International affiliate offer challenges

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More and more people are experimenting with international affiliate offers every day. While its possible to focus only on US based traffic and offers and make a great living, a compelling case can be made for trying other countries.

Why run International?

Let’s look at Europe for example.

  • With an estimated population of 830 million, that’s about 2.5x the size of the US.
  • Internet penetration is growing at an extremely rapid pace.
  • Paid traffic is generally cheaper than US traffic
  • Conversion rates on average are higher.

So lets see, more eyeballs to reach with cheaper traffic that converts better.  Sounds like the biggest no brainer ever right?   Well, like everything in affiliate marketing, it’s not as easy as it sounds.  But it is something I recommend that everyone should test.

Some of the challenges:

Lets stick with the Europe example.

1.  That population is fragmented.  There isn’t just one big block of 830 million people you can target.  Its obviously spread over a large amount of countries, populations, and demographic groups.  All have their own unique characteristics that need to be addressed.

2.  Cultural differences between countries are huge and could sink a campaign.  You might think that you can just modify a successful campaign in the UK and run it in France, but you have to consider cultural differences that you might not be aware of as an outsider.  Lets say that successful UK offer was for mortgages and you tried to implement it in France.  On average people in France don’t get mortgages so much, while people in the UK do.  If you didn’t know about that difference you could beat your head against the wall forever and not get it to work in France.

Another example of a cultural difference is with email.  Its generally thought that email is much more tolerated in Europe vs the US.  Open rates and clicks on emails are often higher, so a campaign that was dead using that method in the US might work great in the UK.   All due to a cultural difference.  This is why you need to research international offers more and get local help to review your campaign for any red flags.

3.  Language barriers. Getting the language of you ad copy, landing page, and keywords correct is a huge consideration.  A lot of times free online translator tools will give a bad translation of what you want to say.  You know when you read something translated to your language and it just feels wrong, even though the meaning is right?  The only way to really get the language correct is to work with an actual person who is a native speaker.   Even if you just outsource them to proofread and correct your online translations, its worth the effort.

4. Finding offers and networks is harder.  Some of the big US based affiliate networks have limited international reach.  Its a good idea to find affiliate networks in the country you are going to be promoting offers.  They can make you jump through hoops to join and get everything setup like payments and tax issues.  But there out plenty out there.

The bottom line with international offers is that while they can be profitable, one size does not fit all.  You can’t simply take a offer that is running great in the US, translate everything, and run it in Germany.  You really need to do your research to set everything up right, and continue to test everything.  Don’t forget to get local help!

Posted in Affiliate Marketing, General by cdfnetworks on 16|02|10
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Interview with Pay Per Call innovator Ring Revenue

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I have always thought Pay Per Call is a potentially game changing technology for our industry.  I am investing a lot of my company’s resources going forward in testing Pay Per Call offers and marketing techniques.  Today I was lucky enough to interview Jason Spievak, the CEO of Ring Revenue.  His company has developed the groundbreaking call tracking platform that is in use on several affiliate networks.

Here is the basic outline of how it works:

I asked Jason many questions about using Pay Per Call, mainly from the perspective of the affiliate marketer.  This is a must listen for anyone looking to get into this emerging field of marketing!   Please click the player below to hear to the full 14 minute interview.

To download the MP3 right-click save as

Also, if you would like to see the slides from their recent Affiliate Summit West presentation you can find them here.

After you listen, feel free to leave a comment about your thoughts on PPcall.  Are you currently testing with it or do you plan in the future?

Posted in Affiliate Marketing, General, Pay Per Call by cdfnetworks on 28|01|10
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Year end online business strategies

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As the year comes to an end, it is a great time to reflect on the state of your business currently and going forward.  Here are some things I like to look at this time of year.

1. Review the past year.

In order to see where you are going, you have to know where you’ve been. Not looking back at what you have done is like running a campaign with no tracking or analytics – it doesn’t work that well.  That’s why reviewing the last year is so important to success.

I like to take a long look at the past year and consider what really happened. Where was I successful? What failed?  Where did I waste work time being unproductive?  What can I learn from all the mistakes made? Being able to honestly evaluate your past performance with a critical eye is very important to future success. But you have to be honest with yourself.  How much time did you spend reading forums or Twitter? Think of all the new campaigns you could have tried with all that time over the year….  Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes, just use them to renew your focus going forward.

2.  Set new goals.

Goal planning should really be an ongoing task, but the end of the year is a great time to set new new priorities.  I have a giant full wall sized white board that was absolutely crammed with writing.   I had to admit to myself that some of the tasks were never going to get done.  I took a picture of the board so I had an archived record of everything, but then I wiped the whole thing clean!  I added some things back that were really important, but a most of it has been filled with new brainstorming.  I forced myself to spend long chunks of time just brainstorming and writing down new ideas.   There are some bold new directions that came about during those long sessions.    I now have a basic roadmap set for all of 2010.

