How To Make A Living Blogging - No BS, No Selling

Submitted by Dmitri Davydov on Tue, 2007-12-25 11:43.
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Get this – even if you don’t finish reading this post and don’t click a single link, I’ll still make 10 cents off you. That’s because the post has eCPM of a little over $100, meaning I get hundred bucks for every 1000 impressions (as long as most traffic comes from US). I’ve actually tested this post for two weeks on my other blog that deals with weird business ideas and eCPM there was in the $96-$112 range. When you are done reading this post (it's rather long), you'll know more about making real money with blogs than most so-called experts.

It all started when I read that if you make money with AdSense, you can make 10X as much, if you add affiliate links. This blog makes me $20-$30 in AdSense revenue every day, so 10X would be $200-$300 a day. That ain’t bad, considering that this is just a hobby blog and my other online businesses (PickyDomains.Com, Deprice.Com and a few others) are my primary income source.

So I started reading some books on affiliate marketing. I’ve read Online Marketing Success Stories: Insider Secrets, from the Experts Who Are Making Millions on the Internet Today, Street Smart Internet Marketing - Tips, Tools, Tactics & Techniques to Market Your Product, Service, Business or Ideas Online and Affiliate Millions: Make a Fortune using Search Marketing on Google and Beyond.

The good thing – these books are awesome. The bad thing – for some strange reason the act of reading a smart book about how people get rich online did make me all that smart or rich for that matter. More over, after some testing I found out that the traditional affiliate marketing model doesn’t work all that well. The traditional model says – here, sell this crappy e-book for 100 bucks and we’ll give you 50. The problem is that nobody buys all that crap. People are reluctant to buy even good things from trusted vendors. Fifty percent from nothing is still nothing.

So, if you want to make good money as affiliate marketer – don’t sell stuff. Confused? Great. Here, click this link called Shawn Casey's Business In A Box (if you live outside US, you’ll be rerouted, sorry about that – there is nothing I can do).

As you see, it’s a free e-mail course on marketing (pretty good one, too). While most people probably not very interested in internet marketing and don’t know who Shawn is (a marketing genius), my site is about internet marketing, so my opt-in rate is very high. One in very eight people who click the link do register and I get $1.30 for every registration.

So here is your first lesson – do find affiliate offers that don’t require selling but pay per lead (lead is usually free sign up or registration) that match the topic of your blog. Here are some other examples of what offers convert well on blogs similar to the one you are reading – how to turn $60 in $1000 flipping domain names and the list of low cost franchises (guess how much this one pays per registration – over six bucks, because it’s so specialized, and this one pays even more - $35). Another example of getting paid for not selling anything is this - I get $25 for every person who becomes publisher or adversiter.

How do you get access to those affiliate campaigns that pay for NOT selling stuff? I’m going to tell you shortly, but I first want to stress the difference between getting paid for lead and getting paid for sale.

Merchants who pay you a percentage of the sale are lazy. They don’t want to take any risks. Essentially, they are saying – if you bring me 10 bucks, I’ll let you keep 5. Let’s say a person is selling 20 dollar widget that costs $10 to produce. So his or her profit is $10, right? So your affiliate commission is likely to be $5 max. Otherwise, there isn’t much profit left. The risk is all yours. If you drive good traffic, but the offer is bad, you get nothing.

Lead based commission works differently. Let’s say a person is selling that very same $20 widget. Let’s say it’s some iPod accessory. Lead based marketer knows that a customer is his major asset. So he sells that accessory and puts the customer on his mailing list. He knows that, statistically speaking that customer is likely to keep buying for two years, make X transactions and generate Y dollars in profit (much more than $10 made in profit from the very first transactions).

So lead-based marketers make more money, they know what their customer is worth to them and they can pay you more. He knows that just a name on the list is worth $3 to him, so he'll pay you $2 per name and address of any person who owns a particular model of iPod. It’s a concept pioneered by Jay Abraham and described very well in Lead Generation for the Complex Sale, so my advice is to stick with campaigns that pay for lead, not sale (be careful, some merchants label their campaigns as pay-per-lead, when they really pay for sale). There are some exceptions to this rule, as you'll see in this post.

Ok, so where does one go for pay-per-lead campaigns? CPA networks. I’ve worked with a number of them and the two I am working with right now are Copeac and MaxBounty. Not all CPA networks are created equal. For example, Commission Junction hasn’t made me any money, while it’s probably one of the most famous and well respected CPA networks. Copeac made me over $10K right away. Why the difference? I have no clue. CJ just doesn’t convert. Amazon pays measly 6-8% (my monthly Amazon earnings are just a little over $150 a month, even though I do promote their books heavily, since I am an avid reader myself).

