Archive for the ‘Interviews’ category

Interview with Brad Geddes: Affiliate Marketing with Google Adwords

July 30th, 2012

Brad GeddesGood stuff today everybody! I had the opportunity to interview Brad Geddes of CertifiedKnowledge.org about affiliate marketing on Google Adwords. If you don’t know Brad, he is the author of my all-time favorite PPC book, Advanced Google Adwords.

Brad doesn’t work directly for Google, but he teaches at the official Adwords Seminar for Success program. I chose to interview him because he’s as close as you could get to talking with someone who actually works in the Adwords department, yet still remain being completely open about the questions asked. Hope you enjoy this one!

 

For those who may not know you already, what’s your background and how did you fall into online marketing and PPC?

Years ago, I often call this my ‘preweb’ life; I use to work in the mental health/mental retardation industry helping people to become productive members of society; including transitioning people from institutional life to community living programs. While its a rewarding industry; its also a burnout one as there’s only so many hours you can spend inside an institution. Eventually I quit and had no idea what I was going to do.

I was surfing the web one day and came across ‘affiliate marketing’. It seemed so easy: drive traffic and make money. I already knew site design from creating hobby sites and just playing around online; so I gave it a try and it worked well (and it was easy in the 90s). Then Overture launched (the first PPC platform), and it gave me an opportunity to be on a search page twice, which was great: more real estate – more money. Then AdWords launched, and it gave me an opportunity to be on another search engine multiple times; and I started working on blending SEO and PPC, increasing my conversion rates, and all the fun testing that comes with being a good marketer.

My marketing life spiraled out of control as other companies wanted me to run their accounts so after telling them no for years, I finally created an agency in 2001, then we sold another agency a few years later; and yet more happened, such as working with resellers, consulting for some of the engines, building a company that managed 42,000 PPC accounts and 110,000 SEO clients, published Advanced Google AdWords, etc – and I’ve been happily working on paid search ever since.

What particular skills do you consider to be crucial for PPC success and where do you see newer PPC advertisers going wrong and making mistakes?

This is where PPC marketing can be difficult. You need:

  • Solid foundation in math
  • Excel skills
  • Creative writing skills
  • A bit of technical know-how
  • A willingness to experiment

Most people are good at either math or writing – very few people are really good at both. So a common mistake is to not recognize the shortcoming and fix it. ‘Fixing it’ could be as easy as watching algebra videos or taking a creating writing class; or it could be as complex as splitting up the PPC duties in the company based upon the available skill sets.

Google has been banning affiliates (and other advertisers) for years now. Do you think these people simply didn’t go far enough in creating a good site and providing real value? I think a lot of people are hesitant to put a lot of time and energy into a site just to end up getting their accounts banned anyway for being an affiliate. Are there any things that most people miss and flat-out forget to include that leads to bans?

I have yet to see a ban where there was not some cause. The cause could be a site that just serves as a bridge page and offers no real value. This cause might not be noticed by the affiliate unless they understand Google’s T&Cs. In other cases, affiliates are getting ads approved with one URL and then redirecting the link to another URL (often the merchant) or breaking back buttons, selling something that isn’t legal or is on Google’s banned list, etc.

Affiliates can be very successful using AdWords if they follow the rules. For the most part, if the affiliate builds a good site that enhances the search experience (provides value) than they can advertise without a problem on Google. If you look at a site like hotels.com, expedia, etc – they are affiliate sites. They might be big affiliate sites; but every travel agent is just an affiliate.

I work with two affiliates (non-travel space; the more traditional affiliate model) that combined spend more than five million dollars each month. Their marketing spends do not get them special treatment from Google; however, their great landing page experiences and websites along with their spends get them nice rep support. Google supports legitimate companies with good sites and business models. Affiliates can be legitimate companies; just make sure the website and user experience is great and don’t follow the latest ‘get rich quick and spammy advice’ floating around. If you put users first; you can usually have a good experience advertising with AdWords.

