Becky Turner is not only a successful affiliate with a website that attracts 2 million visitors a year. She also has created her own product which she sells via ClickBank.
She earns about $4,500 to $5,000 a month, with sales now increasing rapidly. [UPDATE: Becky's profit is now $7,000 a month.]
The topic of her most successful affiliate website is lucid dreaming.
A lucid dream is a dream in which you're aware you're dreaming. Becky says lucid dreaming is the ability to consciously direct and control your dreams.
“It transforms your inner dream world into a living alternate reality – where everything you see, hear, feel, taste and even smell is as authentic as real life. Lucidity occurs during altered states of consciousness when you realize you are dreaming – and your brain switches into waking mode inside the dream.”
Becky, who born in England in 1983, says she began lucid dreaming at the age of 14 when she developed a keen interest in dreams and psychology.
“I love learning but never went to university. I've worked in office admin and later as a financial journalist before escaping the rat race.”
She now lives in Auckland, New Zealand, with her partner Pete and works from home running her Lucid Dreaming site and a few others.
I interviewed her about her success as an affiliate and also asked about her experience as an affiliate vendor.
Let's start with the nitty gritty. How many visitors are you getting and what revenue are you generating from your most successful affiliate sites?
World of Lucid Dreaming – This currently receives 180,000 unique visitors a month which translates to around US$3,500 a month. More than half of that income arises from sales of my own digital course, The Lucid Dreaming Fast Track, with the remainder coming from affiliate revenues.
Improve Vision Naturally – This is a much smaller niche which attracts 13,000 unique visitors a month but still generates US$1,000-$1,500 a month. I have one main affiliate partner (merchant) which accounts for all affiliate revenues.
Sheltie Planet – This site gets 14,000 unique visitors a month but I'm yet to find a good way to monetize it, having been through quite a few options. At the moment I just have Google AdSense and Amazon links up which deliver US$250 a month.[UPDATE, May 2012:
Two months after this interview, Becky's sales of The Lucid Dreaming Fast Track have grown 40%. She now makes a total profit of $7,000 a month.]
What's your view on AdSense?
I prefer my own products or strong affiliate programs over AdSense. However, it still plays a role and can be a useful backup if other income streams aren't performing. I'm currently exploring the possibility of direct advertising on World of Lucid Dreaming – and AdSense makes a good test run so I can assess what click-through rates are achievable and how much I can realistically charge for ad space.
I find some websites lend themselves to AdSense a lot better than others, even once you have carefully designed, targeted and placed your ads in optimum positions. So I would never create a website with AdSense as my primary monetization strategy, it's just too risky when conversions or cost-per-click may turn out to be low.
You're attracting impressive traffic to your Lucid Dreaming site. Where is most of your traffic coming from? Search engines? Other sites?
Over the past 30 days, organic Google searches have accounted for 70% of my web traffic. Facebook accounted for 10%, and direct traffic another 10%. The rest came from smaller search engines like Bing and Yahoo, as well as social media like StumbleUpon and Reddit.
I know you started with SBI. Are you just following SBI's advice on attracting visitors, or do you know some other tricks you can share with us?
SBI has tremendous advice for attracting web traffic. Four years after first taking SBI's course, I still build every page with SBI principles in mind because it has served me so well. These include careful keyword research, competitor analysis and Search Engine Optimization. Each article is tightly focused on one keyword phrase and you'll see that reflected in the title, description, sub headings, body text, HTML tags, text links, and even image names. That makes my articles much more likely to appear when someone searches Google for my specific keyphrase.
There are also off-page criteria (such as link building) although I have let this go over time. In the beginning it is important to get other sites linking into you. However, once your website gains popularity, other sites start linking to you without you even knowing about it. The thing grows on its own. I love that.
One thing I learned more about outside SBI is to write highly authentic, engaging articles. Put a part of yourself into every single post and write content that people will really want to share. Learning to write well takes practice. At first you'll discover just how terrible a writer you are – that's actually progress! Then you can build up your skills, analyze your work as objectively as possible, and learn to edit and polish articles before you hit “publish”.