3. Tax Strategies.

You hear about people going out a buying a lot of things for the business to generate write offs before the end of the tax year.  Unless you really need the items, this is flawed logic.  You shouldn’t spend money just to get a 35% tax break, when you are still out the other 65% for the purchase price.  Do meet with your accountant to plan some tax moves that make sense for your type of business.  There are some expenseable things that are expiring at the end of this year that you would need to buy now to take advantage of.  Deferring income until next year is always a good idea if you can.  But, your accountant is the best source of this information so don’t forget to meet or talk with them in December.

4.  Time off

Most important of all I believe is taking time off to spend with family and friends.  You’ve worked hard all year and you deserve a break before hitting it hard in January.  Enjoy any time that you can spend with your family, even if that means working less and leaving some money on the table.   You will never get to the end of you life and say you wish you would have worked more.   Time spent with loved ones and doing things you enjoy is what its all about.

Posted in Affiliate Marketing, General by cdfnetworks on 14|12|09
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Reducing lead scrubbing

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Lead scrubbing is an important step to maintain the integrity of any offer or lead generation campaign.  It basically just means removing leads or sales that contain bogus, inaccurate, or incorrect information.  These leads are useless and kill the ROI for any campaign. There seems to be a lot of confusion over lead scrubbing.  Some affiliates think that it involves a network stealing leads from them after they have been reported,  but that is usually called lead shaving.  Lead scrubbing is a necessary step to make sure all leads or sales going to the advertiser or client are valid.   Without valid leads the advertisers doesn’t make money and closes the offer, and everyone loses.

Typical scrub rates vary for certain industries.  Mortgage leads usually average about a 15% scrub rate, while certain free offers can run 50% or more. Everyone wants to keep scrubbed lead rates as low as possible.  So how can you reduce the percent of leads scrubbed?

From the perspective of the affiliate:

Much of the lead scrubbing is done on the actual offer page, which is out of the hands of the affiliate.  But there are several things you can control to affect scrub rates of your traffic.

1.  Pre-qualifying your clicks is very important to weed out random clicks.

2.  Accurate demographic targeting is another.  By closely matching the  demographic of the person to the offer, you increase the chances of valid information.

3.  Correct GEO targeting.  If you send traffic from outside the accepted geographic area, the leads will be scrubbed.

4.  Using quality traffic sources.   Pay per click traffic will always yield lower scrub rates than un-targeted display traffic.

From the perspective of the advertiser or local lead gen:

If you are running a local lead gen or private affiliate offer, you want scrub rates as low as possible since you are paying for each lost lead.

Form validation is your first line of defence against bad leads.  There are 2 basic methods of form validation: client side (Javascript) and server side (PHP).  I prefer to use a mix of both.  The key is to validate every field as much as possible to not leave anything to chance for the user.  Check for blank fields, invalid entries, phone numbers, credit cards, invalid email addresses, URLs, invalid field lengths, numbers only, etc.  Basically you need to think of every possible way someone could mess up a form and get them to enter it correctly before they hit submit.   Proper form validation can make the difference between a successful offer and and failure.  It really is that important.   If you are running your own lead gen campaign, you also need to look at your traffic sources, as discussed above, to reduce scrub rates.

You can never get rid of scrubbed leads completely, but by setting up the forms correctly and sending quality traffic, you can greatly decrease scrub rates.

Posted in Affiliate Marketing, General, Lead Generation by cdfnetworks on 04|11|09
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Do you know who you are promoting?

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Its important to know who your business partners are. This is especially true in affiliate marketing, where you biggest partners are often the merchants that you promote.  But how much do you really know these companies?  Unfortunately, many affiliates I have talked to do zero research about the merchants they promote.

Just because an offer if listed on your favorite network doesn’t mean the merchant is a good one.  Some of the largest merchants out there have “F” ratings and hundreds of open complaints with the Better Business Bureau.   Not only can these companies shut down on a moments notice, you could be involved in any backlash or even lawsuits directed at a merchant.

In addition to your normal steps of researching a possible offer, I recommend checking out the merchant as part of your due diligence.  These are the minimum steps I would take:

1. Check the BBB report on the merchant.  What’s their rating? How many complaints do they have open?  Sometimes you can also check the Attorney General or Secretary of State websites  in the state where the business is located.

2.  Check out their domain.  How long have they been around?  Do they have real contact info in their whois?

3.  Call the merchant and talk to an actual human.  At the very least email the merchant.   What you ask isn’t as important as just getting a feel for the people at the company through real contact.

It takes a huge amount of time to build and optimize a campaign, as well as the thousands of dollars you will be spending to promote the merchant.  Do you really want to make that kind of investment in a company with horrible ratings and business practices?  That’s a decision each of us has to make, but personally I only want to work with quality companies that sell products and services that people really want.   With so many thousands of merchants out there to choose from, it just make business sense to work with the best.

Posted in Affiliate Marketing, General by cdfnetworks on 14|09|09
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Pick one vertical and run with it

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One of the biggest mistakes I made early on was trying to run too many offers. Its easy to get pulled in many different directions with affiliate marketing. You might even have some success with in a particular niche and think it would be best to try to duplicate that success in other niches. But I have found the best thing is to pick a niche, and stick with it as much as possible.