I think a lot of people get banned from Adwords because they submit landing pages like this over and over…

review template

While it’s great from a conversion standpoint and works just fine on other traffic sources, I can’t imagine this page passing the Adwords sniff test because it’s pretty flat and ultimately designed to do 1 thing… send visitors to the merchant site… which is a bridge page violation. What kinds of things can an affiliate do to “beef up” this page and improve it so it provides more value? I think adding functionality so real people can rate and comment is pretty huge, and of course increasing the overall navigability of it.

Making a page useful goes beyond just a basic review (especially if the reviews don’t seem legit) to add:

  • Comparison charts
  • Reviews pulled from multiple sources
  • In-depth product reviews and comparisons (this takes some work, but the content is also wonderful on the SEO side)
  • Realtime prices from multiple merchants
  • Videos
  • Use-case scenarios

In the end, its all about making the user experience on the site good enough that a user makes a better decision about what product to buy or service to use because of the affiliates website. If the user is just funneled through a bridge page designed so that the top payout is the top reviewed item and the worst payout is the worst reviewed item – then the reviews aren’t honest and the page is really just funneling someone towards a single experience. If the page instead easily compares product specs, does in-depth reviews of why this product is better than this one, etc – then its helping the user to make better decisions and those pages usually pass a hand review by Google.

It’s no secret that many affiliate offers (especially in the CPA networks) don’t provide any value and are therefore not allowed to run on Google. Do you have any advice when it comes to choosing affiliate offers to promote? What does Google especially hate and what should people know?

Any offer that violates the user’s privacy, had too many loopholes to jump through, bills a user against their knowledge, or isn’t really related to the keywords and ads are usually banned.

For instance, for a while you’d see offers such as ‘win a free iPad’ running on any keyword; and the user had to fill out 20 offers and then get 3 friends to fill out 20 offers and then they would be eligible to win an iPad. The odds of winning were very low, the amount of work was high, and the user didn’t really know what was happening to their information. With a lot of the product supplements, the user wasn’t actually buying a free trial, they were enrolling in an autobill membership where it was almost impossible to cancel. Any offer that is meant to deceive the user is going to be banned.

If you think about this from Google’s perspective, their overall goal is to have someone find relevant results and answers to their search question. They want these sites to help the user so much that the user wants to find their next answer from Google again because Google gave the user a good recommendation. It’s a give and take between websites and Google. Someone has a good experience on a website Google recommended, so they search on Google again to find yet another good experience. If the user searches on Google and keeps having bad experiences, then they are going to start searching on Yahoo or Bing. Google wants to ensure you don’t have such a bad experience that you lose faith in Google’s ability to send you to relevant pages that provide a good experience.

So it’d be accurate to say that Google doesn’t hate affiliates, they just hate crappy affiliates? Besides misleading ads, thin landing pages and crappy offers, is there anything else that Google doesn’t like which people should be aware of? Are there any industries you recommend just avoiding altogether?

I think so. If its a good business model that helps searchers; then Google doesn’t hate it – they just don’t like the stuff that wastes someone’s time or doesn’t add any value.

There are industries that are highly regulated online – either by governments or Google, such as alcohol, gambling, firearms, etc so you’ll want to be careful with those areas. Other areas to avoid are anything that seems ‘too good to be true’. The supplement market has been hit hard by Google (and in some cases, other government organizations), get-rich-quick schemes, high product return areas, high rates of chargebacks or dissatisfied customers, etc – are areas to generally be avoided.

If its a business that you aren’t embarrassed to explain to your grandmother – then you’re often OK. In the end, if you: add value, deliver value, and create happy customers then you’re usually in good shape.

When did PPC really start to click in your mind for you? Is there anything you learned that made all the difference? I know a lot of people try their hand at PPC and fail, but sometimes a certain way of thinking about it makes it all so simple. Are there any basic fundamentals that people should force themselves to always remember?

My background is in Psychology; so when I put myself into a searcher’s shoes – PPC just makes sense. A good PPC marketer just makes it easy for a searcher to connect the dots. The searcher has a need expressed in a search query, and the marketer has to guess that query (keywords) and connect them to what they need (landing page) and show them how to solve their need (copy/call to action), and then the checkout process has to be easy (path of least resistance). I wrote about what I call the Psychology of Search several years ago, and I still believe in this concept today.

