in the wake of the feeding frenzy, and if you don't actually get eaten, don't worry. Why not? Most acquisitions have a negative combination value, meaning that your venture at some point very well could have a value greater than the originators of the concept; by the time the next business cycle is coming around, you could be one of the first to be eaten.
Everyday, before I leave the office, I make sure my three lists are ready. These three lists keep me focused; these three lists keep me profitable.
When I was younger, I'd often try to develop an insanely large business concept that'd require millions upon millions of investment and years of implementation. The result? I was pretty good at making business plans. That's about it. Thankfully, in between launching new ideas I happened to read an autobiography of someone I've now forgotten, whose simple lesson for success was to create three lists labeled revenue, costs, and everything else.
Obvious enough at first glance, the only tasks that one is able to place on the revenue list are tasks that will directly result in an increase in revenue. "Write business plan" would not fit on this list if it cannot be directly linked to an increase in revenue, nor would "negotiate better hosting rate". What would make this list? Using an example of a young affiliate looking to finally make money online after toiling in corporate America, signing up for a top notch affiliate program would be a revenue-centric task, as would designing a landing-page for the eventual traffic, and purchasing an e-mail list.
Again, the obvious title of the list implies that items on this list are geared towards reducing costs. "Write a business plan" probably won't save you any money at the end of the month, nor would signing up for that high performing affiliate program, but "negotiate better hosting rate" sure would, provided your host is willing to negotiate.
If it doesn't directly result in an increase in revenue or a reduction of cost, it belongs here. Cool widgets that your customers may like on your website (that you aren't charging for), buying posters for the walls, reading 17,349 seo and affiliate forums without a clear purpose or objective in mind…these are all tasks that you may like to do, but can't justify them.
All things being equal, each day should begin with you trying to cross off as many of the tasks as possible for increasing revenue and cutting costs. Some people will advocate increasing revenues first in the early stages of a business, focusing on the costs only after the business is established, and for the most part I agree with that idea; if you cut your monthly hosting bill in half, but don't have any websites live to sell your products, it doesn't really do you a lot of good.
What happens if you should mark off all these tasks for the first two lists? Think of some new tasks. If you do it correctly, you'll never run out of tasks on either the revenue or costs list, because new opportunities will continue to present themselves to you, allowing you to grow, profitably.
As you become more comfortable in your list creation and execution, add a new wrinkle…$. If you can estimate off the top of your head what a task will make you, or save you, you'll be able to bounce back and forth on your two most important task lists, doing what is necessary to increase your overall profit. The beginning levels will still make you money as you focus on the correct general direction, but see this like a tactical smart bomb as opposed to the carpet-bombing approach to profit above.
Additionally, it will become necessary to revisit the "Everything Else" list from time to time, because after second…third…or twentieth consideration, that task may in fact be directly tied to either increasing your revenue or reducing your cost. The "Write business plan" item could conceivably increase revenue if an acquirer of businesses was eyeing your operations but would only consider purchasing after viewing the business plan; also, if your operations are as focused as the sunset light hitting the Pacific ocean, writing a business plan could help you to trim costs. However, I consider those the exceptions rather than the rule, and should only be entertained after using the first three lists exclusively for a period of time.
These lists have helped me over the past decade or so, and I sincerely hope they can help you too.
One of my pet peeves in business is to see an individual with potential refusing to live up to that potential; usually it revolves around the person not valuing his or her time by working on tasks that won't either increase revenue or cut costs, but sometimes I have to wonder if people simply don't know how much they are worth.
How much is your time worth?
1. Fast-food restaurants in the Phoenix area are starting to pay $10/hr because no one wants to do that type of work, a factor of supply trying to reach a moving demand curve.
2. The average American salary in 2005 was $39,795, or $19.13/hr, roughly double what the fast-food joints a few blocks away from me are offering.
3. A super-affiliate that earns the minimum five-figures a month makes $120,000 a year, or roughly $56.70/hr.
What do the above statistics mean to you? Does it enrage you, or does it engage you to do something about it?
The affiliate marketing game is still very new and has a lot of room for new players that are capable of adapting to the ever-moving cat and mouse game, so why aren't more people entering the wild west atmosphere that is our industry?
Sometimes we don't act until we are forced into a corner; maybe if you quit your job and force yourself to make a living online, it'll actually happen. Away goes the pointless business plans full of graphs and charts, projections and forecasts, in comes actually doing something to generate income.
Next I'll talk about my three lists.
How's that for a title? Before I get too deep on why I think private label lead generation affiliate programs will outperform Google Adsense CPA from the affiliate perspective, some great points have already been made here, here, and here.
One of the scenarios discussed above by the Daily Domainer is that a free-for-all environment may be created with literally thousands of affiliate programs openning up to automated content MFA sites that will be paid differently than before, with a greater focus on conversions (CPC affiliate managers that aren't currently looking at the conversion data available to you, shame shame). Will this hurt MFA sites that are already using Adsense? Maybe. I am open to the possibility that the conversions from this type of traffic are good enough to warrant a switch-over from the PPC format to CPA within Adsense, but I can assure you that MFA developers watch their core stats closer than most affiliate managers I know, so if there is a dip, expect a flight to quality (or in this case, more sign-ups at Panama or an opt-out of CPA ads).
How will it affect higher quality sites like direct navigation based portals and SEO/SEM landing page programs? Jeremy nailed this one: CPA fraud is likely, on the affiliate management side of things, as the conversion data isn't that difficult to fake…look at it this way, with Google Adsense CPA, you might make more than the original Google Adsense PPC model, but do you know which programs you are even promoting? How can you track to see which programs are saying your traffic converts at 5% and others at 0.5%? If they pay the same $/lead, I'm betting you'll have a hard time tracking that down.
The customization and industry-specific monetization issues are also likely to be nightmares for serious affiliates looking to get into the payday loan affiliate market. Do you want to tweak your own graphics, tailored to your own site? With a private label program that likely won't be a problem, but with Google you'll probably get stuck with the same tired creative or a text link that doesn't exactly scream "this ad was editorially chosen by me for you because it will enhance your user experience on my site." As for the industry-specific monetization, forget about it. The top guys in most financial industries use some form of XML ping/post capability in order to maximize both the placement percentage and $/lead for the leads they generate; I'll go on record right now to say that I don't expect Google to even consider offering something like this for another 3-4 years, and by then, our industry will have evolved into more efficient mechanisms for the acquisition and sale of customers.
In short, that's why we at the PLAN will outperform the Google Adsense CPA, hands down. On one hand, I'm disappointed in how they are going about the launch and execution of their eventual affiliate network, and on the other, I'm elated. If you'll remember, I had a few thoughts on why affiliate programs are better than Adsense; what I expect to see now is a lot of marketers that have been married to PPC, testing out the CPA waters, and getting hooked on the increased profits. Whenever something like that happens, quality programs with good reputations flourish.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list, but is something I was pondering since I've been called the usual due to my peculiar ways: insane, crazy, weird, odd, most likely to build a lair in a volcano, etc.
Thankfully, I'm not alone. Exhaustive research (read: 10 minutes of randomly pulling up blogs) has revealed the following about how weird we marketers are. In some cases I found it more fitting to just pull an image, because they explain those thousands of words that escape me.
1. Some of us don't watch traditional television. Really. John doesn't, and neither do I. I bought a big screen for my wife, but find myself either reading or working on one of the computers.
2. Since I don't watch television for the "content", I periodically check out the commercials to keep up on the advertising. If I had a Tivo, I'd find myself skipping the shows and just watching the commercials.
3. My typical wardrobe consists of a free t-shirt and an old pair of shorts/jeans. Aaron Wall of SEO Book exemplifies this adage of the most important people dressing as though they are the least important. Forgive me Aaron, but I found this image with you and Wendy hilarious.
4. Some marketers want change the world and some just want to mess around with the world while having a little fun. Drinkbait, win a date with a seo? Yep, that's Chris.
5. There appears to be a direct correlation between an unhealthy obsession of well-marketed brands and marketers. Case in point: VM campers, Guinness, and Disney.
6. Just like advertisers that don't consume the media they create, some top online marketers can't type or no write with good grammer.
7. A lot of us idolize Weird Al; some choose to rewrite his lyrics.
8. Cynicism and satire abound with most of us, especially with regard to mass media and large sites/companies, but how do I compete with this though? Quads is king there.
9. Some marketers find clever ways to do everything through mediums, even be romantic.
10. I read absolutely everything I can about everything, because I never want to be the last in the know, and yet I still find myself rereading things from some that are consistently the first to know. Andy Grove was right about the paranoid surviving.