A great strategy is to pick a certain vertical market and scale that market until you have tapped every traffic source, researched every possibly converting keyword, optimized every site, owned tons of domains, and basically became the #1 expert on marketing that niche on the Internet.  If you look at many of the really successful guys in our industry, they heavily invested in one vertical.   Sure you always want some diversification in case it completely dries up, but you can spread the risk around by having different offers and clients in the same vertical.

Here’s an example. Say you had an interest in chiropractors. These guys spend a ton on advertising (check out the back of a phone book), and are in every city. You could find local chiropractors in your area and set up local lead gen or CPA offers for their business. Once you honed your techniques you could branch out to other areas in the state, then region, then nationally. Travel to all the chiropractor trade shows, set up a booth, advertise in their publications and journals, etc. Eventually you could become the #1 “go to” Internet Marketer for that field so any chiropractor who even thought of marketing would think of your company.  This is a long term business strategy that is very profitable.

The great thing about become a dominant expert in a certain niche is the longer you do it, the cheaper your costs are and the more profit you can make.  This lets you dominate your competition even more and is a powerful snowball effect.    So if you are struggling to find your way in affiliate marketing, maybe its time to stop trying so many different things and stick with just one.

Posted in Affiliate Marketing, General, Lead Generation by cdfnetworks on 25|08|09
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More landing page examples

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Let me preface this post by saying that while there are general “best practices” for lead generation landing pages, you never know what might work the best for your particular niche and traffic source. So testing of every option is always the key to making the best landing page.

I thought I would look at 3 lead generation landing pages in one of the most competitive industries around – mortgage leads. I Googled “home loans” and took the top three results. By the way, if you want to see mainly good landing page techniques, check out super competitive keywords as those have usually been optimized to the highest degree.

Landing Page #1

Landing page example 1

This page from Lending Tree uses the approach of putting the whole mortgage lead application on the landing page.  The visitor doesn’t have to go through multiple “next page” steps, but with 17 fields on the page its a daunting task to fill out.   On the plus side, you have the smiling happy family and dog, the next steps preview, and the trust symbols above the fold.  Overall, I would think this page would have a very low conversion page.

Landing Page #2

Landing page example 2

This landing page uses the simple 3 field gateway form.  This gets users “hooked” into filling out the longer form on the next page.  Once they start the process, its human nature to keep going until you are done.  In theory, this should lead to higher conversions that putting the whole form on the first page.   On the negative side, this page is all business.  No smiling people or nature scenes.  Just hard numbers with tables of mortgage rates.  While this might give the visitor the information they are looking for, it might be too much data all at once for the visitor to absorb.  Overall, I would think this page would have a medium conversion rate.

Landing Page #3

The last landing page uses the minimalist approach.  Only a 3 field form to hook the web visitor.  There’s a simple line drawing of a house and trust symbols above the fold.  On the negative side there are 20 links on the bottom of the page for the user to click without starting the form.  This landing page is from lowermybills.com so its understandable they want to get users to other sites in their network.   Although I am not crazy about any of these, if I had to pick one of these 3 landing pages to test first, it would be this page.

Hopefully these landing page reviews give you some ideas of how to critically look at your own pages.  As always, test test test.

Posted in Affiliate Marketing, General, Landing Pages by cdfnetworks on 07|05|09
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Managing risk and reward

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I’ve been thinking a lot about risk versus reward lately . Taking risks and managing risk is really the key to success in business and affiliate marketing. Every person you read about that has been successful was able to take some big risks that paid off. But I guarantee, those risks were fully weighed out and calculated in almost every case.

It’s true that it takes money to make money, and that is one of the hardest parts when you are starting out with affiliate marketing. I remember how nervous I was on my first media buy 3 years ago when I had to put $10,000 up front. I had done my research though and was confident it would pay off. The risk was managed as much as possible by research about the traffic and expected results.

More recently I took a calculated risk in the stock market. I had done a post using the recession to make some bold moves. When the market was basically collapsing and in sheer panic I bought Citigroup at 1.05. Talk was they were about to go Chapter 11, but my research and gut told me to take a calculated risk. I’ve since made a 195% return on that trade. Of course, not all risks pay off, but this one paid off enough to cover some not so great ones.

Pay per click can seem risky when you are starting out, but there are some ways to lower the risk.

  • Use PPC coupons to start out, that way you are using free clicks to test your offers.
  • Don’t spend more than you can afford to lose.  This week I talked to a guy on email who had ran up $5k on his credit card with PPC and had 0 conversions on the campaign. He didn’t have the money to pay it back and was in trouble.
  • Watch your campaigns closely and set daily budgets. That way you don’t go to bed one night and wake up in the morning with a costly suprise.

In general, risk is part of success. When an opportunity comes along, don’t be afaid to jump on it, but only after you have researched every possible thing you can about it. Then it might not seem so risky after all.

Posted in Affiliate Marketing, General by cdfnetworks on 01|05|09
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