It’s always interesting to learn from other marketers and personally I enjoy nothing better than reading case studies from other successful affiliate marketers. Not only does it give me fresh “legs” to keep pushing forward but it opens my mind to new techniques, ideas and tools.
In my recent call for case studies, John B contacted us. He’s been an affiliate for quite a few years and has also had previous experience as an affiliate manager across various sectors.
He manages two sites, one of which acts as a super affiliate that educates affiliates in the financial/forex niche. This is the site he talks to us about today.
Welcome to John B’s business…
Site Name: Forex Affiliates Review (www.forexaffiliatesreview.com)
Owner: John B
Launched: Sep, 2008
Traffic /mth: 4756 uniques/month
Revenue /mth: Withheld (John is a full-time affiliate.)
Target Market: Recruiting affiliates in the financial services niche
Theme/Topic: Forex & Binary Options Affiliate programs
Top 3 Marketing Strategies:
• Writing content that is relevant to the time
• Looking beyond the usual monetization methods
• Connecting with the industry
1. Can you give us some background on yourself? Tell us a bit about your career experience before you first got started online.
This question brings back good memories from as far back as 2002. Strangely enough, I started off as an affiliate support executive at the beginning of my career without a clue to what this field was about.
During the course of my career path, I was fortunate enough to deal first hand and learn about various concepts such as email marketing, AdSense and so on. I took my first website live in late 2004, which was a hardcoded, 20 page HTML site. I also built a few websites as a freelancer as well.
I became a part-time affiliate around 2008 and I signed off as a marketing manager in 2010 to pursue affiliate marketing as a full-time business.
2. How long has your site been on the Web?
This September, my website will be have been active for 3 years.
3. Is it your first website? If not, how many other sites have you had?
Not at all! It took me a while to find my “holy grail” and prior to setting up ForexAffiliatesReview.com, I had dabbled with purchasing domains (which was back in those days quite expensive). At one point I had over 40 domains that I bought but never made use of. Besides Forex Affiliates Review, I actively manage another site called ForexPromos.com that deals directly with consumer markets in the retail finance niche.
4. Can you tell us where the idea for your current site came from?
Given that my career started off on the other side of affiliate marketing and having worked on the grass roots level (affiliate support) I quickly discovered people spend a lot of time trying to get traffic and conversions. Some affiliates literally spend many hours with no results, while the more successful ones just seem like they have the Midas touch.
This made me want to set up a site where besides sharing my own experiences and practices, I could also research on the Internet and write about any new or upcoming trends to the benefit of the affiliates. Another factor that played a role was to develop Forex Affiliates Review as a leading website in order to monitor any rogue affiliate programs in the niche.
5. How did you go about developing the website? Who set it up for you?
I’m a one-man show. From troubleshooting cpanel issues, designing graphics in Photoshop, writing content, debugging php code and marketing the site as well. I largely credit my educational background in Information Technology which gave me the base for my ability on the technical front. The rest of the skills I picked up were borne out of necessity.
I should point out that if you persevere enough and have the patience, you can learn just about anything without having the need to purchase expensive tutorials or memberships. Just dive in and you’ll learn to swim!
6. What is your target market?
I operate within the retail OTC finance niche, focusing on recruiting affiliates to promote the respective merchants. Besides this primary business goal, I also ensure to update my site with articles and best practices which can benefit the site’s visitors and eventually increase their and my bottom line revenues
7. Why did you make the choice to run your business on the web?
It made business sense considering the niche I was in and the fact that the merchants operate in an eCommerce environment.
It’s much easier to update content and I can reach a potential affiliate even if they’re based in the US. Now that’s something that offline business cannot do.
8. What kind of revenues are you earning? Where/who from?
In terms of revenue, I have a split approach. I make money using Google AdSense and regular affiliate commissions.
9. Can you give us some insight into your favorite marketing strategies?
A lot has changed since I first set up my websites and one of the best strategies a webmaster can make use of is to keep themselves abreast of the latest changes in technology and the Internet and adapt their strategies accordingly.
When it comes to the favorite strategies, I’d say:
Content: I agree that content is king in today’s age of Panda. However, if the content offers no value, it’s a lost cause. Writing content should begin by asking yourself if the topic is relevant to the present time and is it a topic that is searched by users within your target markets/audience.
Content with stats, facts and figures works best. Likewise, a “how to” article that is of value also works wonders. Another approach is to write content based on your unique experiences. Nothing can beat the personal touch.
Forums: This is usually either an under-utilized strategy or implemented in the wrong way. For some just creating a forum profile is where the job ends, to get their backlinks. While it may be true, forums give you the opportunity to pick up new things as well as chip in with your two cents.