11. The walls of my office look like John Nash was up for three months straight looking for patterns and the office garbage can has the empty Diet Coke cans to support that theory. Search marketers in particular have to understand the why of what is changing; some of us just so caught up in it that it consumes us.
Know of some really weird things marketers do? E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll add to the list along with a link to your site.
Just for fun I thought I’d look into the random ads served up by Google Adsense on social networks. For those of you new to Adsense, the way the contextual advertising works is by examining on-page content and then attempting to match it to the most relevant advertising; it isn’t perfect of course, but sometimes it is downright hilarious, especially for some of the whacky first page stories.
Click the image above for a larger view.
Okay, I can understand writing articles for cash; that’s pretty targeted. Health insurance though? Maybe the Adsense bot thinks diggers are unemployed and need benefits before making a trip to the emergency room to remove super glued VHS tapes.
Click the image above for a larger view.
Alright, once again diggers can get paid to write articles, waste time filling out surveys, and…Christian news? The tagline is classic: “View the latest world news in the way you already view your world.” Wow. I’m pretty sure this ad doesn’t get the best conversion rates from Digg; no wonder churches need so much money.
Click the image above for a larger view.
Um…that’s a sort of delicate topic right now; how should I put this…not even close.
What’s the funniest contextual result you’ve ever seen? The problem with contextual advertising is that it is unable to determine intent, so in the case of social sites with a love for satire, such as Digg or Fark, the intent is very difficult to determine, and thus the ads are not ideal.
My suggestion to Digg would be to ditch Adsense and choose an affiliate program that caters to its techno-savvy, humor indulgent audience.
If you caught our post regarding the books we read recently you may remember that one that I read was Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb. In the book, Nassim describes various situations where profitable traders are wiped out by what he refers to as a Cygnus Atratus, or a black swan event. In essence, these are events that are capable of destroying a career's worth of wealth and positive history.
So why am I talking about a book that focuses on randomness/luck, numbers, and trading patterns? Mainly because I see many businesses everyday online that are particularly vulnerable to a Cygnus Atratus. In other words, I think people need to pay more attention into developing defensible traffic. Rather than technique and specifics, I aim to provide a thought process for doing so.
Imagine that you are a small company on the web that receives 90% of its traffic from Google, and of that, 80% comes from the single search phrase, loan. In this simple example, Google dumping your search result is your black swan event. It needn't be a delisting, just a SERP move of a few pages. How do you overcome and survive this Cygnus Atratus? Most will probably say to diversify link text, vary content, yada yada yada, with the end result being a site that ranks for multiple phrases. That gets past the first black swan event, but exposes you to another in the event the site truly is delisted, or is simply penalized due to some scraper activity. Take it further and some will say to develop multiple sites to catch as much of the available search traffic for your industry's taxonomy. Better, but what if your privatized WHOIS fingers you as someone with a network of sites? Or if your dedicated server goes down?
It isn't that solving one event leads to another; in reality, it is very similar to what happens when a manufacturing plant adopts just-in-time procedures. On the surface, it may seem like JIT is creating problems, but all it is really doing is exposing problems that already existed, much like an iceberg becoming more visible if the water around it is drained.
Mentally solving these successive black swan events will force you to examine every conceivable flaw in your business model, to the point where you'll find yourself developing what I like to call nightmare scenarios. As you might imagine, these are scenarios where you pick several black swan events, on paper, and make them all happen. For an example, let's pick that small web company again. This time, let's say they've grown to 10 employees and have 50 sites in a variety of sectors, with a clean non-interlinking structure, getting traffic from a variety of sources (search, PPC, e-mail, word of mouth, etc). It seems much better than the first example, but what happens if a malicious employee modifies the WHOIS e-mail and tries to hijack all the domains, at a time when your e-mail hits a snafu and is no longer white listed, over a weekend where the company credit card is stolen and PPC must be halted? Everything comes to a grinding halt.
This isn't really meant to scare you, only to prepare you. By envisioning nightmare scenarios, chalked full of numerous black swan events, and then solving them to the best of your ability, you will be leagues ahead of your competitors. In terms of likelihood, occam's razor holds true, and the simplest of the scenarios will ensue, in which case you'll already be ready for them with defensible traffic and can take the in-depth knowledge about how your business works, that most people never develop, to the next level.
Your friendly neighborhood Cygnus Atratus,
In this week's round-up of what we felt were the best blog posts / forum threads on affiliate marketing, and anything else that might be relevant for marketing payday loans, we decided to do something a little different and highlight some social networking searches. This week we focus on Reddit and all the interesting submissions related to "affiliate marketing" we could find in the last week.
JonK was going to do a post about some of the books on his desk a while back, but he is caught up in the middle of a couple projects and is going on a ski trip this weekend, so I thought I'd be nice to
steal his idea help him out. The idea is, what do you read to help you become successful? Well, that list is exhaustive, for a few different reasons 1) a some of us here read a LOT and 2) I have a bad little habit of dropping books on people's desks and implying that reading that book will make them better at what they do.
To keep things relatively short and sweet, I decided to just take down the books from the desks of the three people blogging on the Affiliate Blog, versus trying to poll the entire office. In is interesting, to me at least, the types of material found. If what we read is the reason we're successful, then the aspiring affiliate marketer might want to develop competence in coding, graphic design/art theory, and a host of whatever miscellaneous marketing and random science / software topics that I find myself reading. Keep in mind, this is just what is on our desk, as of right now. If people want more, we can try and put together something that aggregates every design book we ever liked, every coding book we ever liked, every sales/marketing/leadership/management/how not to be abducted by hitchhiking aliens/etc book we ever liked.
Don't worry, I didn't use affiliate links, and yes my office is pretty messy.
Blumey (Design / Art & Layout)
Eric Meyer on CSS: Mastering the Language of Web Design; Eric Meyer
CSS Pocket Reference; Eric Meyer
The Non-Designer's Design Book; Robin Williams
Professional Photoshop: The Classic Guide to Color Correction; Dan Margulis
Agile Web Development with Rails; Dave Thomas, David Hansson, Leon Breedt, and Mike Clark
Intermediate Perl; Randal Schwartz
Learning Perl; Randal L. Schwartz, Tom Phoenix, and brian d foy
Learning PHP 5; David Sklar
Perl Cookbook; Tom Christiansen and Nathan Torkington
Perl Pocket Reference; Johan Vromans
PHP Cookbook; David Sklar and Adam Trachtenberg
PHP Hacks: Tips & Tools for Creating Dynamic Web Sites
Rails Recipes; Chad Fowler
Ruby For Rails: Ruby Techniques for Rails Developers; David Black
Spidering Hacks; Kevin Hemenway and Tara Calishain
JoeSinkwitz (A blender of random literary tastes and subjects)
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking; Malcolm Gladwell
Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People's Minds; Howard Gardner
Dot.con: How America Lost Its Mind and Money in the Internet Era; John Cassidy
Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and Markets; Nassim Nicholas Taleb
Futureshop: How the New Auction Culture Will Revolutionize the Way We Buy, Sell, and Get the Things We Really Want; Daniel Nissanoff
Hacking Del.icio.us: Web 2.0 Building Blocks; Leslie Michael Orchard -- don't read too much into that.
On Intelligence; Jeff Hawkins
On time! On track! On target!, Managing your projects successfully with Microsoft Project; Bonnie Biafore
RSS and Atom in Action; Dave Johnson
Small is the New Big, and 183 other riffs, rants, and remarkable business ideas; Seth Godin
The Business of Software: What Every Manager, Programmer, and Entrepreneur Must Know to Thrive and Survive in Good Times and Bad; Michael Cusumano
The Search, How Google and Its Rivals Rewrote the Rules of Business and Transformed Our Culture; John Battelle
The Secret Language of Competitive Intelligence: How to See Through and Stay Ahead of Business Disruptions, Distortions, Rumors, and Smoke Screens ; Leonard Fuld
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference; Malcolm Gladwell
Read up and enjoy!
In this week's round-up of what we felt were the best blog posts / forum threads on SEO, affiliate marketing, and anything else that might be relevant for marketing payday loans, the skew for us was mostly on domain news on this issue. This week Aaron explains issues with scrapers much better than I did, Dailydomainer scoops the launch of Psychic Whois, Domain Editorial lets us know that we should get ready for .com/.net price increases, and and Domain News thankfully reports that we don't have to deal with increased censorship via the .xxx tld.
