Affiliate Marketing Training: The Chaos Theory

Affiliate Marketing Training: Chaos Theory

This is getting crazy.

I’ve been contacted by people from all of the world that want affiliate marketing training. Some offer to pay me. Some offer a percentage of their earnings. Some offer their first born child. I’ve turned them all down.

Maybe you’re one of them. If so – please read this because it answers every question you asked.

There Are 3 Types of New Affiliates

Here are the three categories I’ve come up with for the new people I talk to:

researcherThe Researcher:
The Researcher has never launched a campaign. He spends hours per day reading blogs and forums. He’s very active in forums, mainly asking questions.

He even bought some eBooks and video courses on how to do affiliate marketing but has never used them.

scientistThe Scientist:
The Scientist did very well in school, he’s very smart. He heard there are a lot of guys that are dumber than him making a lot of money online and thinks he should do it too.

He will spend the next 4 years developing the perfect scientific formula which he will use on his first campaign – that will never launch.

quitterThe Quitter:
The Quitter really wanted to be an affiliate marketer. He even had a campaign one time. He got everything set up and spent $20 but he didn’t make any sales.

He decided that affiliate marketing doesn’t work.

Today I’m Going To Talk To All 3 Of You

My goal is to tell you three things:

  1. How I avoided becoming one of those 3 guys
  2. Why you’re all screwed if you don’t change your ways
  3. How you can take action and become an affiliate marketer in the next 7 days

First – Let’s Start With Me

Maybe I lucked out in my experience. Because when I started doing this – I didn’t know about any affiliate marketing blogs or places to go for advice.

  • I knew one affiliate manager
  • I knew about one forum that I checked out once every few weeks
  • I had zero affiliate marketing training

I was hungry from the beginning. I spent all of my time launching campaigns and trying things. Things were crazy. I didn’t sleep much. Things went wrong all the time. I learned lessons every day by making mistakes.

But I had balls. Any time I heard a good piece of advice on a forum or from my affiliate manager I would give it a shot right away. Most of the time I didn’t really know what I was doing – I just went for it.

For example – here’s what happened one night at Affiliate Summit West.

Affiliate Summit West 2009

By January 2009 I was in my third month of affiliate marketing. I was running a single Adwords campaign.

The first month was awful – I lost so much money I almost quit. Thankfully things turned around in month two and by January I was just starting to make some cash.

So I Decided To Go To Affiliate Summit West.

I didn’t know a single person in the industry. I had been talking with 2 affiliate managers on IM only. One of them invited me to a mansion party during the conference and I sheepishly agreed to go.

At the time I had major social anxiety. I was 6 months sober and still trying to figure out to socialize without alcohol, a task I’ve always found to be very hard. So agreeing to go to the party was a big deal. I dreaded it the whole way there.

Walking Into The Party Was A Nightmare

mansionThe party was on the second night of the conference in this gigantic futuristic looking mansion somewhere way off the strip. As I walked up to the house I could hear loud dance music, guys screaming, glasses breaking.

The place was packed with drunk affiliates. I almost left. But I decided to stay – so I texted the affiliate manager and told him I was outside.

We met in the kitchen and he introduced me to the guys he was with. There were three of them. All of them were very drunk. We introduced ourselves… and the conversation quickly turned into business talk.

One guy put his arm around me and drunkenly said “So you’re a new Adwords guy hu?” I nodded yes. I guess my affiliate manager told them who I was.

“How many keywords are you using?” he asked. I said “Eight”.

He started laughing and proceeded to tell me some insider information I could use to totally explode my campaign. I typed it all down on my phone as he talked.

I stayed about another hour. We all exchanged contact info. I left.

I Was Excited

eyesoepnBy the time I got back to the hotel it was probably 2:00am. I immediately sat down, pulled out my notes and took action.

I implemented the strategy he gave me right then and there before I went to sleep.

When I woke up the next morning I stumbled over to the laptop and checked my stats.

I was shocked to see that I’d made enough money to pay for the entire trip to the Summit. Plane, tickets, hotel, everything. And then it really started rolling.

It happened that fast.

I told him the next day and they all freaked out that I’d launched it that quickly. It became part of my reputation – and I still work like that to this day.

So Why Does This Story Matter?

I’m telling you this story to try to drill into your head the importance of taking action right away vs reading forums and asking people for training. If I hadn’t acted right away I may have missed the window of opportunity completely.

The strategy he gave me is no longer allowed on PPC networks. So if I hadn’t done it right then – the opportunity would have been gone forever.

Want Some Affiliate Marketing Training?


