Affiliate Marketing That Works

Sep. 27

Many affiliate marketers are facing headwinds in 2011. Strategies that once worked in prior years, especially the hard sale, are not working as well anymore. However, I’m here to say that affiliate marketing works, perhaps better than ever. Case in point: I earned nearly five grand on EPN in 3 months in my limited spare time above and beyond the income from my demanding full time job. Since I wrote that post, my overall EPN and affiliate marketing earnings in general continue to thrive and grow.

My 4 Hour Workweek

I’m not the only one. There’s a new class of affiliates and today I want to share an affiliate marketing strategy that works in 2011, via case study. In particular, I’m going to highlight a personal experience I had with my friend Eric’s blog, My 4 Hour Workweek. After reading this post, I encourage you to sign up for a leading affiliate network such as EWA Private Network (they’re accepting 10 new affiliates right now) and then get out there and employ this strategy!

So What’s This Affiliate Strategy?

The strategy is quite simple in theory, but difficult in execution. It’s all about establishing an honest voice with your readers, making it very clear that you earn an affiliate commission when they purchase via one of your links, but offing such an overwhelming amount of value that users make a conscious effort to buy via your link. How do you do this? Very, very hard work and an amazing level of transparency with your readers. You can’t leave an ounce of doubt in anyone’s mind. You need to exclusively recommend products you personally use and prove over and over why the product is working for you. You need to go well above and beyond to provide tremendous free value. You need to avoid mistakes (such as the hard sale) at all costs. Once you’ve done that, your readers will feel an emotional tie to purchase via your link. They’ll owe it to you!

Let’s take an example. My friend Eric from My 4 Hour Workweek promotes this awesome peer to peer lending network called Lending Club. Each month, Eric publishes an income report that highlights his sources of online income and passive income, including Lending Club (check out his August report for an example). I’m honestly addicted to Eric’s blog because of his level of transparency, honesty, and value. My favorite posts are his income updates. As a reader, Eric has established a personal connection with me.

So, I had been meaning to sign up for Lending Club for quite some time. Not only because of Eric’s blog, but also because my former boss is the CMO there and I’ve read an amazing amount of good stuff about the network as a source of diversification and passive income. I’m a busy guy (it’s hard to find even a half hour to sign up for something like this) and I’m all about efficiency. As such, when I finally had some free time to sign up for Lending Club, I could have just gone directly to their site. Or, I could have searched the Internet for special offers and coupon codes in an attempt to get some kind of freebie. However, none of this even crossed my mind. I quickly remembered how much value Eric’s blog provides and my decision was simple: Sign up via Eric’s affiliate link! I even went as far as commentating on Eric’s blog to let him know I used his affiliate link. Now, that’s an affiliate marketing strategy that works. If you’re trying to make money online in 2011, I highly recommend a similar approach. It truly works and it’s also how I make money online.

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PPC Bidding Automation Tips

Sep. 21

If you’ve been reading PPC Ian for a while, I bet you know that I’m a huge proponent of SEM automation. I even wrote a whitepaper a while back, PPC Ian’s SEM Automation Buyer’s Guide. One of my favorite aspects of PPC platforms such as Kenshoo, Acquisio, and Marin Software is automated bidding. In that spirit, I wanted to provide a few invaluable tips to keep in mind when setting up and maintaining your automated bidding platform.

Tip 1: Verify Your Platform’s Data Daily

What You Need To Know

Good data means good decisions. Bad data means bad bidding decisions. I’ve seen it hundreds of times: Something goes wrong and your SEM platform does not sync data properly. Perhaps the search engine API is down. Perhaps your own API (or FTP) is not working and the platform cannot access your internal conversion data. Perhaps your internal system does not update conversions properly. Sometimes it’s just a day’s worth of bad data. Sometimes, the bad data can pour in for multiple days (my worst nightmare, that is if it goes undetected).

Here’s the problem: Automated bidding systems rely on accurate data. If the clicks, cost, conversions, or other important metrics are off, the bidding system is going to make mistakes. These mistakes can be incredibly costly. It’s important to audit your data daily on all levels: Account, campaign, adgroup, and keyword. It’s also important to make sure your internal conversion data is passed into the system correctly (if applicable). When you do catch issues, make sure to work closely with your account management team and, until the problem is fixed, make sure the bidding system ignores the bad data dates.