New Directory, URL, & Keyword Phrase Based Google Filt& Penalties
Preparations for the COM/NET price-increase?
Rather than give you a top 10 list that you might forget 2 minutes after reading it, we at the PLAN wanted to share our top 11 affiliate marketing lessons, encompassing the wide spectrum of elements that is affiliate marketing. This is what I (Cygnus) do when sitting down and saying to myself, "I feel like generating more passive income streams."
By no means should you simply stick to this process; allow it to act as a guideline, and by all means, employ it after signing up for our sub-prime finance affiliate program.
What are the steps?
1. KW Research.
2. Finding and buying a domain.
3. Hosting the domain.
4. Semi-parking the domain.
5. Seeding the site.
6. Finding the right offer(s).
7. Develop the graphical shell.
8. Develop the content.
9. PPC to find your money phrases.
10. Embark on your SEO strategy.
There are a couple different ways keyword (KW) research is generally performed. The most traditional approach focuses on examining the most likely phases used and some of their long-tail cousins which we explained in our KW Research post, and the other less-used method involves looking for common misspellings as explained in our missssspelllings post. One way that you can really cast a large net is to employ digging techniques into your KW research. After searching for something like 'widgets', you'll have a large list of KW phrases; then run each of those phrases through your favorite KW research tool until you have a large mass of phrases. Finally, run those through a misspelling script in order to generate a massive list of potential KW phrases that you can use.
Finding and buying a domain
New or used? I prefer used, but that shouldn't discourage you from finding a gem that no one has thought to register yet. In the event of new sites, you could take that giant list of KW phrases, strip out the spaces, append .com, and run them through a bulk registration process, like Moniker or Godaddy has, to see if any are still available. Note: you probably won't want to buy all of them, since purplewidgetssouthcarolinafastonline.com probably isn't going to give you much direct navigation traffic. Another method that I wish I had thought of 5 years ago involves locating the top non-trademarked sites, and running them through Psychic Whois - just buy the .net of a taken .com and you're good to go.
If you want used domains, there are a variety of methods to find a site. You could…search WHOIS for older sites that were once relevant to your industry but are either 404ing or are now lacking DNS information, find sites that are ranking in the deep abyss of Google, past the first 100 results, or you could use an aftermarket service and/or webmaster forum. After "finding" them, you then need to negotiate on an appropriate price.
Hosting the domain
Shared or dedicated? IIS or Apache? For most of what we do, we prefer a LAMP setup, usually on a dedicated server. If you are just starting out, it usually makes more sense to open a shared account at your favorite shared hosting service (I really have no recommendations here since I'm generally dissatisfied with shared hosting). We'll keep this setup simple since it usually feeds into our next step; just remember to keep an eye on your hosting account.
Semi-parking the domain
Semi-parking is a term I use to describe setting up the .htaccess properly to handle www vs non-www issues, block obvious junk bots, etc. It also usually involves putting up a properly SEOed plain jane text site with proper title, meta tags, and a few relevant unique paragraphs of information. The goal here is to create something that isn't going to be immediately spit out of the SERPs, and that wouldn't completely discourage links. If you have as many projects going as we do sometimes, it can be a huge pain to realize you've been holding onto an unhosted, undeveloped site for several years, when it would have been so easy to semi-park it and reap the benefits of an aged, on-theme site. If you wanted to take this a step further, you could put Adsense on the site in order to develop a baseline for its earnings, just don't use it as your entire monetization, because Adsense is a terrible business model for websites.
Seeding the site
Sprinkle a pinch of links and bake at 350 degrees for 3 hours, or until nicely browned. Seeding the site means pointing just a few basic, non-spammy links to the semi-parked site in order to get the aging process going. We just need enough to get the site indexed. We aren't trying to use link ninjas at this point.
Find the right offer(s)
If you are looking for the best payday loan affiliate program, look no further. Doing something else? Time to explore the market! There are quite a few affiliate networks out there, and while most new affiliates find themselves on CJ or Linkshare, I really recommend researching more than that. It isn't a bad place to start, per se, but if you are looking to develop a passive income stream, you want a program that is stable, has a solid payment history, and no funny business regarding tracking/uptime/etc (for those reasons I tend to shy away from CJ and I never use Linkshare now). I have a ton of respect for Linda in this area, so definitely check out her picks of the top affiliate programs.
Develop the graphical shell
I call this process developing the graphical shell because we have a tendency to design the site layout before filling it with content. There are a variety of issues to take into account when developing this way, such as the proper use of whitespace, choosing the right color combination, and how you will highlight your call to action. Although we call this process our graphical shell stage, we still do some content, such as appropriate ALT tags, and placement for proper headers. Don't upload this shell and overwrite your semi-parked site though - we've accidentally done that a few times. Oops!
Develop the content
Now that you have a shell site, you can see more or less the areas that need the most content. If you used your massive KW phrase list as a guide to help you during the shell process, good for you, because it'll be that much easier to write naturally for some niche phrasing. If you get stuck thinking of what to write about on those pages, consider looking at your log files to see if you've been getting any search traffic, and the queries associated with that traffic. Just keep the content as unique as possible. Still need help? More on article writing.
PPC to find money phrases
Your site is now complete, polished, and tested, to make sure that links to the products/services are actually getting tracked and conversions where applicable. Awesome. Now it is time to figure out where you should be focusing your SEO campaign by conducting a quick PPC campaign. You can choose to use Adwords or MSN Adcenter; if I need a quick test, I choose Adwords since I generally get more traffic and data points to use - I use MSN for longer tests since I can go deeper into an industry at less of a cost. The key here is to take that massive KW phrase list, and upload it, pointing to your specific product purchase page. In the event that you have multiple products, try to keep the KW phrases as on-theme as possible, so as to not skew your numbers. Run the test and you'll be able to see fairly quickly which phrases are really delivering your traffic, and if you setup conversion tracking, which are converting best for you. If you made a profit during the test, keep the PPC going. Otherwise, pause it, running the test again after a set period of time, just in case the market has changed.
Embark on your SEO strategy
Your site is complete, and now possibly tweaked to better fit your money phrases, and now you want to start optimizing for the engines. If you're new to this, read everything you can, digest it, and test. To keep it passive, by now you should know how much a targeted visitor is to you, and can estimate how much traffic you might be able to get (due to the KW research and PPC testing); run a simple calculation on what you can afford to outsource your link-building and writing if necessary, and if a positive ROI exists, congratulations on your new passive income stream.
By profit I mean repetition and automation. If you have a positive ROI by doing 1 site, how much do you think you'd make with 1,000? The trick is keeping them unique and something the end-user actually wants. If you can create such an operation, send me a postcard from the beach during your relaxing retirement.
In this week's round-up of what we felt were the best blog posts / forum threads on SEO, affiliate marketing, and anything else that might be relevant for marketing payday loans, we found ourselves returning to some old favorites that really just keep getting better. This week Shoemoney had Brian Axe from Google Adsense on his radio show, Randfish explains why he thinks online advertising needs to evolve, Bill Slawski thankfully tries to air out the abundance of edu spam going on right now, and Jim points out the sad reality of new sites and their ranking issues.
Brian Axe From Google Adsense On Net Income
Online Advertising Needs to Evolve
Web Spam on University Sites
Sorry, I won't do SEO for your new website
In this week's round-up of what we felt were the best blog posts / forum threads on SEO, affiliate marketing, and anything else that might be relevant for marketing payday loans, we wanted to again chose from our fantastic Payday Loan Affiliate Mybloglog Community members. This week symbiotic explains how online word of mouth is more powerful than its offline counterpart, pranavchavda breaks the news (at least to me) about Microsoft's possible paypal competitor, zamrin reports on the fallibility of the 5th data security algorithm, and mikemora describes the issues facing local businesses as local search grows.
Microsoft to launch paypal/Google checkout competitor?
Confusing, Costly Choices Ahead For Local Business
It has often been discussed at length that some industries are more competitive than others; to make use of WebmasterWorld lingo, it isn't difficult to rank for "Scottsdale blue widgets", but it can be difficult to rank for "widgets." In that particular discussion, the issue revolves around marketing for the long-tail of search, however there are some industries that are even more difficult to SEO for, to e-mail for, or even to run PPC ads for. What are they, and why is it so hard?