Here you go:

Step 1: Launch a campaign as fast as you can
Step 2: Learn from your mistakes live, as they happen
Step 3: Repeat Step 1

That’s it. The most important skill for a brand new affiliate to have is Taking Action. The rest will come later.

Here’s What You’re Probably Doing:
  • You’re trying to set up a perfect affiliate marketing strategy
  • A perfect process
  • A perfect system that guarantees you won’t lose money
Here’s What You’re Worried About:
  • How to hire Outsourcers
  • How to build a business
  • Where to rent office space

F#ck All That

messy-deskI doubt that any super affiliate in the world today had a perfect system in the beginning. In fact – most of the guys that I know didn’t have a system at all when they started.

They just started.

I’d bet that during their biggest days they were unorganized, had filthy desks, didn’t sleep well and made mistake after mistake whlie the traffic came pouring in on top of them.

There are people that have been dabbling for years in affiliate marketing without launching a paid traffic campaign. They say they’re researching – But that’s mainly BS. They’re scared.

Example: My New eBook

Here’s another example of how I take fast action. I’ve just created my first eBook. It is currently available to my newsletter members. If you’re not on it – Click here to sign up.

I’ve never created an eBook before. I did it in a few days, with no idea what I was doing and with no tools to work with. I just made it work.

I could have spent a month researching best practices and learning new software. I could have bought a $297 video course on “How to Make an eBook”.

But I used the tools I had and made it happen fast and now it’s done.

Now Let’s Talk About You

Yes, I’m talking about you.

Let’s take a moment and assess your current situation.

  1. How many campaigns have you launched?
  2. How many blogs do you read?

If the answer to #2 is higher than the answer to #1 you could be in big trouble.

puzzledThe question is: Are you even interested in doing this? Or is affiliate marketing something you enjoy reading about?

If it’s just a fun thing for you to read about then by all means read to your heart’s content. There are plenty of mid-level affiliate bloggers who post oceans of out of date advice that you can read.

But if you’re serious about doing this for a living. And want to make enough money to quit your job. I suggest you get started and you get started right now.

What Your First Campaign Will Look Like

For the record: If I was reading this. I would print out the next few sections, place it on my desk and start crossing things off one by one.

  1. Get a website and some hosting. Avoid shared hosting – you don’t want your website going dead while you’re paying for traffic.
  2. Sign up for an affiliate network
    1. You will have an awkward phone conversation with your first affiliate manager. They will ask you about your business. You won’t know what to say. They’ll probably approve you anyway.
  3. Sign up for an ad network
    1. For beginners I’d recommend a self-serve platform that allows you to sign up online and is affiliate friendly. This is very important because you’re going to need their help.
  4. Choose an offer that you know converts well on that ad network
    1. Don’t go in blind. Ask your affiliate manager to recommend an offer that is doing very well on the ad network you’re going to use. That way you have a good chance at making a profit.
  5. Set up a tracking system
    1. This is crucial and could take a few days to setup and test. Invest the time. A good tracking system can make or break your campaign.
  6. Make a landing page
    1. Take a look at the ads running on the ad network you’re going to advertise on. See what kind of landing pages other people are using and do something similar. Then, innovate.
    2. I use Dreamweaver for landing pages. If you don’t have it – Google ‘Free HTML editors’ or something like that. There are a million of them.
  7. Make some ads
    1. Look at the ads running on the network and make some ads that are similar. Then, innovate.
    2. I use Photoshop for ad creation. There are free editors as well Google ‘Free Image Editor’. I think GIMP is a good, free option. Use Microsoft Word to make your ads if you have to (I know guys who have) just make some ads.
  8. Launch your first campaign

That’s what you are going to do. And it should take no more than a week. I don’t care if your landing page sucks and the campaign has a budget of $5 a day. Get something live and do it as fast as possible.

Give yourself a deadline of 7 days from today to have your first campaign live. Because you’re never going to understand how this works until you go through the process yourself.

Specific Instructions and Gear Recommendations

If the above list wasn’t enough for you. Here is a list of the gear I use and networks I recommend. Links are included. Use them and get started.