Tip 2: Leverage Internal Conversion Data

Do you currently bid based on conversion collected via search engine pixels? Or, do you leverage your own, internal conversion data? From my experience, search engine pixels are always off. They will never offer as accurate of a picture as your own internal data. As such, I highly recommend passing your internal conversion data into your automated bidding platform, if at all possible. By doing so, you will see an instant lift in your results (good data equals good results). If not easily possible, search engine pixel data can be a stepping stone until you’re able to integrate internal conversion data.

Tip 3: Invest Heavily In Your Bidding Setup

Long term, automated bidding systems save a ton of time while also driving improved results (more conversions at lower CPA). Short run, however, they require a ton of setup. In my experience, it’s the setup (or lack thereof) that will make or break your bidding system. My advice is to spend a good amount of time upfront thinking through all the details. I’m talking about these types of questions:

  • Should I pass data across search engines? For example, if Microsoft adCenter does not have statistically significant data on a keyword, should I leverage my Google data?
  • Should I minimize bid movement on a day-to-day basis? Let’s say my current bid is at $0.50 and I’m headed toward $1.00. Should the system make the entire move in one day or should the system make the move gradually?
  • What should my bidding system consider statistically significant? Is 100 clicks worth of data statistically significant? How about 1,000 clicks worth of data?

My advice is to compile a list of at least 30-50 such questions and then think through them in great detail. Engage your account management team and expect to dedicate a full time employee (for at least one month’s time) to make your new automated bidding system work.

So, there you have it. Some of my favorite automated bidding tips, especially if you’re newer to the exciting world of PPC bidding automation. I sincerely hope this helps and encourage you to investigate the great SEM platforms out there.

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Fun At Google’s SF Giants Luxury Suite

Sep. 13

The corporate online marketing career path is amazing. It’s a career full of big responsibility, fast-paced growth, complex problem solving, and high powered networking. On the networking side, there’s been a really cool trend over the past year or so – It’s all about networking at AT&T Park in San Francisco, home of the Giants.

Earlier this year, I enjoyed the Giants/Dodgers game from Marin Software’s luxury suite (check out A Day In the Life of PPC Ian). Also earlier this year, I enjoyed the Giants/Marlins game from Google’s luxury suite (check out Amazing Times With My Friends at Google).

Tonight, I had an amazing time yet again at Google’s luxury suite for the Giants/Padres game. Google is really going all out when it comes to building relationships with their big advertisers, I cannot thank them enough. I had so much fun tonight and especially enjoyed the opportunity to get a picture with the Giants World Series Trophy (below), a special gift to the first 500 luxury suite attendees. If you’re thinking of getting into online marketing (or are already in this amazing career), remember to focus on networking. The relationships will take you so far!

Giants Trophy PPC Ian

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Major Fun Times In Maui Hawaii

Sep. 04

My beautiful wife and I just returned from our 8 day long vacation to Maui, Hawaii. We had an outstanding time, the perfect combination of exciting activities (such as zip-lining and body boarding) and relaxation (days at the Westin Maui pool and beach). Each year, we try to visit Hawaii as it’s one of our favorite places in the world. Just last year, I blogged about our Maui 2010 vacation. Today, I’m thrilled to share some pictures and experiences from our Maui 2011 vacation.

We Visited Maui Thanks To Online Marketing

Dinner Hard Rock

Ian and Nicole at the Hard Rock Cafe Lahaina

Before doing so, however, I wanted to make sure to tie this post back to online marketing. It’s really because of online marketing (the corporate route and also my affiliate marketing activities) that make these types of vacations possible. If you’re a smart, hard working individual you can make it big in online marketing. Moreover, online marketing can be your road to a more mobile lifestyle which makes these types of vacations possible. While I didn’t do a ton of work from Maui, I was able to monitor my stats and also publish a blog post about PPC checks (all from my iPad). Now, without further ado, let’s get into the specifics of our vacation!

PPC Ian’s 2011 Maui Vacation Details

Maui Zipline Team

Ian, Nicole, and Maui Zipline Team

This year, we really had some major fun times! Following is a day-by-day outline of our trip.

Day 1: We arrive at our hotel, the Westin Maui on beautiful Kaanapali beach. We’re absolutely thrilled with the hotel, and especially our ocean front room. The reason we originally picked this hotel is its proximity to the ocean (the beach is literally steps from the hotel), the amenities (it’s quite the nice place), and also the proximity to shopping (the Westin Maui is right next to Whalers Village, some of the best shopping around). On our first day, we decide to take it easy and eat lunch at Westin poolside. We also enjoy the flamingos at the hotel, it’s really amazing that that they have a lagoon when you walk in filled with tropical birds such as flamingos.