Do you have any tips on compliance, specifically for people who run affiliate campaigns? I know in my particular market, and it took me quite a long time to really understand this, is that Google really wants transparency. Are their any mistakes you see people making frequently?

I think the most common mistake is people buying an ebook about how to make lots of money on the web, or buying some pre-built website template that is guaranteed to work and then then assume its all easy without actually understanding what they are doing. There’s a lot of advice on the web, not all of it is good or even accurate. Understanding the affiliate business model, the AdWords model, and customer’s needs and wants essential to doing well in this space. If you can build a nice connection point between the three three points, then you’ll usually do well.

Thanks so much for allowing me to interview ya, Brad! Lastly, for people who don’t know, what kinds of things do you offer at Certified Knowledge for PPC marketers? Tell us a bit about your book, Advanced Google Adwords.

Certified Knowledge is a combination of PPC tools, video training, and a community site. The videos are designed for beginners to experts to learn how to do better with AdWords. The tools are designed to save you time. The community is there for support with unique issues that arise.

Advanced Google AdWords, now in its second edition, is one of the best selling books on everything you need to know to succeed with AdWords. It is geared towards an intermediate to advanced audience who already has a basic understanding of AdWords. Most people call it the next step in training after you’ve gotten everything you can out of the free AdWords learning center videos.

My overall goal is to make sure everyone has access to excellent PPC content so they can improve their PPC success regardless of their learning style. If you like videos on demand, there’s Certified Knowledge. If you prefer to read, there’s Advanced Google AdWords. If you prefer in-person seminars, I provide those as well through AdWords Seminars for Success (officially supported by Google) and Advanced AdWords Workshops, which is a partnership with SMX.

Awesome stuff! Thanks Brad! Make sure to read and subscribe to the CertifiedKnowledge.org blog!

Interview with Chad Hamzeh

July 17th, 2011

Chad Hamzeh

Today I was lucky enough to get to interview Chad Hamzeh, creator of Traffic Blackbook and all-around awesome guy.

If you do any paid traffic or want to get started, I think you’ll get a ton out of this interview.

Also, Chad is the one who actually got me started in direct-to-site media buys, so I gotta give props where props are due!

 

What’s up Chad?! For everyone who doesn’t know you already, what’s your background and how did you fall into online marketing? How long did it take to hit your first big campaign? What do you feel are your strengths and weaknesses?

Hey what’s up thanks for having me. I owned a small web studio for a few years and was a business analyst for a couple years at our telecomm here in town. In 2008 I was burnt out a bit, and really wanted to pursue my fight training full time. I had about 10 MMA fights and a couple muay thai fights at the time so I’d always wanted to do it full time. So my wife and I packed our bags and went off to Thailand for about a year. It was awesome, but near the end of the year my dad got sick so we had to plan moving back. Basically, this was the point where I really started looking at making money online.

The fact was, I didn’t want to go back to the cubicle, so I just started doing a bunch of different things via trial and error, trying and buying into stuff like a lot of people do when they start out. Around April of 2009 I found out about CPA marketing, and paid traffic generation. Haha, that’s when I joined up at PPC coach, which gave me more insight into this whole business.

I stuck around there for 2-3 months, doing more reading than anything, like most starting out I suppose.

We got back to Canada early June, and I hadn’t had any breakthroughs yet, and I didn’t have a source of income otherwise. What I DID have was a mortgage costing around $2K per month, as well as other bills accumulated near the end of the trip. So, I started to feel a bit desperate basically.

I started just putting cash down, via my credit card, and just started testing the things I was reading about. I really don’t recommend people do it that way, I always say if you have another source of income (job), you’ll make smarter decisions. For me, my problem was stopping campaigns too early. I launched tons and tons of random campaigns, and stopped the majority way before I had enough data. I didn’t even know what a winning campaign might look like. I was scared to lose money that I didn’t have at this point basically.

I did a lot more learning, listened to some free webinars, things like that, and started to look at it all more logically, not emotionally.