  1. Get a domain name and hosting
    1. Domain names: Namecheap
    2. Hosting:
      1. WiredTree (Rock solid servers)
      2. BlueHost – (Affordable. 1 Click WordPress Install, Awesome support)
      3. Dreamhost (Easy to use – Just don’t use shared hosting)
  2. Get approved at an affiliate network
    1. Adsimilis and Mundo Media are trusted networks
    2. Fill out the application and they’ll contact you
    3. Tell them you are doing Dating on POF
    4. If you can’t get approved, leave a comment and we’ll figure it out
  3. Sign up with an ad network that likes affiliates
    1. Plenty of Fish ( is a great place to start, no cloaking required.
    2. Launch a dating campaign on a dating site. No brainer.
    3. Look up Ben on Twitter. He’s the guy to talk to.
  4. Get some sort of tracking system (required)
    1. CPVLab (recommended) this is the tracking software I use. Most serious affiliate use it. It makes deploying and changing campaigns ridiculously easy. If you have problems they offer great support.
    2. Prosper202 – This is the old school favorite. It gets the job done and it’s free. I don’t think it’s updated or supported anymore. So if you use it, you’re on your own.
    3. Teach yourself how to use it (Google it) or watch the CPVLab demo video
  5. Get a conversion pixel from the ad network
  6. Place the pixel on the affiliate offer (or ask affiliate manager to do it)
  7. Create a simple landing page and some ads
    1. If you don’t know code or design you’ll need to learn. Treehouse teaches you for $25/month. The first month is free. Just be sure to remember to cancel if you don’t want to continue. Check it out here.
  8. Launch the campaign and start gathering data
    1. It sounds obvious – but check all of your links before you launch. Make sure everything is working correctly before you push GO.
  9. Improve results as fast as you can
    1. Expect to lose some money on your first few days. But remember, you’re not losing money, you’re paying for some data that will help you optimize your campaign.
    2. Example: Plenty of Fish has killer demographic data (age, gender, etc). If by day 2 you see that 60+ year old men are using up all your budget and not converting – you can turn them off in the Plenty of Fish system. The next day – your results should improve.
  10. Have a blast

What to Expect

Your first few weeks will be messy. Especially if you’re new to design and code. Be prepared for a whirlwind of excitement, fun and chaotic disasters.

What Might Happen

  • You’ll put in the wrong url and send all your traffic to an error page
  • The tracking pixel won’t work, then you’ll fix it
  • Your ads will get disapproved
  • You’ll make your first conversion and have a heart attack
  • Your website will crash while you’re asleep
  • You won’t be able to sleep

Embrace the Chaos


In all chaos there is a cosmos, in all disorder a secret order. 
– Carl Jung (Tweet This)

Think of the next 6 months as your Chaos Period and embrace it. Accept it for what it is. A trial by fire.

You can spend the next 8 months planning out your perfect system. And maybe that will work for you. But like I said earlier, I don’t know anyone that had a perfect plan before launching their first campaign.

The majority of us went balls out – with barely a clue of what we were doing. We figured it out along the way. Affiliate marketing is a hands-on game. You will never understand how it works until you do it for yourself.

It Will Get Better In Time

You will develop a system and a strategy over time. You will tidy up your desk. You may even hire a few people to help you. You’ll get a maid to do your laundry. You’ll get a proper amount of sleep.

But Not In The Beginning.

The beginning is your Chaos Period – and there is no affiliate marketing training that can save you from that. I swear I’m not trying to be an asshole by telling you this. I’m telling you this because I want to help you understand what to expect.

Think about it: If you walk into chaos expecting chaos – you’ll be able to deal with it a whole lot easier.

In Conclusion

I’ve given you every bit of help I can here. If you’re new to affiliate marketing, or better yet – if you’ve been dragging your feet for a long time – this is the action plan you need. Like I said, if I read this as a beginner I would print the list of to do items out and start checking them off one by one.

The person that does that – is the kind of person that is going to make it work.

In cased you missed it I told you:
  1. How I Got Started (Fast action)
  2. Why You’re Currently Screwed (Reading, planning, wasting time)
  3. How You Can Get Started (7-Day Launch Plan + Chaos Theory)

Set your timer. 7 days from today you can have a campaign live on Plenty of Fish. If you’re not live – you should be at least trying to get it live.

  • Print this out
  • Take Fast, Massive Action
  • Embrace The Chaos

A Few More Resources My Earlier Posts

P.S. This is the closest thing to affiliate marketing training I will ever offer. So read it carefully and get to work.

Good luck.

Questions? Fire away in the comments.

  • Angelo

    Love the blog. I feel like it speaks to me in a lot of ways. Thanks again for the time spent writing these blog post for us newbies.

    • Malan Darras

      Thanks for reading Angelo. It is a lot of work writing these things. But I love to share/help when I can.

      Just remember – if you haven’t launched your first campaign yet, reading is just the first step. Print it out or write it down and start checking off boxes as you go.

