Affiliate Marketing GENESIS Part 5: Decision

So as I was saying in the previous post, when the first few clicks came into the affiliate network, my heart almost blew out of my chest.

I had no idea what to expect, but I knew I had a chance at doing something really big. I was paying for traffic now, so I didn’t have to wait for results. They were coming in live.

Keywords: I started with just the most common keywords and phrases related to the product. Just the name and a few no-brainer phrases. I checked the Google Adwords Keyword tool and used a few of their suggestions as well.

Ads: I wrote some really basic ads using the main product keyword in the title. I’d never written an ad before so I just stuck kept it simple.

Landing Page: I was sending the visitors to this super designed, amazing landing page that I had created earlier. I thought it was the best landing page in history and would make me rich.

Bidding: I set my bid high, somewhere around $1.00 per click. I’d read online that it was best to start your bids high to get good CTR (because you’re in the #1 ad position). Later, you could drop your bid. But for now – I could get 50 clicks for $50 bucks and let the chips fall where they may.

The 50 clicks came from Google really fast. But when I checked the affiliate network stats, there were only one or two clicks. That meant only two people clicked my amazing landing page.

I Made Zero Sales

After the traffic came in I checked my affiliate stats and saw that I had made zero sales. I knew it could happen, but part of me was thinking I’d make 10 sales and just start printing cash right away.

Zero sales was a nice reality check.

I started to assess the disaster:

My landing page sucked! Out of 50 visits I only got one or two clicks. People hated the landing page, or didn’t know how to use it. Looking back it was way too fancy and had no Headline or Call To Action. It was just a cool looking little page. Apparently PPC clickers don’t give a damn about your design.

And I didn’t have any tracking setup so I had no idea what had happened. All I could see was $50 had been spent and $0 had been earned.

I told my affiliate manager what happened and he asked me what tracking tool I was using. I said “what’s a tracking tool?” He laughed and told me to check out Tracking202, a free PPC tracking tool that was popular at the time.

I spent the rest of the day installing it and setting it up. Now I could track keywords, and get all kinds of info about my visitors in real time.

I could see where they lived, what kind of browser they used, what OS they used and most importantly, I could see the EXACT keyword or phrase they searched for to find me.

This kind of intel changed the game and gave me real insights into what was happening. The affiliate marketing rabbit hole kept getting deeper and deeper.

The Campaign Is Not The Problem

Over the next few days I spent $50 a day, and prayed for a conversion, but none came.

I started to lose faith but my affiliate manager assured me the offer worked, so I should stick with it.

I started posting on affiliate marketing forums about my problems and complaining about the offer not preforming well.

One of the responses I got really pissed me off, but looking back – it was some of the best advice I ever got.

A guy said: “99% of the time, the problem isn’t the campaign… it’s the affiliate marketer.

He was blaming me – and that really pissed me off. But then it hit me. He was right! The campaign wasn’t the problem… I WAS THE PROBLEM.

And if I’m the problem, I can fix me. In fact, “I” was the only part of the campaign that I had control over. So I started working on MYSELF.

Fixing Myself

If the campaign was going to work, I had to fix myself and so I decided to become the best affiliate marketer on Earth. I asked myself what would the best affiliate in history do with this?

I was getting clicks from my ads just fine, so I decided to leave my ads alone and work on the landing page. I was getting almost zero click throughs from the page. I couldn’t get sales without click throughs (because they’d never see the actual offer).

So I chose a single goal: Find a way to get more clicks.

I started trying different landing pages. I didn’t know how to spy or copy back then so I did things from scratch… but nothing really worked. I tried page after page… I was getting a few more click throughs now, but still couldn’t get a conversion.

One day, out of frustration I decided to just take a blog post page from my personal blog and swap out the information on it. I’d use it as the landing page and see what happened.

The next morning, I crossed my fingers and hit the “Play” button on the campaign. The new, ugly little landing page was ready for a test.

To my shock and surprise I got A LOT of click throughs on my new, simplified and ugly little blog landing page.

I checked the affiliate network and my jaw dropped. I had SALES! I’d been spending $50 a day for a week or so and had made back ZERO dollars. So getting a sale was huge for me.

By the end of the day I think I had three sales. $105 revenue on the $50 spend. I’d made $55.00!

And now that I had some sales, I could see which keywords were used to get them. I could also see which keywords spent money and didn’t make any sales… and I could pause them.

Now the game really started to take shape.

I spent the next several days tweaking the campaign. Tracking202 let me split test multiple variations of my page and the CTR and conversion rate got a little bit better over time.

I tweaked my ads and started finding weird keyword phrases that were making money. I split these phrases into their own campaigns and let them run on their own.

I wasn’t making money every day.

It turned out the three sales I got that first day were a fluke. Some days I’d get zero sales, another day one sale, then nothing, then three the next day.

Overall I was losing money but I was getting a little bit better every day.