It was early August of that year where I made “decent” money for a “noob”. It was a campaign based on a hot trend I saw in Google Hot Trends. I remember that day too, I had my hand on the top of my laptop ready to close it, but figured “what the hell, I’ll launch this campaign and see what happens.”. That one brought in about 2k of profit within 7 days. At the time you need to understand this was pretty damn cool!

Mid September was my first big campaign. I kept seeing a specific ad on Facebook, and from what I knew at the time, I figured they must be profiting somewhat. So basically, I took a similar angle but launched on Google Display Network. That campaign brought in about $55K in profit over the next 60 days or so. I learned a lot during that campaign about optimization and how to “feel” the traffic, if that makes sense.

In terms of strengths and weaknesses. Well, I’m pretty resilient and persistent, I’m always willing to learn more, and I had the benefit of having a technical background. I’m also pretty patient which I think you need as an entrepreneur in general. In terms of weaknesses, I’d like to take more risk than I usually do to be honest. Also, I don’t trust a lot of people to outsource to, which slows my growth I feel. It’s something I want to work on.

So if there’s anyone out there that has a marketing mindset that does development/design, hit me up ;-)

When did things really start taking off for you? Do you attribute your success to a change in mindset or anything in particular?

Hmmm, I launched about 120 campaigns, the majority on GDN and AdCenter between July and September of 2009. So I wouldn’t say it was just one big thing that made me take off. However, if you’ve seen my webinar, you’ll know there are a few tactics that helped me find success more frequently. The first was the concept of bidding high, but budgeting low. The second was understanding the importance of click through rate, and optimizing to it. And the third was realizing that if I just kept BIG losses in check, on a long enough timeline I’d be “relatively” OK.

What elements do you make sure to ALWAYS split test before pulling the plug on a campaign? Far too many campaigns aren’t given the chance to succeed. What do you think is the biggest campaign killer?

Good question. No real secrets here. I’d say ads, landers, and offers are what I split test the most, and mainly ads and offers. To be honest, I really should split test landers more. I have this hate towards landing pages because they remind me of my web design days, something I should really get over.

But you said it, I think the biggest campaign killer is not getting enough data. I look to get 100-300 clicks, budget permitting, to any specific element of a campaign. And usually, I don’t consider my EPC as being “solid” for a traffic source until I’ve had 30-50 conversions. Yes, this can mean a lot of spend to find potential. It’s hard to give specifics, but if your click through rates are healthy, but you’re not converting, then it’s either that the offer doesn’t convert well, or you caused a disconnect between the ad and the lander. If you’re promoting offers that others are successful with, then it’s probably you not doing a good job connecting the dots.

That’s why I try to optimize to click through rate first since it’s the first point of contact with the visitor. But, there has to be a line. You don’t just make ridiculous ads that are completely irrelevant to the offer, just to get clicks.

I notice that just about everybody uses a standard landing page in their campaigns. In a few of your case studies in Traffic Blackbook, the winners were actually the squeeze pages that got the opt-in first. Do you always split test squeeze page vs. regular landing page? What would you say to people aren’t building optin-lists yet?

I don’t always split test a squeeze page. In certain markets I don’t do it. This is things like gaming, downloads, mobile, dating. I don’t play tons in those areas anyway, and maybe someone has made it work with list building there, but I personally don’t. So it depends. I almost always split test 2 very different lander styles, and a direct link. Almost always the direct link loses out.

Does that mean I don’t condone list building? No not at all. It’s a pretty old, tried and true method of driving people to an opt-in page, and following up with them. Especially if they need to pull out their credit card on a straight sale product. The advertisers know this which is why they almost always collect partials in weight loss and bizopp.

I think if you’re making money without lists, great, but I’d recommend testing out some opt-in pages in the market you do best in, and just see if you can get opt-ins for cheaper than you can drive leads to someone elses lead gen based offer.

Let’s say you’re doing well driving e-mail/name submit leads to a bizopp lead gen offer, and you’re getting paid $1-$3 for the lead. Try setting up your own, similar lander and split your traffic. There is a reason the advertisers are paying you $1-$3 just for a name and e-mail. Spy on the path, see what you can learn from it. It’ll help you actually build something.