SBI makes it clear that you should “write what you know” and draw from personal experience, but to take this to an advanced level means spending a lot of time writing and honing your skills. Once you get to a decent level, you suddenly have a lot more power to educate and inspire your audience, and this is one thing that makes blog posts go viral. I would say it's the difference between an average blog and a runaway hit.
What do you think are the most important things affiliates should do to attract visitors?
Research your niche before you begin – SBI has a great tool for assessing demand, competition and ultimate viability. Take your time and plan your site around the most viable keywords. Optimize every single page as best you can. Get a clean web design – it doesn't have to be flash, but it must be tidy and uncluttered. Learn to write for your audience – address their needs and keep surpassing their expectations. Build lots of content!
Are all your sites still made using SBI?
All my sites are made using SBI's principles, but not all were made using the technology. Once I had one subscription to SBI, I had access to all the tools and knowledge I needed, so I ran the other sites off BlueHost. This is fine if you are familiar with FTP and writing your own HTML pages. However, some people like to use SBI for every single website they make, as it simplifies the whole process. I just needed to spread my wings a bit.
Do all your sites use templates designed by Peter? Great designs, by the way!
Thanks! Peter Casale (my partner) is a professional web designer and always mucks in when I start a new website. He makes customised SBI templates to order as well as free form web designs, working with all sorts of clients from celebrity chefs to mining companies on the London Stock Exchange.
What has been your experience with SBI?
SBI launched my career in online business, at a time when I didn't even know what a “blog” was. Yes, this was in 2008. You could say I was behind the times!
I'd just emigrated from London to Auckland, an ex-financial journalist who didn't want to rejoin the rat race in this new found paradise. I just wanted to make a living doing something I loved, ideally working for myself, and making decent money from it. This was a tall order – and not many people follow through on such dreams – but SBI took me there.
I'm so grateful for everything SBI has taught me. I now love what I do. I would never have figured this out by launching a WordPress blog and hoping for the best. SBI builds businesses, that's the difference. Of course, it took a lot of my own hard work but I can clearly see I would have missed this career opportunity without SBI.
I see you launched your own Lucid Dreaming training guide in August 2011. Why did you do that when you could have just promoted other people's products?
The main reason I created The Lucid Dreaming Fast Track is because I saw a gap in the digital market. There was perhaps one real competitor offering a complete beginner's guide to lucid dreaming, and I felt they priced themselves out at US$59.95. I knew I could create an even better product and charge much less.
The other reason I went solo was because I realised it would be a good way to de-risk my business. Working with affiliate partners is great on the surface, because all you need do is recommend their product and take a profit share in return. However, there are some risks and downsides to this model, as I have discovered first-hand:
- Your affiliate partner (merchant) dictates your commission rate, the product price and any bonus payouts. Even the slightest change in these numbers can seriously affect your income and you get absolutely no say in it.
- Your affiliate partner can drop their product or affiliate program at any time. This happened to me just recently, so now I need to source an alternative partner I can trust and re-write all my product reviews – or simply lose this income stream altogether.
- Your affiliate partner may develop different values to you. One of my top affiliate partners gradually started cross-selling more “alternative products” like healing crystals which I don't believe in. Profiting from these product sales would violate my moral values, so I have to replace this affiliate range too.
- Your affiliate partner may go out of business or stop paying you. Even reputable companies who usually pay you every month may shut down shop and decide they don't want to finish up paying their affiliates, leaving you at a loss despite your ongoing sales efforts.
So, mostly it's about de-risking your business and taking control of your own income streams. Ideally, you want to be in charge of your product price, your customer payment system and your advertising methods. Creating your own product takes time but in return you will reap 100% of the rewards for as long as you want to run with it.
How long did it take to create the course?