Day 2: After we’re all caught up on sleep, we start day two with a workout at the Westin gym and then the amazing Westin Maui breakfast buffet. This buffet is no joke, we’re talking about waffles, grilled mahi mahi, pancakes, papaya, pineapple, and basically any kind of breakfast food you’d want to enjoy ocean side in Hawaii. In an effort to eat healthy, get up early, and enjoy the hotel, we actually had the breakfast buffet each day of our vacation. Later in the day, we hang out at the Westin pool, work on our tans, and enjoy the water slide at the hotel. For dinner, we head over to the town of Lahaina, enjoy some shopping, and eat dinner at the Lahaina Prime Rib and Fish Company.

Maui Sunset

Enjoying a Beautiful Maui Sunset

Day 3: After starting out the day with a nice run along the Kaanapali beach, we want to experience some sea life and do just that at the Maui Ocean Center. We really enjoy the fish, sea turtles, octopus, and sharks at this aquarium. Also, their gift shop is simply divine, voted the best in Maui. Later, we head over to Buzz’s Warf for lunch (highly recommended, great fish sandwiches), followed by some amazing shaved ice at a local place. After our big day at the aquarium, we go back to the hotel, enjoy the beach, and then head over to the Hula Grill for dinner.

Day 4: On our fourth day, we want to seek some adventure and did just that with Maui Zipline at the Maui Tropical Plantation. After ziplining, we head over to “Beach Bums” for lunch, a really great Hawaiian BBQ (but can’t find their website). Later, we hike at Iao Valley, go miniature golfing, and end the day with an Italian dinner at Pulehu. This was quite the busy day, but I was also amazed at how much energy Hawaii brought to us. For some reason, we had more energy than ever on this trip. I think it’s the relaxing environment, great weather, unparalleled food, and overall lifestyle. Definitely want to find ways to spend even more time in Hawaii over the coming years!

Maui Body Board

PPC Ian Body Boarding and Enjoying The Waves

Day 5: Continuing our adventure, we snorkel at black rock after breakfast. The waves at Kannapali start getting a little bigger so I also enjoy some body boarding. Day five ends with an amazing dinner at Sea House restaurant on Napili beach. This is our favorite restaurant in Hawaii, a restaurant we first discovered in our prior trip. The Fisherman’s Stew is incredible if you like seafood. Napili is very quiet and relaxing area, the perfect setting for a Hawaiian dinner.

Day 6: The diverse nature of Maui’s landscape is really evident when you start going to Maui’s upcountry. On Day six, we venture to Alii Kula Lavender Farm for a tour, then to Ulupalakulu Ranch for lunch (the elk burger was among the best I have had), and then onto Maui Winery at Tedeschi Vineyards for wine tasting. The Maui Splash wine was so good that we had some shipped home!

Lunch Leilanis

Lunch at Leilanis, Whalers Village

Day 7: We were ready for a bit of relaxation again on day seven so we start the day off with a gym workout, but then take it easy. We do some serious shopping at Whalers Village and purchase a variety of great souvenirs (my favorites being ceramic koi fish, Hawaiian angels, and of course clothes). Later in the day, the waves are picking up so I enjoy a bit more body boarding. We eat lunch at Leilanis, enjoy the Ulalena show in Lahaina, and have a wonderful dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe Maui.

Day 8: Our final day is all about enjoying one last breakfast at the enjoyable Westin breakfast buffet, followed by a little relaxation, and then the plane flight back home. Overall, we couldn’t have asked for a better vacation and have memories that will last a lifetime. Until next time, Hawaii. PPC Ian readers, remember online marketing is lucrative and enjoyable but it’s important to take a break. It’s all about the work hard, play hard way of life!

More Pictures From Our Maui Vacation

Westin Maui

Westin Maui, A Great Place To Stay

Maui Zipline

We Had So Much Fun Ziplining At Maui Zipline

Westin Breakfast Buffet

The Breakfast Buffett At The Westin Is Great

Westin Flamingos

The Flamingos At The Westin Are Great

Maui Lavender Farm

The Maui Lavender Farm, Spectacular Views

Maui Octopus

Octopus At The Maui Ocean Center

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