Why? Prior abuse, selective moralization, and subsequent abusive controls. As my friend Chris Hooley is fond of saying, "there are only 50 top 50 verticals"; since the best marketers and the biggest amateurs tend to gravitate towards where the most money is, one can imagine that a competitive marketplace will overtime see its fair share of e-mail spam, quite a few in-your-face-not-following-Google-guidelines tactics, and in some cases, outright fraud. Almost all competitive industries on the web go through this constant cycle of growth and purging, where the strongest survive and where the opportunistic money either vanishes when the latest tactic runs dry, or flourishes when that money is reinvested into establishing a long-term presence.
Okay you say, that might explain prior abuse: where there's quick money to be made, there's opportunistic and temporary thinking that falls outside of the tit-for-tat social framework that keeps competitive marketplaces somewhat decent in appearance. Does that mean that all top 50 verticals are stepchildren industries? No. Even though marketing flowers and gift baskets online to me is a top 50 vertical, I wouldn't consider it a stepchild industry, because it doesn't fall victim to selective moralization.
Selective moralization, if I can be so bold as to coin a proper definition of it on a blog that focuses on the how-to of selling payday loans, is the partial or incomplete moral stance taken, often for personal gain and/or out of fear of retribution. We're all seen selective moralization, but let's see it in practice by looking at five examples of stepchildren industries.
1. Adult Entertainment. Legitimate adult sites are difficult to get legitimate links for, and in some cases are even refused service that is available to any other industry, such as hosting. This is the easiest example of selective moralization at work, and is almost entirely borne out of fear of retribution. If a hosting company has an adult site that isn't playing by the rules, the hosting company fears that it might be shut down. Why are they afraid? Let's just say that at times some government officials have pornography on the mind - let's face it, cracking down on adult entertainment is a popular subject for many a politician.
2. Online gambling. This industry is oozing with hypocrisy and selective moralization both for personal gain and fear of retribution; Quadzilla said it best in his ongoing analysis of what has happened and what will happen with online gambling. In summary, the question to ask there is who will benefit the most from a
permanent temporary ban on online gambling.
3. Pharmaceuticals. Typing in a phrase referenced before in a previous post, we can see a few different things happening: 1)a whole lot of spam in the organic serps and 2)a whole lot of PPC spam that doesn't make a direct reference to the specific pharmaceutical being sold. So we can see that it is profitable and competitive, but is there any selective moralization taking place? You better believe it. Just reference this famous philosopher to see why a lot of people look at you funny if you push pharmaceuticals online.
4. Sub-prime financing (my favorite). Sub-prime loans can be difficult to market at times because they are looked upon less favorably by larger financial institutions, despite that some of the biggest banks make most of their money via hidden fees and other such trickery. Need more proof? Just try getting a link from a high profile site like Business.com if you're a payday loan site.
5. SEO. SEOing for SEO in an SEO adverse environment; it is true that a large majority of laymen and novice webmasters see SEO as nothing more than glorified spamming -- unfortunately, when industry partners such as search engines don't step in more to highlight the positive aspects of SEO and its benefit to the end-user, the spam label continues to grow, and SEO as an industry has a more difficult time attaining its legitimacy outside of its sphere of influence. If Wikipedians and top Diggers don't trust us, who will?
Are you in a stepchild industry? Is your site on this exclusion list? Taking an alternative approach to traditional online marketing is probably your best bet to get started. By focusing on the undeveloped and underdeveloped niches within your vertical, you can slowly creep your way into the primary phrases, or I suppose you could just settle for all the traffic that social media seems to be spinning off these days.
In this week's round-up of what we felt were the best blog posts / forum threads on SEO, affiliate marketing, and anything else that might be relevant for marketing payday loans, we once again chose from our continually growing Mybloglog Community. This is working so well for us that we plan on doing it again next week as well! Just join up and drop a note on the community board for articles that could really benefit your peers. In this week's weekly list, Frantic describes his views on the Digg story life cycle, WilliamC covers mistakes you must avoid at all costs, gcarswell explains why you need to quit planning and start doing, JamesOmdahl helps you to ensure that contextual advertising doesn't get the better of you, and tazmanias points out some issues to improve your e-mail conversions.
Quit Planning & Start Doing
Most affiliates that apply to our program write a line or two in the comments section regarding how they intend to market cash advance offers; sometimes it is just to say something along the lines of "I'll be sending PPC traffic", "I'm a SEO", or the always fun "I bought a list of 57 gazillion e-mail addresses that expired back when Netscape Gold was the premier browser; you will pay me millions, right?"
Some of the comments are pure genius, some are humorous, but some truly are worrisome. I worry because I fear that some new affiliates don't have an angle; this isn't necessarily a lateral thinking issue, though lateral thinking would help to determine an angle. This is a competitive research issue; this is knowing your audience; this is basic business.
For a poorly thought out analogy, let's pretend that instead of marketing loan products an affiliate is a single guy at a bar, looking for a date. What's your angle there? Yes, it is crude, but as you'll see it fits…
Nice Guy? Bad Boy? Rich Guy? Handsome Guy? Nerdy Guy? Each is a persona, a role, either fabricated or based on who we actually are. The nice guy is showing you that he'll respect you (translation: easy to get along with). The bad boy is showing you everything you can't have or in some way don't want (translation: you always want what you can't have and some like a challenge). The rich guy is showing the prospective date all the things he can afford (translation: all the things he could buy for her). The handsome guy is showing that he is without surface flaws (translation: good genes). The nerdy guy…well…I'll have to get back to you on that one.
So, how is any of that different than trying to figure out your audience and then market appropriately to it? As marketers we are trying to present ourselves in such a way that a person feels the "need" to purchase the product/service. By being true to our heavily researched niche, to our angle, we'll have a higher success rate. The guy that tries to be the nerdy handsome nice bad boy is probably going to come off as being fake, and thus not get as many "dates"; the nerdy guy that is trying to get a date from women he believes would rather date a nerdy guy has a chance (theoretically, if my college experience is an indication). The affiliate marketer that is trying to sell a prospect on the "need fast cash?" concept via targeted e-mails has a chance to do well, but if that same e-mail is coming off as one of those "we'll make you prettier, get you quick cash, do your laundry, and occasionally take out the garbage on Monday morning" the marketing message is lost because the signal message of "get you quick cash" is lost in the rest of the noise.
Tying this back into the affiliate application comments we receive; here are some ways that you can find an angle, and stick to it.
If you try to target "payday loan" as an affiliate, you may wish to reconsider. The CPC can be outrageous at times, and the very top players are the lenders themselves (i.e. deeper pockets, with a higher allowable CPC break-even point). Instead, let's develop an angle…what's your favorite major city? Let's develop a landing page specific to that city, making it appear local. Now, since you have a niche landing page, you should back-off on the broad PPC, instead choosing to geo-target and bid on city-based phrases such as "[Favorite city] payday cash advance", etc. Once it is running, you can expand your niche by developing the process and replicating it for other cities and other landing pages. Whatever you do though, don't try to market too many products and offers on these landing pages; keep it focused and your wallet will thank you.
Going to try and get to #1 organic search for "cash advance"? I hope you make it, but it is tough…very tough. There are certainly SEOs capable of doing this, but if several hundred SEO firms (yet alone the thousands of affiliates) are gunning for this phrase, what is the likelihood of achieving it? You could just as easily develop one of those niche landing pages with a SEO perspective, turning it into a true city destination. Aggressive local search optimization is the subject for another post, but it does work. If you try to expand outward on that single message to include multiple localities, multiple offers, multiple "needs", then your message gets clouded with an abundance of noise, and your true intent is questioned (in other words, fewer commissions).
We covered this example earlier, but the simple and focused e-mail message of something similar to "overnight cash advance" when sent to a key demographic is going to vastly outperform some of the garbage spam I currently get. One example I received today was a blast for "wholesale flowerpots" - I'm not kidding; this was a WHOIS spam, but boy is that an untargeted group…I delete that stuff, but some people will go out of their way to turn that in, boycott untargeted messaging, etc. Keep it focused on the right message, and the right audience.
Not to be confused with the 800 lb gorilla that we all aspire towards, I've seen some remarkably unfocused guerrilla marketing and some excellent examples of it. Auto sign-ups to thousands of forums that post initial "come get a payday loan" may result in some leads, yes, but it'll likely cause a lot more of a headache if your affiliate manager starts feeling heat from it. The good example? Sign up for our program and list in your comment that you want to know about the good guerrilla example and I'll tell you. ;)
Ever since contextual advertising
reared its ugly head was made available to the general webmaster population, we've seen countless threads in various search marketing forums and blogs over the use of Adsense, YPN, and other contextual programs, questioning whether or not it even makes sense to use such programs.
