Back on Feb 26th @affbuzz posted a link on Twitter to a post someone did about a new form style called mad libs. This is a conversational style, paragraph type form instead of the standard forms we are all used to. The post claimed these form styles increased conversions 25-50%. Some pretty big car sites are running these types of forms, like KBB and Vast, you can see a live example here.
I was pretty shocked and skeptical with the claimed results, because you just never know with anything internet marketing related until you test it out for yourself. The only source of information you can really count on is your own data. So I called up my designer and with 4 hours had an A/B split test up and running. The landing pages were to capture leads for a local/regional lead gen campaign I’m running in the financial services niche. The only difference on the two pages was the form. Here is what those forms looked like:
Test LP-A, regular form
Test LP-B, conversational style form
After running for 20 days, I finally have enough data to see the overall trend.
As you can see, there wasn’t exactly an earth shattering outcome, but surprising nevertheless. The 10.49-11.79% change is actually a 12.4% increase for the mid-lib style form. That’s 24 extra leads in this case. It wasn’t the 25-50% increase the other study had shown, but to be honest I was just happy it didn’t lose money.
Like every landing page element, form styles are a good thing to test. Do conversational style forms always work better? No. I actually think I got lucky with this test. The niche I used had a primarily older demographic which my instincts told me might respond to this style form. There are a lot of niches where I think this form style would underperform regular styles.
I was thinking recently of all the steps that go into building a successful campaign. What is the most important? There are so many factors that can make or break a campaign and so many tools out there to help with each step. But for me, the biggest impact on the success of a campaign is landing page optimization.
Why is landing page optimization in general so critical to every campaign? Most of your costs are relatively fixed: traffic costs, payouts, etc. But your conversion rate off the landing page is one variable that can skyrocket the profitability of a campaign. Imagine taking a 2% converting lander and with smart optimization bumping that up to 15%. What could that do to your bottom line? There is just no other factor that can make as big of a difference as your landing page conversion rate. Take any failed campaign, and I can almost guarantee the landing page wasn’t optimized and tested enough.
So what is the best tool out there?
The Google website optimizer. This is a tool that a private company could charge $100/mo for and it would be well worth it, but luckily it’s free. If you aren’t familiar with the tool, it’s basically allows you to create test scenarios on various sections of your landing page to see which combinations lead to better results. There are basically 2 types of tests you can do
1. A/B test is where you set up 2 completely different versions of a page and see which one performs better. This is similar to testing 2 ads in your PPC campaign.
2. The other test is multivariate, where you can test changes to multiple sections of your landing page simultaneously on higher traffic pages. The results of these experiments are presented in statistically valid results. I recommend multivariate for obtaining the fastest results.
Learning this tool inside and out and committing to never-ending testing on landing pages has probably been one of the biggest factors in my successes online. Testing never stops, because as good as a page might be working, you never know which tweak will blow the previous versions away. Simply put, if you aren’t optimizing your landing pages with a tool like the Google optimizer, you are losing money!
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!
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.
One the most common questions I continue to be asked is “should I use the Google content network?”
The Google content network is still one of the most misunderstood forms of online advertising. The confusion is understandable. At first all the experts and gurus said to “just turn it off”. It was thought that it didn’t convert for CPA offers. After a while people started realizing that it does in fact work quite well, it just requires a different skill set than normal pay per click advertising on Google. So where does the content network stand today at the start of 2010?
The content network on Google is alive and kicking and stronger than ever. Although things like PPV are getting a lot of press these days for cheap clicks, I still believe the content network is one of the best sources for cheap clicks. I am talking really cheap like .01 to .02 cents a click. Here are the some stats for a campaign we have running strictly on the content network.
For this one campaign Google delivered over 54,000 clicks for about $1,000. That’s among the cheapest paid traffic you can to buy. This example is obviously on the lowest end of the scale, there are other campaigns we pay up to $1.00 per click on content. But the clicks are usually much lower than you would pay for Google PPC.
Content traffic does convert as well. It’s just a matter of tracking everything, finding the converting sites that your ads are displayed on, and focusing your optimization on those sites. There are no specific rules for which sites to exclude from displaying your ads. For example, a lot of people say to exclude gmail.com, but I have seen conversions come from there. Just like everything else, you have to test for your specific niche.
Quality score is important on the content network, although I have found not as strict as normal Google Pay Per Click. So if you have a campaign that just won’t run on the PPC network, its possible Google will allow it for content. As you can see by the example stats, a .09% CTR would be horrible on PPC but runs fine on content in the 3-4 ad position range.
So as 2010 starts, I’d say the content network is still an excellent source of cheaper traffic and should continue to be for the foreseeable future. It doesn’t work for every niche and offer, but definitely should be tested to find out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I’ve been talking about local lead generation for a while now and the topic always generates a lot of interest. One of the best decisions I ever made for my company was moving away from CPA network based offers and creating my own direct offers with businesses. I was doing pretty well on various networks, but local lead generation took it to the next level.
Local lead generation can be great, but the biggest problem is that local can mean small markets and limited profits. What really kicked my company into high gear was what I call direct lead generation. This is basically local lead gen on a national level. To do this, we seek out companies that have a large regional or national footprint to partner with on private affiliate offers. This allows the company to have a much larger advertising/marketing budget than a local mom and pop type business.
The ideal company to find would be a smaller national company with a limited online presence and no affiliate marketing program. There are actually still a lot of companies like this out there. Most of the time they are new to the whole performance based advertising concept. It could be product based CPS, CPA, or straight lead gen, depending on the company. You approach them just as you would a local business, but just on a larger scale. It’s best to have proven case studies and a solid track record before approaching a large company. They tend to go for hard data, not promises and hype.
Here’s a tip: If you aren’t good at sales or just don’t like it (me), consider hiring a sales person to contact companies that you have targeted. If you outsource design, coding, accounting etc, why not contract a sales guy? A good sales person can be a huge asset to your business. All you need is that one large account to take off.
There are obvious benefits to having an exclusive affiliate contract with a national company: large budgets, national advertising reach for targeting, big volume, total freedom of advertising, etc. The downside is that they are hard to find and take a lot of up front legwork to get established. Up front work that you are not getting paid for…
But the rewards can far outweigh the risks and time investment.
So if you ready to take local lead gen to the next level, think national and go after some big fish!