I couldn't say exactly, but it was a long time. First I wrote a 111-page ebook (The Art of Lucid Dreaming). Then as a supporting guide, I decided to write the 26-page ebook (Meditation Advice for Lucid Dreamers). The final part was an audio hypnosis session for lucid dreaming, requiring me to write an original hypnosis script. I outsourced the rest: graphics, book layout, hypnosis narration, music and digital mastering. The course was then complete.
But a course doesn't sell itself… Next I had to write my sales page. First I hired a professional sales writer to create the page for me. He guaranteed results but it failed miserably (unfortunately I'm still fighting for my money back). After that I wrote the page myself and got a trickle of initial sales. Over about three months I re-wrote and tested the page again and again, until sales conversions were around the 2% mark. Finally, I was making a good income for all my efforts.
Last week I filmed a 2-minute sales video for the Fast Track, which I understand can really help improve conversions. This took only a couple of hours of my time, but I outsourced many hours of expert video editing and post-production. The video should go live at the top of my sales page and on YouTube any day now.
Has all the time and extra effort been worth while?
Definitely! I spent many months working on the course and many more months re-working my sales and marketing materials – but I have learned a whole lot and, financially, it's really paying off now too.
It's also been fulfilling creatively; I have a product which I'm very proud of, and which has received lots of positive feedback from customers. It's exciting to have your knowledge put into the market in multiple formats: first web, then ebook and now Kindle too.
How are your own product sales going?
Good – and growing fast. In February, profit from the Fast Track amounted to US$2,200, and sales in March are already way ahead – we should be looking at doubling sales this month.
It's very motivating to see periods of rapid growth like that, and right now I'm seeing huge growth month-on-month, mainly derived from increasing organic search engine traffic.
I keep a very close eye on my traffic and conversions, and I take action if I notice things dwindling. Despite the downturn in the wider economy (surely a factor for anyone selling anything these days), the main influences under my control are: page hits (how many people I can drive to my sales page via my website) and sales conversion rate (how many people actually end up buying).
I think it's very important to have goals and so my long-term aim is to double my conversion rate to a healthy 4% which, based on my current web traffic, will generate upwards of US$9,000/month.
Have you made an effort to promote your affiliate program, or is it just on ClickBank?
The Lucid Dreaming Fast Track is ranked well in the ClickBank marketplace. I also have a dedicated affiliate page on my site with full details and marketing materials.
I'm really no expert in running affiliate programs but I have noticed a few things so far:
- The majority of affiliates will generate few or zero sales, which I can only assume is due to their marketing inexperience, limited blog traffic, or limited ad budget. I'm told then when things notch up, most affiliate sales come from a select few partners who are highly experienced and active.
- Most affiliates never make contact with the vendor. I'd actually prefer that they introduce themselves, tell me about their website, and ask for a free review copy so they can do the product justice. If an affiliate can potentially generate thousands of dollars in sales, it's definitely worth my time talking to them.
- You can target highly active affiliates by selectively approaching them, rather than waiting for them to stumble upon you. Having worked in the lucid dreaming niche for four years I know most other lucid dreaming webmasters and offered them all free review copies. Now I intend to seek out high traffic blogs in the broader niche of mind development who might be interested in promoting the Fast Track.
I'm sure there are plenty more ways to promote your affiliate program, and this is something I'm still figuring out as I go. My priority with the Fast Track (being my first ever product) was to get the sales conversions to a healthy rate before getting too many other salespeople on board. I'm just reaching that critical point now.
How many affiliates do you have and how many sales to they make?
I have a few dozen ClickBank affiliates but sales are limited. This year I'm going to focus on recruiting active affiliates in relevant niches so I hope to have a different story to tell soon…
Do affiliate questions take up much of your time?
Not at all… As this part of my marketing strategy is underdeveloped, I hear very little from affiliates. The affiliates I do have tend to work in the background without contacting me. Occasionally one comes forward and asks specific questions about conversion rates, which is a good sign – they know what they're talking about! I like to hear from people like this as it's great to have a switched-on player discovering your product.[UPDATE, May 2012: Becky has switched her affiliate program from ClickBank to a more sophisticated platform, JROX. For affiliates interested in promoting her Lucid Dreaming Fast Track, she now pays a generous 65% ($24.05) on tier 1 sales and 10% on tier 2 sales.]