It doesn’t matter if you are right or wrong as long as you stay within the context of the discussion. Most forums have a reputation system based on age of profile, number of posts and so on. Again for the few, the job ends here as soon as they get to post their signature links.
Actively participating in forums is a good way to market especially when you contribute something of value. In that case, the chances are high that your signature link gets clicked. And here’s the trick. Given that you now know your potential audience, the signature links should be something related to the context, good enough (similar to how you would write an AdWords headline copy) which will make the readers of your post/thread to click it. Always set up a landing page that summarizes what your site is about. And HAVE AN EMAIL OPT-IN FORM!
Content Syndication: Most webmasters just confine themselves to bookmarking their articles on a few sites. It’s like this, if you don’t tell the world about what you do, no one is going to know what you are doing.
The same principle applies to your website as well. I’m sure that every niche on the Internet has its own set of sites that aggregates feeds and syndicates content. Research well and come up with at least 10 such sites and submit your content as and when you update it (without making it too spammy).
10. What kind of traffic are you seeing to the site (visitors a month)?
I get an average of 4k unique visitors a month. Besides Google’s Analytics, I also make use of my own hosted analytics to get a better picture on the traffic.
11. Where are people finding you?
The search is split between search engines and referring sites, followed by social bookmarks. Our site is also often referred to by other merchants which offers its own benefits.
12. Do you use SEO to build traffic?
During the early days of my sites, I did actively make use of SEO in terms of building links, submitting to directories and so on. Now I don’t really focus much on link building. In other words, I do not actively pursue it. I focus mostly on building content. Eventually the article gets picked up by various sources which impact the overall SEO strategy.
13. Do you use pay-per-click advertising?
I used PPC few years ago but vowed never to do it again. Blame it mostly on my lack of knowledge at the time. However, it was a good thing because there’s one less expense to worry about.
14. Have you built a mailing list? How big is your list?
Mailing lists are important. Most affiliates who start off leave this to a later stage (which I learned through my experiences). Having a mailing list can do wonders for you. My list sits comfortable at around 2000 opt-ins.
15. What kinds of challenges exist for people in your market?
The retail financial services niche is highly competitive hence it’s highly rewarding as well. From dealing with merchants that do not pay on time to keeping a tab on the legalities of promoting the offer from merchants, there are a range of issues.
What makes it even more difficult is the fact that affiliates, in the finance niche have to compete not just against other affiliate sites but micro sites set up by merchants as well.
16. Would you say there are any mistakes you’ve made along the way?
I did make mistakes and have learned from them. As long as you admit or own up to them and ensure never to repeat them, it’s all good.
17. Could you tell us 3 tips that you wished you had known or learned when you first started your site?
- ***Don’t try to do everything all at once. It’s counterproductive. There is no silver bullet (course/tutorial/strategy/tips) that will make you money over night.
- If you have the budget, then do invest in a Yahoo! directory listing. It’s well worth your money. You don’t have to renew your listing so long as you can capitalize on the push it gives to your site.
- Besides just affiliate commissions, there are other different ways to monetize your site. One only needs to use their imagination and think outside the box. Use AdSense smartly, sell text links on your site, etc.
18. Could you tell us about 3 things that have made the most difference to the success of your site or improve the cash flow?
1. Spend only what you can spare and spend less than what you make.
2. Have a good analytics system in place. Make notes (annotations) to keep track of the steps before you engage in any major strategy. It helps you to understand where you need to focus your time on.
3. Rinse-Repeat. It’s a popular term using in Internet Marketing. Instead of spending time trying to come up with the “perfect” strategy, implement it and learn to improvise on it.
19. If you had a complete newbie sitting down in front of you right now, what advice would you give them as they're just getting started on the Web?
1. Niche: Pick a niche that you are passionate about. Forget the high paying or fast converting niches. When your energy is low, it’s your passion and enthusiasm that will take you through the down times.
2. Education: The Internet offers so many learning opportunities so spend a good hour or two reading up to learn as much as you can then implement those tips/strategies.
3. Connections: Blend in with your niche/industry. Make connections on LinkedIn or Facebook, ask other experts in your field to critique your website or marketing strategies. A person with questions is more welcome than someone who just complains.
20. How would you say running your site has affected the way you live your life now?
For one, managing an affiliate business has made me value money even more. The fruits of your labor are more delicious because you, as an affiliate, know what it took to earn it. Secondly, I’m always on the lookout for any inspiration or opportunity in my daily life. Lastly, I do a lot of my thinking/planning while taking a shower!
To Your Success!