Noting our obvious bias as a company that makes money nurturing affiliates, I still find it difficult overcome the following points that extol the advantages affiliate programs (especially private label affiliate programs) enjoy over contextual advertising.
1. Ad blindness
One of the biggest issues currently facing Adsense, and any marketing tool that is overused really, is that the target audience becomes effectively blind to ad copy. Consumers became blind to banner ads, and according to heat-map studies by Jacob Nielsen, consumers may now be becoming Adsense blind. I blame a lack of variance allowed in the ads as the main reason this occurs; there are layout options, but Blumey would probably point out that these differentiations are so slight that they probably account for proper usage on perhaps half of the ad-ready sites out on the web.
2. SEO ranking conspiracy theories
While I don't like to feed into conspiracy theories and would rather just own stock in Reynolds than actually wear it as a hairpiece, the conspiracies of suppressed rankings still abound, with some seemingly more plausible than others. Rather than go into them, it is easier to just search for some Adsense conspiracy theories.
3. On-theme, on-target, on-the-money
If you're running a pretty generic site without a defined demographic or a specific person you're trying to reach, then by all means throw some Adsense on there, but how many sites really fit this model? If you're writing about payday loans, and you put Adsense code on there to earn some click rev, do you know how much you're even going to get paid? Quality scores have been pretty subjective at times, so it can be tough to say; even at its best though, the amount per click is usually going to be a lot less than what you could get with a specific payday loan offering via a reputable payday loan affiliate site. The same argument could be made for just about any niche; find a good affiliate program and you'll be offering a specific need to your specific audience.
Hey Adwords/Adsense arbitragers, remember this? Yeah…good times. But wait, you say, doesn't Y! Marketing and MSN Adcenter --> Adsense still work? From what I understand, yes. However, drawing once again upon point #3, there is far more money to be made doing an arb job from Yahoo, Msn, or Google to an affiliate program when using highly specific affiliate offerings; a certain man with the skills to pay the bills has made this plainly clear. Travel up the foodchain!
5. Spam footprinting (MFA)
I was tempted to group this under point #2, but think about the obviousness between spam detection and footprinting. What do most made for Adsense (not made for affiliate, mind you) sites look like? Take a hard look at a couple dozen examples of MFA sites and ask yourself, "do I really want to create a footprint similar to these sites?" I'm not saying using Adsense will cause you to get lumped in with RSSGM-type MFA sites, but the more footprint diversification you can do, the better. If you are using similar templating features, why not choose a more unique monetization method that will at least result in less off-site duplicated content?
6. Blending, images, and click here now!
Policies governed by some affiliate programs are more lax than programs such as Adsense. Don't put images next to ads because it might make people click more? Granted, that is a CPC versus a CPA issue, but if you are a member of our affiliate network, I want all the traffic you can possibly give; sales is a numbers game - the more visitors that you give me, the more I have a chance to convert. I can't cash a 80% conversion rate on traffic, but I'll take 1000 visitors at 50% conversion over 10 visitors at 100% conversion all day long. Don't encourage people to click or use incentivized offers? Ouch. Some of the best performing affiliate programs out there let you use incentivized offers; again, affiliate managers want all the quality traffic you can send.
7. Send an e-mail
Speaking of send, don't forget that e-mail is still a very effective marketing tool when used properly. Adsense won't let you embed ads into the HTML of your newsletters, but an affiliate manager that you've gotten approval from to do e-mail marketing will probably let you. Develop an opt-in list of people that might want payday loans? Great, send them an offer.
When it comes to making money with your payday loan site, choosing a contextual advertising program will just result in leaving money on the table; pick a top payday loan affiliate program, and grow richer in 2007.
In this week's round-up of what we felt were the best blog posts / forum threads on SEO, affiliate marketing, and anything else that might be relevant for marketing payday loans, we decided to do something a bit different, opting to select posts from our growing Myblog Community. We're going to do the same thing next week, so for consideration of your post, just join up and drop a note on the community board for articles that could really benefit your peers. In this week's weekly list, Bill has an interesting patent take on Microsoft's voice search, Joe Whyte discusses various ways to get links, Andy covered me (sorry, shameless plug), Cornwall SEO covers Mybloglog spam issues, and Neil talks about del.icio.us pages.
Dialing Microsoft for Voice Search
15 types of links and how to get them
HOW TO KNOW IF YOU ARE GETTING MYBLOGLOG SPAM
Making your content Del.icio.us
Hi. My handle is Cygnus and I'm a lateral thinking SEO.
There have certainly been some interesting posts lately about the cyclical debate over white hat vs. black hat SEO, which lends itself to debates over whether SEO is easy or hard. Having been in the industry more or less since mid 1997, I've had the fortune (or misfortune) of seeing these things time and again, but then, like others have mentioned, this isn't particularly unique to SEO. I'm fond of saying that the pendulum is constantly swinging between ignorance and arrogance; whenever I feel myself getting a bit too big for my britches, I can almost expect to feel like a fool. That said, there is a divide in our industry, and one that should be addressed more than it is.
Some might call our divide as nothing more than understanding competitive webmastering, which isn't a bad description, and some will stick to WH vs. BH; I am beginning to think of it more as those that have the ability to think differently and those that unable / unwilling / do-not-need to do so: lateral SEO vs. traditional SEO.
I don't want to get into whether or not SEO is easy; it is like saying CSS layout is easy or hard - if you learn a skill and practice it for a while, it'll become easy, and so long as there is a sufficient demand for that skill, market forces dictate what can be charged for that skill. Since SEO, web design, programming, and a lot of these fuzzy fields are so difficult to quantify in terms of skill and a non-commoditization of the basic skill sets has not occurred as of yet (and probably never will), the rates charged will be all over the map like miniature plastic soldiers during a game of Risk.
What I do want to say is that some people will take the base rules of any system and will try to do whatever they can to become optimal within the boundaries of that "explained" system. I'm using the word explained here because it is rarely the case with any system that the explanation is comprehensive. This has been called white hat in the past, but I don't like that term because it implies naivety; in truth a better description might be conservative SEO or traditional SEO. In many cases, this is what I would suggest people do for non-competitive phrases and for heavily established brands. Again, note the choice of words here…non-competitive. If one were to try to rank using the defined rules in various industries, the end result will not be pretty, unless the brand is heavily established already.
So what about black hat? All that really means to me is using the unexplained rules of the system. It isn't evil, it isn't fraud, and it isn't hacking. To do any of those previous nasty things would be outside the scope of aggressive, competitive, lateral thinking search engine optimization. Understand that and stop trying to divide the industry in such black and white terms (of which their descriptions are so aptly defined). A lateral thinking SEO will do what makes sense within the explained rules, but will then say to him or herself "I'm in a competitive industry" and/or "This is not an established brand", and then follow up with a very important "What can I do that will set myself apart within a search engine's algorithm?" If you dumb down what a search engine is to the level of a single database with a single data table, and a couple hundred fields, then it is easier to see what is happening. At any given point of time in an algorithm's evolution (yes, they evolved, get over it…from bubblesort no less!) certain variables are going to be weighed more heavily than others, and some that fall into certain ranges are going to be treated as red-flags. Thus, lateral thinking SEO from the perspective of someone like me is to say to "when that giant sort button is pushed, how can I make sure I rank for something like payday affiliate?"
That's all fine and dandy you say, but how does one go about developing lateral thinking? I don't think of this in white or black terms either; some people really are gifted lateral thinkers, and some admittedly will start out with the traditional mindset and Forrest Gump themselves into thinking differently as a means to survive. If you find yourself more in the camp of Forrest Gump, don't worry, you and your rankings can be like peas and carrots again if you observe absolutely everything you can, digest as much information as you can, become a skeptic that experiments, take risks, and learn from your failures as much as your successes. One very quick way is to take a look at that various industry again - I don't even feel the need to point out specific methods being used because that will just date this post more than my love for polka music; the phrase is extremely competitive. Go back a few years and those lateral thinkers were stuffing meta tags, then they were stuffing keyword density, then links, then "quality links", then authority domains, etc. The point is, the evolution of the system will dictate the explained and unexplained rules. Choosing to play with the system may ultimately result in a site no longer being listed in the search engine, but that is the market risk, and perhaps why some people label lateral thinking SEOs as black hats. At that point the algorithm has evolved once again (hurray for quicksort), either eliminating the variable manipulation factors previously in place or simply moving them by overweighting another set of variables with adjusted ranges on the variables that just got you banned.
