How to Use Insider Information To Build A Profitable Affiliate Campaign

I was digging around.

Looking for an offer in an unfamiliar affiliate network’s website.

There were 100s of offers in 25 different verticals. Payouts ranged from .45 cents to $190. When I clicked a link to preview the offer some worked and some didn’t.

I kept digging around until something jumped out at me. It was a dating offer with a nice image of a hot girl. It paid $6 per lead and accepted US traffic.

“This looks good!” I thought. And I started building an SEO campaign.

I registered a domain, installed WordPress and started writing articles about dating. I wrote content for several days straight and then posted them one by one over the next few weeks.

I did some social bookmarking and got a few backlinks and waited for some traffic.

  • After 3 weeks of work, traffic started trickling in.
  • People were clicking on the offer links and banner ads.
  • I didn’t get a single conversion.
  • Turns out – the offer didn’t work.

Sound Familiar?

Don’t feel like reading? Watch the Insider Information for Affiliate Campaigns video

The Problem

There is a big problem in the affiliate marketing industry. Lack of information for new affiliates.

Right now, as you read this there are thousands of brand new affiliates hunting through affiliate network offers looking for something to promote.

  • All of them will test something
  • A few will get lucky and find an offer that works
  • The rest will fail miserably and quit forever.

The Big Turnaround

The big turnaround for me, came when I was contacted by an affiliate manager who politely listened to what I was doing (blindly testing dating offers on an SEO site) and then told me to change course immediately and do what some other people were doing.

As I’ve posted before, this was a game-changing moment for me and put me on a course for my biggest campaign ever.

And it was all because I got a little bit 0f insider information before campaign launch about what was working for others.

How Much Should I Spend on a Test?

I get asked a lot about how much money it costs to test a new offer. You commonly hear people say things like “spend 5x the offer payout and if it doesn’t work dump campaign and move on”. And while that may work for some – I prefer taking a different route – and it works better every time.

Pre-Launch Intel Gathering

Before I start a new campaign I gather as much intelligence as possible before choosing an offer. I use affiliate managers, other affiliates, spy tools, manual research, conferences and meet-ups to figure out what’s working, who it’s working for and where the traffic is coming from.

Using that information as a guide, I put myself in a position to succeed from day 1. I also give myself the confidence needed to feel comfortable losing/investing money into the campaign for days, or even weeks without jumping  ship.

I know if it’s working for other people, it can work for me – all I have to do is figure it out.

This is why I pick an offer and stick with it until it works. I don’t spend 5x the payout and move on. If it doesn’t work I know it’s not the offer, it’s me. And out of all the different variables that make up a good campaign, “me” is the one thing I know I can fix.

Here are some ways you can do it too.

intel.

  1. Talk to Affiliate Managers. The right affiliate manager or affiliate network rep can make a huge difference in your success. These managers are working 8+ hours a day with other affiliates and (most of them) know what’s going on. I ask them “what are the top 3 things working for other people” they say “X, Y and Z”. Now I have 3 choices for a new campaign that I know have potential. I don’t have to worry if the offer functions or not. It works, and other people are making money with it. That means I can too.
  2. Talk to other affiliates. Every affiliate needs to have a few friends. A group of people that share information on a regular basis. It’s hard to get someone to tell you exactly what they’re up to, especially if they’re doing well. But sometimes, a nudge in the right direction is all you need. It sounds counter-intuitive but in my experience, the more info you share with each other, the better everyone does. I’ve been a member of a group where we shared our campaigns in detail, landing pages, ads, sources, everything. We swapped ideas and challenged each other on a daily basis and made more money overall than we ever would have alone.
  3. Spy Tools. Another way to gather intel is to use a spy tool. These tools will show you what ads are running, what site their on and how long they’ve been out there. You can spot a trend that looks like it’s been going on for a while, download all the creatives and give it a shot for yourself. If other affiliate have ads running on a source for 4 weeks straight, you can bet there are gold in those hills. Check out WhatRunsWhere (display), LotsofAds (Facebook) and MOAT (free, but less useful).
  4. Conferences / Meetups. Another great way to figure out what’s hot is to go to a conference or a meetup. Most of the time there will be a buzz going around about an offer, a new market or some type of campaign. Everywhere you go, people will be talking about it. If the entire conference is talking about it – there’s a reason. Find a network that has the offer, talk to a manager there and launch a campaign.