With a bunch of websites, forums and your own affiliate program to run, you must have a lot of energy? How many hours a week do you work? Do you outsource many of the tasks?
Ha! Most people think I just sit around all day doing nothing! Physically, it's just as demanding as any other job. I have a lot of mental energy to expend though, which is perfect if you want to make your living running a website.
The good thing about running websites is you can build them up at your own pace. For a beginner, it is actually a lot more demanding to grow a 10-page website in the early stages of development, than for someone like me to maintain a 200-page website with an established traffic base. However, there is always a limit to this rule.
Some time in 2011, with six websites to my name (three of which were still in early development), I started to feel my attention being split too many ways. I also had two forums which took up time to manage. Yet to succeed with a particular project, I tend to become quite obsessive with the details. I need to fully immerse myself into my business plan, to feel fully motivated and know I'm giving it my all. I realised I couldn't do this six ways.
I also realized I didn't want to run six average-performing websites; I wanted to run one outstanding website that could one day make my fortune. So I decided to focus on World of Lucid Dreaming as this is the most successful website with the most growth potential. It was a hard choice because in a way I've left all my other “babies” behind (only rarely updating them if I feel the necessity) but it has turned out for the best.
I don't outsource anything I don't have to. I'm lucky to have Pete to offer free labor on the design front (that's what partners are for isn't it?) and seek out good deals when I need other technical help. I got burned once by outsourcing work and admittedly that has put me off if I can at all help it.
Fortunately this kind of business doesn't require extra staffing. You can outsource off-site elements but I'm not convinced they do that much good any more. For example, so-called SEO experts contact me every month offering to grow my business through offsite promotion – like link building, article submissions, directory submissions, and so on. But I have come to find these efforts a hollow attempt to trick Google into liking your website. They don't really work and each algorithm update will reveal that to be increasingly true. Authentic site building is the way to go; and the only way I can do that is by pouring myself and my experience into my business.
Today I probably work around 20-25 hours per week on my website, with weekly goals of:
- Researching and writing one new article
- Designing new banners and monitoring click-throughs
- Monitoring sales and improving the conversion rate
- Stripping out affiliate products which no longer resonate
- Maintaining and moderating the public forums
- Handling customer queries promptly
- Responding to new business ventures
- Networking with other webmasters
- Writing guest articles and doing off-site promotion
One of the most time consuming tasks (up until a month ago) was responding to reader emails. So many people have questions about lucid dreaming! Everyone wants to know something specific about their own efforts… Are they doing it right? What can they do to improve? Can I interpret their dreams? Is this normal? Why isn't this happening? Do I think they're getting enough sleep?
For years I answered every question in detail but eventually the numbers got the better of me. The website now receives 2 million visitors per year and I can't handle all those questions! I felt like an agony aunt and I began to feel this wasn't even helping me to grow my business – only diverting my attention to unpaid, one-on-one coaching.
Since removing my email address from public view it's given me a much needed break from reader questions and now I can focus on just growing my business again. I definitely think it was the right decision. Though it's not as handy for my readers to just fire me a question whenever they need to, they have other avenues like the FAQ or the forums. And now I can put more time in writing quality content which will ultimately benefit them too.
Congrats on your success. What do you think makes your Lucid Dreaming site a success while many affiliates are struggling?
Thank you! I would say that if you plan to succeed in online business, you'd better to do it right. There's no sense slapping up “just another WordPress blog” (I can't believe that's their own tagline) and hoping people will come by and give you free money. There are strategies to this game. SBI taught me one particular winning strategy and I stuck to it religiously.
It also helps that I landed an exciting niche (not through luck – but another clever SBI tactic) and remain committed to developing my business in as many directions as I know how. I know that any smart, motivated person can replicate what I've done (or better) using SBI, and I fully recommend the course if online business appeals to you.
You can learn more about SBI here.
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