As a conclusive point, lateral thinking and its implementation does have varying degrees. For this site I'm not about to copy the above industry example and mimic their practices because I want this site for the long-term. This isn't to say that I'm not thinking laterally though, or that this site would be considered pure snow white hat. Remember those variable ranges and their weighting; moving within those unexplained ranges as they change can help to ensure longevity, while helping to rank in moderately competitive markets, which is what I'd consider the payday affiliate industry. Understanding and selectively employing methodologies learned on both the search engine guidelines and search system architecture side of SEO is what lateral thinking is truly about, transcending white or black, potentially making the hard look easy (which is easy to forget if you've been doing something for a while).
Good luck in your lateral thinking SEO journeys!
In this week's round-up of what we felt were the best blog posts / forum threads on SEO, affiliate marketing, and anything else that might be relevant for marketing payday loans, we're lucky enough to not only have found the best posts of the week, but the best posts of the year. All done; dial up 2008 now…it's okay, I can wait…alright maybe not. What did we learn this past week? Adsense probably won't pay you nearly as much as we can on targeted traffic, Shoemoney ponders what would happen to Matt Cutts if he ever left Google, Rebecca details some of the problems Adwords newbies run into, Jim explains a common domain scam, and Chris somehow manages to equate SEO to reptiles.
Guy Kawasaki Uses Google AdSense - Leaves Money on the Table
Would You Hire Matt Cutts?
Google AdWords is Giving Me a Headache
Many say Liberty Names of America are Scammers
In this week's round-up of what we felt were the best blog posts / forum threads on SEO, affiliate marketing, and anything else that might be relevant for marketing payday loans, it is not surprising that many of the best posts are introspective, looking into where 2006 took us and where 2007 might take us; pay close attention to the world around you and you might just make gobs of money...
Emulating Top Ranking Anomalies
From the Front Lines: Mobile Marketing Predictions for 2007
As the year end draws near, we are often given pause to reflect upon our previous goals and how our performance compared with those goals. In addition to the obvious monetary goals, I particularly enjoy trying to gain insight into market disrupters, and use these giant "what if" scenarios as possible changes that may occur in the next 1, 2, 3+ years down the line.
I believe it was about 18 months ago that I was having lunch with Morgan Moran of Tout Media and David Wachs of Cellit Mobile Marketing, talking about where marketing has been and where it might be going. Morgan and I both had more of a search background, and as such, were lamenting over the absolute gold rush the early search marketers experienced and wondered what medium could possibly experience this type of growth in the future. As a mobile marketing evangelist, David was pounding the importance of embracing mobile marketing as the next gold rush.
This begs the question for which the post is named: is mobile marketing the next search marketing?
Yes. No. Maybe.
Yes in the sense that mobile marketing will definitely be experiencing some steep growth as more and more cell phones are upgraded to using premium SMS services and as the average age of text messaging users enters the late 20s and early 30s (looking at how the average age of search engine users has changed). David could probably expound more about this, so I'll ask him to post about it, but the parallels between search users and texters is certainly there.
No in the sense that search marketing is more nebulous than organic search marketing, as it was originally viewed as; search marketing now includes more traditional advertising type services such as PPC campaign management, and in the foreseeable future will be so well integrated with online ad purchases, reputation and publicity management, and e-mail list type CRM management that I see it as becoming a conglomerative concept…digital marketing. Holding that view, I'd see mobile marketing as a piece of digital marketing, similar to how search marketing would be a piece. Thus, it wouldn't be the same gold rush type new medium, though even in this scenario, it would be a huge piece with a very bright future.
Maybe in the sense that even though we aspire to be technical and business visionaries, it can be difficult to foretell what the marketplace will accept. If the major carriers relax restrictions on acceptable programs, cell phones advance to the point where they can replace standard laptops in information management, and the ad blindness for text vs PPC/e-mail/banner occurs in an inverse relationship, then a perfect storm of the mobile marketing gold rush may surprise even those that are most expecting it.
Where will 2007 take you? Are you going get bigger in the PPC industry? Are you going to explore the deep dark waters of SEO? Are you going to develop unique and innovative mobile marketing campaigns to capture an untapped payday loan market? Regardless of what your future goals are, we hope that we can help you to get there, making 2007 your most profitable year ever.
Happy near year from Paydayloanaffiliate.com!
I promised a few SEO people that I'd very candidly report my experiences over at the Elite Retreat which took place Dec 18-19 in San Antonio, TX, so below is my foggy recollection of what may have occurred before and after that hazy period of imbibing scotch and spamming the Howl at the Moon message of the minute bar board. While some of the attendees were looking to give their website a tweak or a tune, others definitely benefited from the buzz.
Just to clear things up for those that also attended:
Cygnus is a dirty black hat spammer. Sorry, I think Dave Taylor was editing for a bit here. What I meant to say is that a large amount of material was covered, ranging from the pure snow white hat "content without concern" to the existence of some darker stuff, that could lead a site you truly care about to get axed (be safe or don't be sloppy granddad always said).
For someone in my position, the true value of such a get together was not in the actual information "presented"; rather, it was a chance for a guy that tends to keep to himself to get out and meet some interesting people face to face. While I've probably traded comments on various forums with Aaron for several years now, I've only now just met him; the same now goes for Jeremy (and I'm glad I did; they are both very human and approachable for those of you just starting out in this business, hardly any cyborg qualities that I could detect). Having been around for a while in this industry, and having little non-working waking time available, it was nice to get away for a couple days.
So did I benefit from going? Dropping $5k on a conference that could potentially have just been repeating anything I probably already read in the dozens of forums and blogs on my daily radar? Yes…not in the conventional sense, but yes nonetheless. I naturally didn't get a lot out of the more basic material regarding blogging, forums and how to monetize them, standard PPC arbitrage, or even the normal SEO layout issues, but there were various signals I picked up on that occurred mostly in side conversations. You see, whenever a high enough bar is set for an attendee, one can almost be assured to get as much out of fellow attendees and side conversations with the presenters as from the one-on-one with presenters themselves at regular conferences. Though I can't go into details for obvious (going to cost more than $5k to wring it out of me) reasons, I did get some juicy nuggets regarding things I've suspected but couldn't empirically test, a couple tricks that I had long abandoned that now work again, and some information from previously unknown sources that flat out works and I now need to spend about a week trying to figure out how and why.
Anyhow, so that is from someone that's been around the block, who is running a decent-sized operation; for someone newer, the more obvious value is in the presentations and the face-to-face visits. For those of you new people, I'll personally have to track you down if you don't follow up with the one-on-one consulting…take some time to digest everything that happened, but then formulate the most important things you can do and try to do them - when you hit your second or third roadblock, setup the calls.
Cygnus on future Elite Retreat conferences
Please don't expect anyone at any conference to simply spill all their trade secrets (without offering anything in return) or run your business for you; that just won't happen and is a recipe for failure. If you instead go with an idea of what you hope to accomplish in terms of a few key takeaways, and keep your ears open at absolutely all times (to absolutely everyone, no matter how good or bad you think you are), you can do quite well.
I have some ideas on ways that the Elite Retreat could be even better for the next crop of attendees, but I'll keep that off of the public posting for now.
There were several excellent posts last week on closed-network communities like Webmasterworld regarding a possible OOP or Over-optimization penalty assessed on Dec 7th; if you lost an affiliate site recently to Google's ever-changing index, that might be why.
For this week though, I'm going to briefly cover the importance of education; I'm writing this post from the back row of the Elite Retreat conference.
No matter how good you think you are at affiliate marketing, search optimization, branding, etc...there's always a little more that you could know. Even if you find out how people are doing the wrong things, you'll have still learned something valuable. Everyone has a lesson to share, if you listen closely enough.
How are some ways you could continue on with your education? Read as many affiliate marketing blogs, forums, and newsletters that you can. Most will eventually contradict each other, in some form or fashion, and no one source should probably be taken as gospel. Instead, it is vital to gain multiple persepctives on what you believe will and will not work, and then put those perspectives to test.
Until next week!
We’ve talked a lot about the different ways you can bring traffic to your site, but if you’re like a number of our more successful affiliates you might have a hard time picking just one. That’s good – we applaud any and all efforts to service the growing demands of the cash advance clientele – but how are you supposed to know how well each of your campaigns is doing?
