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