A rule of thumb is that you should be able to make money with CPA network within the first week, after trying 30-50 different campaigns. If you don’t – move onto a different network. I highly recommend that you only join CPA networks that have referral programs (also known as two-tier programs). Both Copeac and MaxBounty do, one 2%, another 5%.

Referral programs are very important. Currently, 50% of my affiliate income comes from actual leads I generate and 50% comes from referrals (it does take a long while go get to that point, it took me almost six month). The way I fight referrophobia (avoidance of clicking ref links) is that I help my affiliates. If they register with the links I gave, I’ll see their ID. So they can send me a question with their ID and I’ll give them the answer. The only change that I’ve made after getting several hundreds affiliates to register under me is that I require people to first do some testing on their own. I do, however provide a list of tested offers that convert for me.

Now, I’ve earlier given you examples of affiliate campaigns that make money on blogs that write about making money online. How about generic blogs? For generic blogs two types of affiliate campaigns work well – contests and free giveaways.

My two contest winners are getting paid for playing Scrabble online and $1000 prize for writing the best short poem.

As far as freebies go, my money makers are 250 free business cards, free $500 grocery card and free health product samples.

So, if anyone asks you if it's possilble to have $100 eCPM for a blog page - this blog is the living proof that it is. Sure, I had to cramp in a shitload of affiliate links and put in several weeks worth of testing which pay-per-lead offers work best. But honestly, I'm proud of myself.

What’s a big deal about $100 eCPM? There are people who sell Rolls Royce’s on the Internet and their eCPM must me astronomical. 100 arab sheiks visit the site, 2 of them spend half a million dollar each – boom goes eCPM into the stratosphere.

Here is the difference (you’ll appreciate it, if you do business online). If you are a Rolls Royce guy doing online advertising, you have to bid only on certain keywords that are directly related to Rolls Royce. There is just no way you can bid on ‘Britney Spears’ and make sales. Not gonna happen. But suppose you did? You’d be just burning your cash, essentially. Wasting money.

This isn’t the case with this very blog post that you are reading right now. I’m going to make 10 cents from every reader no matter what (statistically speaking), so as long as I buy traffic for less then 10 cents, I make profit.

This is a very important difference in two advertising models. The more money Rolls Royce guy spends on his ads, the less profit he makes. The more money I spend on ads the more money I make.

Let me give you a quick lecture on PPC ads. Just to be fair – all I know about making money from PPC ads I learned from Perry Marshall. There is a lot of free information on the subject on his website scattered around – or you can just buy his book on Amazon, it’s less then 17 bucks and has more information than $200 PPC training courses that some of you may have bought. The only thing that I did not learn from Perry is the three cent secret which is the PPC Coach thing (it’s a company that specializes in PPC ads for affiliates – essentially they show you how to stop losing money with PPC ads and start making money with PPC ads).

Essentially, there are two ways you can set up your PPC ads when it comes to affiliate marketing. Let’s say your niche is adult dating (my winner here). You bid on keywords like ‘adult dating’, ‘adult personals’ may be some brand names like, Ashley Madison. And your ad reads something like:

Adult Dating
World’s Biggest Adult Dating
Community. Join Now For Free!

Looks familiar, doesn’t it?

You make $2.50 per free registration, your conversion rate is 1 to 10, your keywords are really expensive, so pretty soon you start losing money. Why is that? Because your ad is keyword dependent. But after you get coached by PPC Coach you get smart. You write an ad that says

One Night Stand Only!
No Marriage, No Relationship, I Just Want
“It”. The More Kinky The Better.

Now you can run this ad on the content side of Google. You can bid on names of country music singers. Your ad will appear on sites where men are. Or you can bid on Nascar racing related terms. And your ad will appear on sites are. All of a sudden, you don’t want to be found on search engines, because your ads aren't very relevant to the keywords you are bidding on. Now you want your ad to be run on AdSense network. People will read it and the ad, not keywords will be the qualifier. If it resonates with them, they'll click. If it does not - they will not.

This is a rather critical distinction because now you understand that the ability to make money comes from your ad writing skills.

By the way, if you are totally new to ‘Google Cash’ way of making money (promoting affiliate offers via PPC), let me tell you what’s going to happen to you. First, you’ll read about it and you’ll be excited. Then you’ll try it. You’ll be writing dumb keyword-dependent ads and losing money. Most of you will give up here.