I made a huge mistake in the beginning. I worked in a vacuum, spent weeks testing offers that didn’t convert and wasted a lot of time. Don’t make the same mistake.

Use the industry resources listed above to your advantage. Talk to people and gather as much pre-launch insider information as you can. Doing this puts you in a position to succeed from day one and will give you the confidence to stick with a campaign long term until it’s profitable.

Or – if you want to jump around from offer to offer testing blindly on your own, then 5x the offer payout sounds good to me. Maybe you’ll find a “lucky win”.

But if you’re waiting for luck to make your fortune… you should just go play the lottery.

  • lenstrom

    “I made a huge mistake in the beginning. I worked in a vacuum, spent weeks testing offers that didn’t convert and wasted a lot of time. Don’t make the same mistake.”

    Indeed. Isolation is dangerous.

  • http://joecinocca.com Zingali

    Great article, Malan

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      thanks man. more puzzle pieces. 😉

  • Pete

    Be careful (if you’re new) when getting info. from affiliate managers. If you’re promoting offers at a new network and have not built relationships/trust with an affiliate manager (AM) sometimes they’ll say X new offer has potential, when in fact it doesn’t, but the AM has been asked to push it by the network owner.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      yeah you have to split test affiliate managers just like anything else. When you find one that gives you advice that makes you money on a regular basis, stick with them for life.

      • Jonathan Tam

        “have to split test affiliate managers” Thanks for the hurr durr moment Malan, getting on it now

        But I’d like to point out there probably aren’t enough of them for statistical significance 🙂

        • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

          all you need is 1 or 2 🙂

  • http://affcali.com Cali818

    I joined a mastermind group from STM forums this year and it has been, by far, the smartest decision in my AM career so far. It has been 3 months and I have probably grown 1.5 years as an affiliate in 3 months. So, what you are advising is great advice.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Hey Cali – yeah it’s crazy what you can do when you put more than one brain together. Speeds up the learning process by 10x.

  • http://xneaker.com Xneaker

    Hi Malan, thanks for changing my mindset! Lucky I’m reading this article.

    Usually I jump around from offer to offer, I waste so much money to something that probably doesn’t work.

    I will play smart now 🙂

  • CMD

    Thanks for this post, Malan. Questions… I’ve heard the 10x payout rule, meaning that every time you test for a new variation/factor in your campaign (different demographic/targeting, different ads, etc) you test 10x the payout – do you agree with this? And because of that, people say that newbies should start out with low-payout offers to save cash (since testing would be cheaper), is that right?

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      If you’re testing a new ad/demo and need a number to stick with, I think 10x is fine. But it’s not magic. You could just as easily use 8x or 12.5x. I just think it’s important to create a system that makes you money and stick with it. So if 10x works, 10x is good.

      And yes, it’s cheaper to figure out how to get a $2 cpa on a $4 offer than it does to figure out how to get a $20 cpa on a $40 offer. And either way, you’re doubling your money 🙂

  • http://www.ochoamedia.com Edgar Ochoa

    As always, to the point and very informative article. Thanks Malan.

    In the next few days I’ll be slowly jumping into Pay-Per-Call… I figured I’d start promoting PPCall offers since it’s similar to what I’m already doing with my local affiliate campaigns.

    I have already signed up with various networks and I’m already getting emails about their “hot” offers right now. So I’ll definitely be keeping this article in mind when I decide to choose what offer to start with.

    All the best to you Malan!

  • im_maddog

    Great article Malan! I’m just getting into AM, and am in the process of setting up my first campaign, so this advice has come at a great time.. thanks for sharing. I’ll be keeping a close eye on your blog.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      cool, good luck on your first campaign. you’re in for a good time. 🙂

  • Fernando

    Nice post.

    What about the emails we get with offer EPCs and CRs? Are they reliable?