  • dragos

    When will people stop suggesting POF as a starting point for newbies? It hasn’t been easy to get into for a while now. Just read the last 10 POF follow alongs on STM – none of them are profitable.

    • Malan Darras

      Hey Dragos – I have never lost money on a POF campaign. I have never had to use a cloaker. I have never had a problem getting ads approved. They have insane demographic targeting data and stat reports.

      That’s why I recommend them as a training ground.

      Even if you don’t make a dollar you can learn the basics of launching a campaign. Which is the key. I know brand new guys making between $100 – $200/day there right now. They didn’t give up because of some crappy STM follow alongs. They made it work (and it does work)

      You are never going to find a winning campaign by stealing someone else’s follow along. The ones that get posted are the losers. Ever notice how some follow along people disappear half-way through? That’s because they probably hit a goldmine. And are protecting their campaign.

      • nategoddard

        I love your approach and advice on AM. With regards to STM, would you recommend it as a community to learn from and get feedback on campaigns or not so much?

        • Malan Darras

          STM is great if you have the extra cash. There is some good stuff in there, but there are no golden secrets to making money.

          If you have a limited budget, I always recommend you focus as much of your money as possible on campaigns. More on that:

  • Leo Young

    Priceless..thank you!

    • Malan Darras

      Thanks for reading Leo – I hope it helps you. Have you launched a campaign yet?

  • Hannah

    Got turned down completely over the phone for Adsimilis for not having CPA affiliate experience. Do I need to lie? Should I still go for Mundomedia (which was in the article earlier) or are they even more strict? (How do they expect affiliates to get experience if they won’t give them any? Diiiicks haha)

    • Matthew Geer

      PeerFly and MaxBounty is the easiest to get into, from my experience. Then I applied for Neverblue and MundoMedia, and got into both. I didn’t need to lie to get into any of them.

      Just my experience though. Hope that helps.

    • Malan Darras

      Hannah – that’s happens sometimes. Which is odd because my first affiliate manager taught me when I was new – and his network made a killing off of me because of it. I’ll see what happened and will update the post later with networks that assure me they are newbie-friendly.

      • Hannah

        All good, thanks guys! I was able to get set up with an oooold Peerfly account that I’ve never made the time to use. First campaign is just pending advertiser approval now. 😀

  • Rory

    Hey Maran – another piece of gold. You’re right… just need to dive in. And I’m taking advantage of a slow Friday in my cubicle to do so. 😉 One question – what’s your suggestion for “company name” on some of these applications? And do I need to set up an LLC or something before applying to them?

    • Malan Darras

      Rory, if you don’t have a business just put your name there, or simply make up a business name. You don’t need to setup an LLC before applying.

  • Adam

    long time aff, new reader… awesome advice! just started teaching my business partners from other ventures this stuff, and your post sums it up! LAUNCH. We have a rule, “don’t ask me any questions until you’ve tried whatever it is you are going to ask me.” and it’s lead to some pretty decent discoveries 🙂

    great post man! Looking forward to more!

    • Malan Darras

      Thanks for reading Adam – I like your rule ‘don’t ask me until you’ve tried it’. I may have to borrow that one.

  • Tung Tran

    Loved this post Malan!

    I just switched from SEO to paid traffic and this is definitely very valuable for me.

    Ok it’s time to get into work mode!

    • Malan Darras

      making the switch from SEO to paid traffic is the best decision I ever made. good luck.

  • Daniel Nguyen

    Should we use a dedicated server?

    • Malan Darras

      You need whatever server suites your needs. My first affiliate server was Dreamhost grid hosting. It crashed and I lost a ton of money so I switched to VPS on another host. VPS is probably minimum requirement, Dedicated if you are going to do some volume.

  • Grim Fitness

    Great stuff, just 2 questions:
    1) Why do you need a domain name? Does it matter what the name is?
    2) You should do a post on SEO vs paid traffic. I’m still in SEO and yes it is very slow to see an ROI but part of me stays in SEO because I feel it’s “safer” than paid traffic. Thoughts?

    • Malan Darras

      hey Grim –
      1. You need a website/domain name so you can host your landing pages and redirects.
      2. SEO is slow and makes less money. Paid traffic is fast and makes more money.

      I don’t see how SEO is safe. If google changes it’s mind your entire business is killed. I think you really need to look at your mindset.

  • Jon

    What specs for VPS do you suggest minimum for a beginning campaign? And would it be okay to put your tracking software and landing pages on the same server if you’re strapped for cash? Thanks

    • Malan Darras

      Use the cheapest one at Bluehost. Can’t beat it for specs and price. Check it out:

      I’ve hosted tracking software and landing pages on a single VPS server and had no problems. If you’re making money you can put your tracker on a different server.