During my last blog post I talked about the use of the a form element to make a seamless transition from your payday loan site to our secure loan processing application; one of the elements from that basic form was the campaign ID field:
<input name="campaign" type="hidden" id="campaign" value="WEBSITENAME">
We’ve enabled the use of campaign IDs to help you track the number of clicks, sales, conversions, etc. from each of your efforts, and you may do this by altering the form on each page where you intend for a client to land. For example, if you tried Joe’s advice about Spotrunner.com’s low-priced television ad service, you could build a page on your site (or a new site altogether) specifically for this type of traffic. You could then change the campaign form element on this page to something like “spotrunner-ad-six” and then accurately track the amount of traffic you’re receiving from this particular campaign. This allows you to figure out which efforts fly and which ones flop so you can adjust your marketing strategy accordingly.
Examples of Different Campaign ID Usage
You can have as many or as few campaign ID listings as you’d like, so the real question is how anal are you as an affiliate marketer? We have some affiliates that have a different campaign ID for every page on their site because they’re interested in knowing what page has the highest conversion rate. On the flipside, we also have affiliates that only create a new campaign ID when they launch a new website, so the ID effectively measures which site is pulling down more money. The campaign ID system can be as specific or as general as you’d like it to be – all you have to do is outline your system and make the appropriate changes in your HTML.
NOTE: Never change your Payday Loan Affiliate ID number! The commission associated with this five-digit number is what we use to determine how to pay you, so editing it will cause problems when we calculate our monthly payouts.
We've touched upon keyword research in the past for payday loans, but we wanted to give a couple examples of processes that have worked in the past. The problem, dear reader, is that trying to rank for "payday loan" is really tough, especially over a long period of time. However, ranking for "Indianapolis Payday Loan" isn't quite as difficult - the more niche the phrase is, the easier it gets to rank for. Additionally, if your content is tailored to that specific phrase, the conversions on your traffic are likely to benefit as well.
One of the golden oldies I like to use for quickie research is a script developed by Shawn at Digitalpoint. Plugging in our "payday loan" phrase, we're given a host of other phrases that could be relevant in our payday loan keyword research. The results shown are both from Wordtracker and Overture, but since Overture can be odd in the way it displays data sometimes, coupled with a nasty habit of combining singular and plural usage of keywords together, we'll just use
instant payday loan
no fax payday loans
no fax payday loan
advance cash loan payday quick
online payday loan service
faxless payday loans
payday loans online
bad credit payday loan
no credit check payday loan
payday cash loan
savings account payday loan
cash advance payday loan
no teletrack payday loans
That smattering of phrases looks promising, but is there anything else we could do? If only there was something that could tell us similar phrases…something, like a thesaurus!
It is surprising how many SEOs don't consult the thesaurus when it comes to keyword research; more commissions for you I hope!
Since we're lazy around here, I typed in "loan" to my handy tool and was given a few results that might work. "Advance" sounds promising - substituting that word in the Digitalpoint tool I'm given a slightly different result set of lovely payday loan related phrases (this time selecting the Overture data):
cash advance payday loan
payday advance loan
payday cash advance
advance cash loan online payday
online payday advance
fast cash advance payday loan
no fax payday advance
advance cash loan payday quick
fast payday advance
payday loan cash advance loan
quick payday advance loan
advance til payday
faxless payday advance
cash advance until payday
fast cash payday advance
no faxing payday advance
1000 advance payday loan
cash advance loan payday internet
no credit check payday advance
no fax payday cash advance
check advance payday loan
no fax payday advance loan
cheap payday advance
advance till payday
advance loan online payday
payday advance service
1000 payday advance
cash advance payday loan software
payday advance california
online payday cash advance
instant cash online payday advance
payday advance loan texas
payday advance services
payday advance cash faxless loan
payday cash advance texas
payday advance loan new mexico
get payday cash advance
payday advance illinois
payday in advance
advance loan military payday
payday advance loan washington
payday cash advance new york
payday advance utah
payday advance michigan
payday cash advance today
payday cash advance washington
faxless advance payday loan
advance cash from loan online payday quick toda
payday check advance
payday cash advance personal loan
Now, if you were to build a site around "payday cash advance today" and followed the other marketing advice given on this blog, the chances of your ranking aren't too shabby.
Yes, it's true, Paydayloanaffiliate.com is switching things up a bit. Our friends at Clickspeed Marketing will be handling all new affiliate sign-ups from within their network.
What does this mean to new affiliates?
This means that the team at Clickspeed will be helping you get setup and on your way promoting payday loans, at some of the highest rates in the industry. They are some of the best people in the business, so we are confident that you'll be taken care of.
What does this mean to old affiliates?
If you have already signed up with Paydayloanaffiliate.com and are happy, you don't need to switch at this time. You'll be getting an e-mail in the next few days that explains the new program and the old program side-by-side, allowing you to choose the option that works best for your business. It's like choosing between filet mignon and steak tartar; both are great, just different.
Why did you make the switch?
In a phrase…expanded offerings that are unmatchable. In the next few months, expect to see a lot more content and specialized offerings that we think will blow your socks off. We like to get into and dominate the best affiliate offerings available, and the way we do that is by finding and promoting these offerings among our loyal readership. The way we see it, if we can make money by helping you make a ton of money, we'll be doing our jobs. Pointing affiliates in the direction of Clickspeed for the management of payday loans is just the first step.
Stick with us, and we'll make you rich.
This is a question that I've been asked several times over the past few days, and I think the short and simple answer lies in the nature of your site. If you had something like payday.com then yes, it would be a very good proposition and make you a great deal of money. However, what about something like mynocreditcheckpaydayloans.com (thanks for letting me use you as an example guys)? Not so much. While a site like that could do a solid amount of business through PPC, organic search, or e-mail marketing, the chances of someone typing in that domain are minute. Therein lies the litmus test for redirecting any sort of domain to an affiliate program; if you think it will get a lot of type-in traffic, then redirect.
The most obvious caveat to this is that if you were to build up the authority of a site that didn't turn out to be (cough, cough) user-friendly, then redirecting to a payday loan affiliate program such as ours could work. We definitely have seen some success among a few affiliates that have gone that route, so it isn't to say that only type-in traffic quality domains make sense to redirect…it is just to say that they are the best candidates for such types of traffic transfer.
Payday loans, as seen on TV!
Believe it or not, it isn't a stretch. Watching late night TV, I've come across several brick-n-mortar cash advance commercials, touting their services. Online firms can do the same; affiliates of certain awesome "payday loan affiliate dot com" like networks can as well.
How you ask? Through the use of a sweet little service called Spot Runner. Even if you aren't a video editing genius, you can still manage to either use a pre-existing financial template or provide some voiceover. So long as you obey the laws of the geographic region you're submitting the commercial for, you may find such commercials an excellent opportunity for branding. If you can combine this with localized search marketing, then you'll be a winner.
Good luck; we here at the PLAN hope that you've enjoyed our little series on various methods of affiliate marketing. Keep us bookmarked and we'll keep sharing tidbits on how to go from an average Joe affiliate to a super affiliate…and for any affiliates also named Joe, I'm really rooting for you.
Much like print advertising, radio advertising for payday loans is as much trial-and-error as it is an art. If you've ever had the opportunity (or lack thereof I suppose) to hear the back and forth banter of used car salesmen in a radio commercial, then you know how most radio advertising tends to sound. The idea behind it is repetition; repetition, repetition, repetition.
I envision something like this…
[Person 1] I want to buy that new album, but I'm just short on cash this week.
[Person 2] Short on cash? Check out paydayloanaffiliate.com.
[Person 1] Paydayloanaffiliate.com? What's that?
[Person 2] Paydayloanaffiliate.com is place to get payday loans to meet short-term cash needs.
[Person 1] Wow. Maybe I should go to paydayloanaffiliate.com.
[Person 2] I went to paydayloanaffiliate.com for my short-term cash needs and would recommend that anyone experiencing a cash crunch to go to paydayloanaffiliate.com today.
Beautiful, isn't it?
At one time it used to cost a decent amount of money to test out radio advertising, but now that smaller blocks of time can be purchased in a variety of geographic locations, testing out such services has never been easier. Create your commercial with the use of your computer, e-mail it off to the advertising aggregator, and be done with it.
A service to keep an eye on that will likely transform the market is Google, which bought dMarc. Eventually it will coordinate within Adwords, but until then, this looks to be the best approach.
Good luck on the testing; we here at Paydayloanaffiliate hope it yields a wonderful ROI.
I know what you’re thinking: “print advertising for an online affiliate program? Are you crazy?” – crazy like a fox. There are a few different reasons why you might want to explore print advertising, though it does involve a bit of trial and error, especially in the payday loan market.