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      hey Fernando, they can be useful. But just because network-wide EPC and CR is high, doesn’t mean it’s going to be high for you.

      Example: An emailer is blowing up a credit report offer on his targeted email list. He’s doing 1000 sales a day and getting a 25% CVR (because it’s a targeted list). That offer gets bumped to the top of the Hot Offers report because of his volume and conversion rate.

      You attempt to run the same offer on Facebook and get no conversions.

      Remember: You never know how those offers are being run or why they are the top volume/cvr on the network. Best bet is to talk to the manager and ask for more information.

      • Fernando

        Thanks Malan for the clarification, but some networks don’t even give you an AM unless you are already doing well with them, for example matomy or neverblue recently.

        • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

          that sucks, what a lame business model.

          it’s probably true that new affiliates can be a huge waste of time. I bet that 80% of them never send any revenue at all, they just want to talk shop. But the other 20% they miss out on, could become their biggest affiliates. #ohwell

        • Petre Veluda

          I was reading Malan’s last post on how the am helped him grow and how now it’s not the case anymore. It’s unfortunate to see that most of them don’t even know what we actually do and the ones that do are not willing to help you grow or they just know general stuff that most likely won’t do much.

  • Dan Gempesaw

    Hi Malan,

    Just wanted to let you know that I’m taking action.
    Talked to Affiliate Managers, fellow affiliates, used spy tools and lastly will be going to a meetup outside my country.

    Thank you again for the direction you gave.

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      very cool. good luck with it. what meetup are you going to?

      • Dan Gempesaw

        Charles Ngo Workshop in Singapore. It’s the most realistic one I can go to.
        You the man Malan!

        • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

          sweet. have fun man.

  • samrex

    Hey Malan – awesome post man, thank you. For the intel gathering bit, your step one is to talk to aff mgr’s.. makes perfect sense, that you gives you the direction you need to get started w/ a good offer on their network… I’m curious if there’s a pre-step to that, a way to look across all networks/offers/aff’s and see which campaigns are killing it. That would then give you the intel needed to pick the network running that offer, and from there figure out the traffic source… would you start with OfferVault for example and look for a killer niche/offer before moving on to the next step of talking to the aff mgrs?

    Thanks man! So.Much.Knowledge.Here.
    -S

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Hey samrex. What I wrote in the article is what I would do. Offervaut = nope

      • samrex

        Cool man, very much appreciate your time/insights etc.

        • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

          sure thing man. see ya around 😉

          • samrex

            For sure man, look forward to it

    • Petre Veluda

      Hey samrex. There is no right answer but maybe a way to do it is to narrow it down to you favorite traffic source, try and see what’s running there or on similar type of traffic and than just try and match it to the recommended offers. I don’t, it’s just a thought.

  • Goran Nikolov

    Nice very nice explanation.

    But as newbie one should either save enoght money to start use all those paid tools as of couse it would be much easyer starting paid campaign or accept to lose money and figure all out by his own but hey one lesson that would work for sure is to learn from others mistakes.

    Keep posting videos, i can focus much more when watching and hearing.

    Cheers

  • Cruzer

    GOOD video!

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      Thanks Roy

  • Hung

    Hi Malan, love the post. As a someone new to the business it helps a lot. You mentioned a spending budget of 5x the payout in your post. Sticking with budgeting, what sort of budget range should a newbie expect to spend per month testing campaigns? Better to try low payout offer to learn the business at first?

    • http://malandarras.com/ Malan Darras

      yeah unless you have several thousand per month to test with, it might be best to stick with low payout offers

      • Hung

        Thanks!

  • ✠BOLO

    Sounds like something I heard on a Sunday secrete $ociety periscope.. If there were such things…I was the viewer that was testing offers for 11 months based on a look or feel.. And feel don’t pay the bills. I do reach out to my AM’s to no avail.You would probably be surprised to hear where, usually a vauge email if that 3 days after I needed a answer but its just another obsticle I will put the El Chapo on . Recon seems to be the way.I have froze all my camps and I’m looking for some trends with my spy tool and most importantly I’m doing it NOW. Now is here. Thanks for the direction .SuitF