Some will get smart and learn to write keyword independent PPC ads and use Google’s contextual side (AdSense) to its full potential. All of a sudden, your ads will be breaking even and – get this – EVEN MAKING YOU A LITTLE BIT OF MONEY!

Then ‘It’ will happen. You’ve added 100 new PPC campaigns. 90 of them generate no traffic whatsoever. Two or three makes you a few bucks a day. Some lose you a little bit of money. And then one campaign starts making you over a hundred bucks a day (for me, it was this campaign from Omaha Steaks which now produces less then 5% of what it used to. It's one of the few pay per sale campaigns that worked great, probably because Omaha Steaks is such a great brand).

You start jumping. Holy shit! Google Cash does work! I’m going to get rich! I’m going to get rich. You can see yourself making six figure income online. Maybe even a million dollars. Or more. But then all of a sudden, you start getting less and less money and then it your winner campaign stops working at all.

Sorry, such is life. If you have a working ad, doesn’t mean that you have a working business. By no means do I mean to discourage you from using Google Cash method. I still use it. But it’s kind of like Forex. There are successful Forex traders. And they make money. George Soros made over a billion dollars with Forex in a few months, when he crashed British pound. But that was a one time event.

It’s the same thing with your ‘winner campaigns’. They’ll make you money (sometimes a lot of money). But when something changes or campaign is cancelled – that’s it, you are screwed.

Don’t sweat – there is a solution to this as well. Just like it’s possible to make your ad keyword independent, you can become independent or lesser dependent on particular affiliate campaign. This very post is an example how this is done.

There are some advantages to linking your PPC ad directly to affiliate campaign, skipping your own landing page. Conversions are usually better. However, you don’t have any control over other people's landing pages. Offer stops producing and you no longer make any money. The solution is to create your own landing page (like the one you are reading right now).

Listen carefully, guys. The only reason for creating your own landing page is TO MAKE MORE MONEY and become OFFER-INDEPENDENT. That’s it.

This page is 100% under my control. That page isn’t. Let’s say I run a PPC campaign with ‘make money online’ theme. Can I increase profits from this page? Sure I can. I can add more affiliate links. Or more AdSense blocks. Or a new service that I created. I could start selling links. I could start promoting some sort of guru consulting services, like Brian Tracy's. Sell real estate related products. And if one offer suddenly stops working, I could easily replace it.

Not so with that page. There is nothing I can do with it. It’s not under my control.

When you create your own landing page, you should be OBSESSED with the idea of making it more and more profitable. And it’s not because of greed. This page makes me 10 cents per visitor. So I can pay Google 5 cent per visitor and still profit handsomely. But if it made 15 cents per visitor (and believe me, I’ll tweak the hell out of it so it eventually does), I could pay Google 10 cents. That would mean a hell of a lot more traffic and a lot more profits.

That’s how the game works. After you learn how to make your ads keyword-independent, you start learning the art of creating profitable landing pages. Let me give you a few pointers just like I did with pay per click ads.

You’ve got to understand that NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, 90% of folks who read your landing page will do NOTHING. It’s the same for this post as well. Heck, this far into the post, I’ve lost most readers. And it’s not my fault or anybody else, for that matter. It’s just the way it is. The profitability of your landing pages that you create in the hands on the 10%. Remember that.

So the first thing that you should do is duplicate your best converting links, like I did with Shawn Casey’s free internet marketing course. You might have noticed this on your own – sometimes, when you come across the link, you don’t click it. But if you see it again, you decide to click it for some reason. It’s weird, but it’s true. I told you that I have several online businesses. My first one was Deprice.Com – selling downloadable shareware online (I could tell you about that business as well if you’d like). You’ll see that I have two Download and Buy links for each product. Why? Because sales increase by 12% if I have two links.

The second important concept is pre-selling your links. Pre-selling is simply explaining your reader what’s going to happen when they click the link or what the offer is about. Let me give you an example.

There is a site called e-Poll Surveys. It’s rather old and well-known. What they do is they pay with Amazon coupons and free prizes for you to take surveys. You’ve really got to be bored out of your mind, because it takes several dozen completed surveys to get a free book or a free CD. But unlike other survey sites this one is real, legitimate, proven and has great reviews from Epinions.Com.

I’ve promoted e-Poll on MadConomist.Com with and without explanations (pre-selling). Difference in conversions – 400%. It does pay to explain.

If you want to be a successful marketer, you need to learn the art of ‘long copy’. Get a hold of every book on direct mail and copywriting you can get (especially Dan Kennedy’s stuff), read John Carlton’s Blog and most importantly, read salesletters and one page websites for expensive products sold online – here is a great example that you can use as a blueprint.