When I could consistently break even on a weekly basis I’d increase the daily budget by $50. Within a few weeks I was spending $150 a day. I was still losing or breaking even but now I had more traffic to analyze and I was learning faster.

This went on for four weeks. And at the end of the month I decided to take a closer look at the numbers to see what was going on.

I was having the time of my life! It was so fun to watch the numbers coming in… but I was losing money and I needed to see how deep in the hole I really was.

When I did the numbers, my heart sank.

In my first month, I’d managed to lose $3000…

  • Spent: $5000
  • Earned: $2000
  • Net Profit: -$3000

I was devastated.

With the savings I had, I could survive in Los Angeles for about ten months. I had just lost two months of money on the campaign in 30 days. At this rate I’d be broke in a few months.

But the game was so fun… And I was getting better at it!

I saw this huge opportunity in front of me and I knew other people were making it work. All I had to fix was me… if I could do that, then this thing could work for me too.

I told my affiliate manager what was going on – and he said it was up to me whether or not to continue. But he saw my progress as well, and urged me stick with it.

The Decision

What happened next is one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.

I was confused about what to do. I was losing money, but I was having fun and could see a big opportunity.

If I played the game and lost, I’d be broke and have to go out and get a job. And that was the LAST thing I wanted to do.

I had just stopped drinking, my relationship had blown up, I didn’t know anyone and I had no idea how to handle the real world.

I thought and thought about it. Then I thought about it some more.

  • Can I really do this?
  • Am I out of my mind?
  • Is this thing even really real?
  • Is the affiliate manger lying about the other guys?
  • Am I sabotaging myself here?
  • Is affiliate marketing even real?
  • Am I gambling all my money away?
  • I’m having so much fun, could this be “my thing”?

At the end of that thinking session I asked myself the big question.

“Am I going to give up? or keep going?”

I paused for a second and then answered myself out loud, by myself, into the air.

I said:


I laughed… and sat back down in my computer chair and turned the campaign on again.

  • Sergii

    Malan, this genesis reading is awesome! Now I have the same problem. I lost 7k$ and return only 1,5k$. I understand that my big fault was – I spread my budget to different ad networks and I don`t become the master of anyone. My wife is awesome and she still supports me. But I see that her patience is on the verge. And the worst thing that happend to me is fear. Now I fear to lose budget and I can`t deal with it. So your post is inspire me to not give up! Thank you for that!

    And I am waiting for another parts of your life story! It is awesome!

    Sorry for my language.

    • Malan Darras

      yeah man, best thing i did in the beginning was focus on 1 traffic source and 1 offer. Highly recommended.

  • David

    Wish I could meet you this year in Vegas man. I will meet you someday, I promise. I feel the same way man, I am losing interest and drive in my “real” job. I am having fun losing money and learning the game. Thank You Malan for MAD Society.

    • Malan Darras

      I’ll be in Vegas brother. And we’re having a meetup during ASW.

  • Michael

    Hey Malan,

    couldn’t wait to read how it all turned out for you. This cliffhanger was mean, man.
    I regret that I found out about you just months ago but I think that you are amazing man – the kind of role model I need. Even though you wouldn’t want to be one haha.
    Can’t wait to follow your path up to date – would be interesting to know if how the game has changed.
    Would be great if you could answer the question I always wonder about:

    > Malan, if you’d have $1000 to blow away and your knowledge of today. How would you start?

    By the way your biography is totally rockstar man. Absolutely amazing how you turned your life around and never gave up. If you’d write a biography I’d definitely buy it. The best part is that you share your experiences with us. I came for the affiliate marketing stuff but found content with much deeper layers. Thanks to you I handle my temporarily depression much better and found the love for the minimalistic lifestyle. Just last month I threw all away the dumb plates and kitchen stuff I once buyed but never used.

    Somehow, I think that you sometimes rail against ones fate, don’t know if I am right. But you talk a lot about wanting to be a rockstar. Malan, I have to tell you that YOU ARE A ROCKSTAR. Maybe not in the music scence but definitely an internat marketing and life rockstar. I guess there are lots of music rockstars who would want to change their life with yours. We can’t be anything but let me tell you:

    You turned your life around and you created a money printing machine just with your brain. You do what you love and have the freedom to jam with some old mates locally.

    If that isn’t rockstar then I do not know what is a rockstar.

    Have a successful but even more happy 2017.

    Stay the way you are!

    – Michael

  • Oren Schulman

    Thanks for all the great info. I am new to this and finding it hard to suss out the real info from the nonsense.and scams. You seem to provide really useful information about a field that although super intriguing is still hard for me to understand. Really appreciate the great info, thanks so much for helping others still trying to get a handle on this.

  • shaunta swindell

    Thank you very much for your information. I have been struggling for a long online, trying to make it in the affiliate marketing I don’t know what I’m doing not sure which way to go but I do know I need a website and I get stuck with that too but I do know I will keep doing my best and I will not give up because I know it is feasible have a blessed 1 thank you