The first step in getting started is to ask yourself why you intend to use print advertising; is it to generate immediate traffic and income, or is it to effectively purchase high quality links? If done correctly, your answer could be “both.”
If you are attempting to get some targeted payday loan traffic from print advertising, you should spend the majority of your time writing the title to your pitch. Think about the classifieds and how outlandish some of the ads there seem; well, they work. Something simple that has worked in past for one of our affiliates…
Line 1: We can get you up to $1500
Line 2: www.paydayloanaffiliate.com
If someone reading the above ad is in need, you can bet that a visit to the website would be targeted. However, it gets better, because of the side-effect of some print advertisements: they can be spidered and indexed. That attempt to get instant eyeballs, if properly scoped out, may also turn into a high quality backlink from the newspaper to your payday loan website. Naturally, you’ll want to make sure it is legal to market payday loans in the geographic area in which you’re advertising, and you should check to see if other classified ads are getting indexed in the search engines as well, if that is your volition, but if executed properly, it can produce a tidy sum.
Want to really start picking up some lucrative long-tail traffic? Write articles…one a day, one a week, one a month; so long as you can you set yourself to a writing schedule, you can make it work in your quest to rank for everything payday loan related.
To get started, I often find it best to pull up a news aggregation service like news.google.com, search for "payday loan" and then read a few press releases and opt-ed pieces; usually this is enough to get the creative juices flowing on an article that will 1) be interesting to your end viewers and 2) provide a solid amount of unique content that the search engines can use when determining whether or not you are contextually relevant for certain payday loan and cash advance related phrases. If you are writing naturally, it also has the added benefit of incorporating word stemming (i.e. payday loan -> payday lending), which is helpful since over time the natural use of such styles can result in varied rankings for payday loan phrases you didn't even intend to rank for, but whose traffic we at the PLAN are sure you'd gladly take.
Good luck; now start writing!
The next stop on the affiliate marketing express, for promoting payday loans, is in the form of targeted banner purchases. While in vogue during the mid-to-late 1990s, banner advertising spending fell sharply after the dotcom bubble bursting. Fortunately, metrics to measure the success of banner advertising have improved dramatically since then, heralding the return of this valuable weapon among the cash advance marketer's arsenal. How does targeted banner advertising work for PLAN affiliates? It is a lot simpler than you'd think.
- Identify your target audience. Do you have a niche that you're marketing already that would respond well to payday loan banner? Have you stumbled upon a website that you think would be perfect for payday loan consumers and located their advertising rates?
- Develop a tasteful payday loan banner. While Paydayloanaffiliate.com does have an assortment of banners that you could potentially use to promote payday loans, you may find it more beneficial to create something fresh and unique to your target's content.
- Make sure to include your affiliate link. One simple mistake we've come across is the failure to include the correct URL on banner advertisements; remember that we need to know who gets credit for traffic in order to pay out for any leads generated from that banner.
- Measure and test. How much did the advertisement cost and how much did you make? Test the advertisement in different areas on the page to see if it affects the number of leads generated.
Banner advertising does work in the payday loan market, so if you find a website that could benefit from visually appealing advertisements that help consumers get the cash they need, take advantage of the opportunity.
Step 1: Understand the CAN-SPAM Act
Step 2: Go back to Step 1 and read it again
Now that you know what you can and cannot do, from a legal perspective, it is time to talk about e-mail marketing of payday loans. How do you generate a list? Should you buy? Do I do it myself or pay someone? When should you send something? Rich HTML w/ graphics or plain text?
There are a lot questions we are asked when an affiliate decides to start marketing via e-mail. Let’s step through the most burning questions in order to help you decide if this is the best method for you, when marketing cash advances.
How do I get a list?
After reading the CAN-SPAM Act you no doubt realize that you can’t send out commercial e-mails to just anyone; the recipient must consent be being contacted. Understanding that, the question becomes a “build or buy” decision. There are a lot of viewpoints out there, but in our own experience, we have found that it boils down to this: do you have a high traffic site whose user base would be willing to accept an e-mail about payday loans? If so, build your list from scratch. If not, you can either spend a good deal of time hunting for a fresh opt-in consumer list that might cost a pretty penny, or you can look into another form of marketing. We’re blunt on the options because many lists that target payday loan centric consumer graphics are oversold; in other words, the individuals might already be getting 2-3 payday loan offers a day, decreasing the chances that the lead could be purchased. We certainly don’t want to discourage you though; some affiliates make several thousand dollars a month doing nothing but finding and marketing to excellent lists.
How do I send the list?
There are three solutions as we see it: send e-mails manually, send through a mailer program, or use a service to send them for you. Generally speaking, most marketers start out sending e-mails manually or via a mailer program. With a little success though, the manual marketing becomes a poor economic decision, since all your time will be spent maintaining and sending the list, keeping track of opt-ins and opt-outs. Some mailer programs work very well, but at certain levels can run into programs with larger hosts when thousands of e-mails are sent at a time. At the highest level, we would recommend an e-mail mailing service, such as Topica or Constant Contact, which use their relations with large hosts to minimize soft bounces, can manage the opt-in/out process, and generally help you to focus on the acquisition and content generation side of the cash advance e-mailing business.
Text or HTML format?
The question on which format to use depends mostly on which delivery method you choose; if you can doing it manually, choose plain text; if you are using a sophisticated program or one of the above services, HTML is probably better. The reason for this is that HTML messages can unfortunately be flagged as spam, even if the recipient really wants a payday loan and is eagerly awaiting a piece of e-mail that you happen to be sending. Once again though, those services and specialized programs come in handy, by helping you to reduce the likelihood of triggering a spam filter, all while allowing you to provide a richer user experience.
When should I send out my list?
We have done a lot of research on this, and for the most part you’ll probably see it as common sense. Monday – Thursday far outperforms Friday – Sunday, with the mid-morning hours being the most conducive for catching people at their peak interest for payday loans.
Hopefully the above information will help to steer you through the murky water that is e-mail marketing; for some more details I’d refer you to:
About.com E-mail Marketing
Above all else though, don’t forget to offer an unsubscribe option; nothing shuts an e-mail marketer down faster than the simple mistake of not letting someone opt-out of the commercial offering.
For those wanting to get a quick jump in the affiliate game for payday loans, there are few better options than paid search marketing. However, it is important to note that there are fewer ways to lose your pants quicker as well, if you aren’t careful about what you’re bidding on, the CPC (cost-per-click) limits you set, where the ads run, etc.
The three biggest players out there are Google Adwords, YPN, and MSN Adcenter; each has its advantages and disadvantages, though I’ll leave that for others to discuss. Just know that it pays to look into the cash advance market to see where it would be most advantageous to market. How do you do that? Research.
Aaron Wall of SEObook.com has created a pretty good keyword research tool you can use for delving into the payday loan market: http://tools.seobook.com/keyword-tools/seobook/
Once you have a good understanding about how much you’re willing to pay, marketing terms like ‘payday advance’, try to calculate the rate on which the end user will be clicking on your banner or form to our site, the likelihood of that user completing an application, the amount we pay you for completed apps and viola, you know how much you can make given the right amount of volume.
Some sources I read to keep up-to-date on the paid search market include:
Much has been written about search engine marketing, covering everything from intensive mathematical studies by Dr. Garcia to fairly simplistic link-building techniques. So how do you move forward, marketing payday loans?
Over the past several years, our search-based payday loan affiliates have had the most success by doing the following:
1. Write a few unique articles and sales letters that are unique to the industry, peppering in synonyms in place of ‘payday loan’, such as ‘cash advance’, ‘payday advance’, etc.
2. Placing a well-designed banner or some call-to-action “apply now” type links on the copy to assist the potential customer in finding the loan that is right for him/her.
3. Get some quality, on-theme links. Getting links is a forum/blog all on its own, but the general idea here boils down to the question “would you actually get traffic from that link to your page?” I ask this question instead of the relevancy question because the chances are, if you can get traffic from the link, in addition to the purpose of potentially improving your rank, then chances are the link is relevant and will help you in your search marketing goals.
Really, that’s it. Write some content and get some links. Granted, it may seem oversimplified, and there are multiple ways about which you can do both of those tasks, so for the purposes of this post, here are some of the resources I read to keep up-to-date on organic search:
Lee Odden's List
Need to find something to write about? Here's some inspiration:
Anyone that has been involved in affiliate marketing for a sufficient amount of time knows that there are numerous methods one can use to increase traffic (and more importantly, sales).