The long copy concept is very important and it’s based on results, not theory. A long time ago direct-mail copywriters noticed a weird thing – a two page sales letter had twice the conversion of one page sales letter. And four page salesletter outperformed a two page sales letter by a factor of two. It doesn’t double forever, usually it stops at doubling at eight pages, but some very well known copywriters have written thirty seven page sales letters in order to get best results.

Clearly, it’s not just the length of the text. As David Ogilvy said “You can’t bore anyone into buying”. And it’s truly so. The reason those sales letter are long (as well is this page) is that they have to be that long. When you analyze the structure of all these different long sales letters, they are remarkably similar. It usually starts with a big promise, then there are details, then there are examples and proof and then there is closing.

Equally important is what happens behind the scenes, so to speak. If you are going to become a serious affiliate marketer, make it a rule to study business models of various merchants whos offers you are promoting. Why are they paying you a buck thirty for simple e-mail registration? Why are they selling a six dollar item and give you a nine dollar commission – that makes no sense? What happens after people fill out forms?

The best way to study various business models is to buy stuff (if you have money) and if you don’t, sign up for free offers and learn first hand what’s done to recoup the costs and make some profit.

Here are some frequently used business models.

Model one – Free Gifts.

Click this Boca Java offer. As you see, if you purchase 4 packs of coffee for $19.99, you’ll get free TimeMag. (And I’ll get $24 in affiliate commissions). How is this economically feasible? You get 20 bucks from a customer and you pay 24 to an affiliate?

Boca Java uses membership model (pioneered by Columbia House). A person pays $19.99, gets his coffee and a free mug. He is now a member of the club. Each month he’ll be billed $19.99 and get more coffee. Some people will cancel their “coffee subscription” right after they get a free gift. But others will stay members for months or years. The lifetime value of a member is easily calculated and is probably in the low hundreds, guessing from my experience.

Model two – The Drip System For Sales.

This is a fairly popular model among internet marketers. If you want to get a great marketing lesson for free, go ahead and enter your e-mail here (you may not want to use your primary e-mail but do use a real e-mail address, as you’ll need for free activation).

This is how the drip system works. It is highly unlikely that a person will make a purchase right away, unless that person came to a website already planning to buy. So marketers try to capture e-mail addresses of people who visit their site. In order to do that, they usually give away free e-mail courses (some courses are outstanding, by the way). When you register, you start getting the material you requested every day or every other day or once a week. Beside study material, each course usually contains a mini-ad for a product or products. This is called ‘the drip system’ and it’s based on the fact that people are much more likely to buy from you after several contacts. It’s not uncommon to triple sales right away, when you switch from “if you want to buy it, click here” to e-mail drip system. Oftentimes sales pitches that come with free courses are so effective that you can learn more about sales and copywriting by subscribing to these courses, rather than reading a book on advertising.

Model three – Email Flip.

How do you flip e-mail address? First, you create an outlandish offer, something like, if you want a free $1000 Mexico vacation for two, simply enter your e-mail. After you enter the e-mail, almost the very same second you start receiving what’s basically legal spam (other offers).

A regular person would never want to leave an e-mail address, but a marketer should (just make sure you create a special account, don’t use your primary e-mail). Why? Because you’ll learn about the world of ‘co-regs’ and there is very little information about it.

Co-reg means co-registration. When you entered your e-mail for that free Mexican vacation (which you’ll never get, because there are so many conditions you have to meet to be eligible), you’ve agreed to receiving e-mails from “partners”. The co-reg company paid once to acquire your e-mail and now it keeps reselling it to its clients over and over again. You have to understand that it’s perfectly legal. Everything is CAN-SPAM compliant and you’ll stop receiving messages when you unsubscribe. However, by the time you do that, co-regs will already make their profits. Because of CAN-SPAM act, the legal lists of e-mails are hard to come by and co-regs is one of the few venues where you can get them.

Why do I recommend getting a separate e-mail account in order to sign up for co-reg offers? You see, for spammers e-mails are basically free. You can buy a database of millions of e-mails for 50 bucks. Spammers don’t care about conversions.

Companies that sell through co-reg channels do pay every single time they rent a list and they pay a lot (it’s their single biggest spending item). So the most profitable, best converting offers often show up in co-reg channels first. Basically, if you have an e-mail account devoted to co-reg emails exclusively, you’ll always know what’s hot in advance. Here are several co-reg offers from the biggest and the best players in this niche (one, two, three).

(to be continued).