I’m not saying list building is easy by any means, it just gives you a longer timeline to squeeze money out of your traffic.

Let’s talk traffic sources. What are your favorites and why? Any lesser-known ones you like? Where do you suggest beginners start?

Ya know, if Google wasn’t such a headache when it comes to CPA, then I’d say the absolute best/easiest out there to make money on is Google Display Network. Why? Well, it’s a fantastic testing platform to find sites you can go direct to afterwards. It’s VERY fast to setup campaigns. They have great tools you can work with, and the traffic quality is good. And, if you know what you’re doing, it can be very cheap. So if you’re running a legit business, or you own the backend process in a market that Google is “ok” with, then they’re a great place to start in my opinion.

Outside of that, Facebook. Yes, their ad approvals make me want to jump out my window sometimes (just today I had some bizarre experiences), but the traffic is abundant, pretty easy to get profitable (easier than Google imo), and can be forgiving on beginners especially if you play internationally.

What I really recommend beginners try though, is small direct to site media buys. It can be a hassle finding the webmasters and rates you want, but it’s a good low risk training ground if you know what you’re doing. And when you get good and have some capital to work with, you can go direct on larger sites which can be just awesome much of the time.

But I know everyone wants self serve quick and easy setup. (hell, that’s one reason I like GDN so much).

Is there any books that have made a big impact on you and you think everyone should read? What about people? Anyone you want to give a shout-out to who you feel contributed to your success?

Some books that I enjoyed in terms of general money making and such are The Millionaire Fastlane by MJ Demarco, and of course 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris. They’re fun reads, quick reads. And I like that both of them made the bulk of their money originally online via direct response in some capacity.

Copywriting books like Ca$hvertising have helped me with ad creation.

Other than that, guys that I’ve heard on free webinars or in articles, when I started out, that have given me insight have been guys like Tommie Powers. My original affiliate manager at Convert2Media, Ryan Hurry, helped me out a lot starting out, and although I haven’t talked to him much, I appreciate Ruck’s honesty in his writing.

What skills do you think people should work on consistently in order to grow in this business? Copywriting, basic web design, a certain traffic source, etc…?

I’m not going to say something like “mindset” or “never stop trying!”. That’s over used. I think a big mistake is people jump around from traffic source to traffic source, offer to offer. Pick 1 high volume/scalable traffic source, and 1 vertical, and get to work. If you choose one that interests you, great even better.

Also, really consider “building something”. Could be a product. Could be a big portal/destination site in a specific market. Could be a list/community. All I’m saying is, where’s the end game?

Yes you can spend your time and a lot of money slaving away to make others rich, or you can start collecting and gathering a group of people yourself.

I tell people this a lot. In CPA and affiliate marketing, you’re put in a pretty tricky position of buying traffic a certain amount, and having to convert it within what a lot of times is a pretty small margin. And the guys that get good at this arbitrage, just think if they had WAY more wiggle room on payouts, backend, and other monetization methods. They’d be able to pay far more for that same traffic, or increase profit by a hell of a lot.

Sure, the complexity increases greatly when you move from affiliate to merchant/site owner, so no, it might not be for everyone.

Awesome! Thanks a TON for allowing me to interview ya, Chad! It was a blast and you give great advice, as always.

I guess that’s it, thanks for having me on, I appreciate it.

Watch Chad’s Webinar on Paid Traffic

Chad Hamzeh Webinar

Interview with Eskil Nordhaug of Profitapolis.com

February 12th, 2011

Eskil NordhaugYou’re not going to want to miss this one, folks. Today I have a very special treat for you – an interview with Eskil Nordhaug of Profitapolis.com, one of my absolute favorite affiliate marketing blogs.

Eskil is one of those guys who I madly respect – he is truly genuine and it shows. You may know him as the poster behind the username ImagesAndWords on Wickedfire, or maybe you follow him on Twitter already.

I asked Eskil a lot of specific questions, and as usual he doesn’t disappoint in the quality and helpfulness of his responses. If you’re in the affiliate game, listen close!
» Read more: Interview with Eskil Nordhaug of Profitapolis.com