  • Joe Swift

    This is good stuffs bro. Found out about your blog from Charles Ngo fb post. You guys are just awesome!

  • Hakim

    Most No-BS / in your face advice ever, Started 3 compaigns one at a time (7earch+clickdealer), Still loosing but Learning, using direct linkin , My question is : ” Is using/testing landing pages necessary? ” , coz I wana optimise my compaign but i dnt know what to do ! ” Thx

    • Malan Darras

      I use landing pages 90% of the time.

  • Don

    This is GOLD!
    Thanks for kicking my ass into gear. I am printing this action list and starting tomorrow morning!

    • Malan Darras

      nice hope that works out

  • Kriss Arthur

    hi Malan,

    you just slap my face… 🙂 I feel like you talking to me personally !!
    but your slap is for good….thanks

    • Malan Darras

      i am talking to you (and 1000s of other new affs) personally

  • Chris

    Hey Malan, Thanks for your incredible blog. You are a fantastic source of advice and a great writer. You have that rare ability to distill years of experience into digestible and useful wisdom for others to learn from. I keep reading your blog because you somehow manage to fit so many gems of wisdom into every post. Some of your posts I email to myself to save them, and many I have distilled further onto a notepad at home as lessons to take from you. Thanks so much. Just a bit of feedback as well: 1) if you could categorize and better organize your archives, that would be awesome – it just would help readers (me) read more of your content and surf your site. Also cross linking to other articles in your articles more would be great since while I’m (and others) are reading, I open links in new tabs to read afterwards. That is just to help your blog readers surf your site and consume your content with less friction. 2) for some reason, your emails are going to my junk box in hotmail. just thought id let you know so you can fix it up.

    Thanks again mate, you’re awesome. I’m sure we’ll meet in person one day when I hit some AM success and eventually travel to LA again for a bit. 🙂

    • Malan Darras

      hey chris, thanks for the feedback – answers below.

      1. good idea on archives. and yes I started cross linking this year.
      2. I don’t think i can fix your junk box in hotmail, but you can. add me to your contacts or whitelist my emails and you’ll get them fine.

  • Gawhcs

    Hey Malan, Awesome post. One issue though, PlentyOfFish isn’t accepting new applicants. That seems to be a huge bottle net to me getting started. I just found out about Affiliate Marketing today. I have my own business plan in place that is valued at 3Million pre-money but this caught my eye and is something I can’t stop reading about. Seems like quite the adventure and that is something I am striving to find. Long story short… If PlentyOfFish isn’t an option what is?

  • Bami

    Really enjoyed this thread, quite informative. Thanks for your wisdom. Ill see you at the top!

  • Evan Sendra

    Great article! This is the same for programmers…like literally if you swapped out the affiliate marketing lingo with programmer jargon you’d get why most programmers never actually program anything on their own. This article pumped me the fuck up!

  • Laurent Malka

    Why the bloggers and affiliates themselves are the one providing the best advice while the affiliate programs should be doing this in the first place? Great Read!

  • Raynold John

    This is a great article especially for a newbie like me. You explain it in a very simple way!!!

  • Andrea Costa

    I think you could not explain it better than this.
    Guys i have been there, it s exactly like Malan says, while i was reading the post i was smiling because i went through all those things.

    Ps: by the way i was a “research Ffiliate” before ????

  • Òlúwá Sèuń

    This is FACT!!! I love your factual method of blogging, Malan.

    I’d like to as though, whats your essence of a landing page if your not capturing emails/leads? Just wondering…

  • Brandon Sirrico

    This post is top notch. I could not agree more or add anything more to this than you’ve provided. It’s literally all there for those that want to get into affiliate marketing. I remember when I first started out in this game. I spent WAY too much time worrying about building pages and sites versus focusing on the traffic. Had I not taken any action at all, I would have made far less money overtime than I have. Everyone wants to talk about what they need to do. I suggest just doing it and talking about the results. Good stuff Malan!

  • RJ

    Great article Malan, love the straight talk! Just curious if you still use CPV Lab as your tracker or have you moved over to Voluum, OR have you moved to something else entirely?

  • Matt Powers

    Hey Malan, I’m excited to give this a go but two quick questions if you don’t mind: 1) If I don’t know how to code (and learning is one of your steps), should learning be the actual first step?
    2) I don’t have a lot of disposable income right now – how much does it take to get going?

  • Russell G

    Hey brother like your style. Fabulous web, very creative and great writing.