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Tips for Affiliate Marketing Newbies: Is Pay-Per-Click a Viable Option?

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by Carsten Cumbrowski, December, 30 2006, update February, 16 2007


If you are a newbie to affiliate marketing, I recommend that you look into pay-per-click (PPC*) advertising at the beginning of your affiliate marketing projects, because it is still one of the easier ways (or "less difficult" would probably be a more accurate term) to get started in this industry AND to get fast results. The term "results" refers to earning commission - nothing more, nothing less.

*Brief explanation of pay-per-click advertising: You bid and pay a specified amount for every time someone clicks on your advertisement (ad). You can, with some vendors (like Google, for example), set the times and places where you would like your ad to be seen. You can set the dollar limit per day that works for you -- your spending budget, or the number of clicks per day before the ad is no longer displayed on that particular day.


Using the PPC services of the big three U.S. search engines - Google AdWords®, Yahoo! Search Marketing® and Microsoft AdCenter® - or services of "second tier" search engines like Miva®, Kanoodle®,® or Looksmart® is not as complicated as most people believe. It will become more difficult as time progresses though. No one would argue this point. Bid prices will most likely continue to rise and probably not get back to where they once were just a few years ago.

The "golden age" of PPC marketing might be over, but it is still much easier to earn commissions with it compared to most other, older marketing strategies.

Take search engine optimization for example. If you start a new website today, chances are that you will not see very many, if any, results for three to six months - and that's assuming that you already know a lot about SEO. "Trial and error" is a concept that translates to years of trying and failing in SEO compared to hours, days or weeks of trying something new in pay-per-click marketing.

Getting Started

Your PPC campaign will not work without spending and losing some money up-front while you learn the basics of PPC. Set low spending limits for each test campaign. Wait a few days, spending only a little bit of money per day, and watch how the campaign converts. Here is how to figure out if your ad is profitable: subtract the number of clicks multiplied by the average cost per click (= spending for the PPC service) from the earned commissions. If the dollar amount is a positive amount, you have made a profit.

Don't get overboard though, once you make your first profits! You can increase spending a bit, but I do not recommend going full force and buying every click you can get at this point. Wait at least until your first commission check has successfully posted to your bank account. I would wait for two commission checks even, with a bit of increase in spending and hopefully in commission during each payment cycle.

If you lose money on the first few campaigns that should not discourage you and make you stop. See breaking even as a success and progress. It is not very likely that you will make profits right from the start. If you do that's great, but if you don't, try to find out the reason. Once you use the PPC services, you will at least know how the process works and understand a lot more discussions at forums, related articles and tips from professionals. Don't give up before you really get started. Give yourself time.

Don't Stop at PPC

You should not just stop at PPC, though, relying only on paid traffic to your site - especially if you rely completely on direct or redirected traffic to the merchant, where you are merely a proxy in the conversion process without the customer being aware of your existence at all. If you have a site or "landing page" that the customer sees first, you will at least have the chance to do something with visitors who do not convert for the specific offer you are promoting via your PPC ad campaign.

The visitor you paid for is on your site and not the merchant's site, so you might be able to get him interested in something else. Merchants do that and so can you. Be careful, though. Don't create a conflict which could result in a lower conversion rate of your landing page for the original offer.

This "something else" should be a secondary conversion goal for your ad and landing page - not just for non-converting traffic, but also as secondary goal for the traffic that you actually convert. Consider adding an offer similar to the one in which your clicker showed obvious interest. Remember, he clicked the link from your paid ad; but then decided not to follow through with it for whatever reason.

Similar does not mean the same thing from another brand or merchant, but similar in topic. Don't offer another TV set when your primary promotion is a TV set; offer a program guide or magazine instead, for example - or even Tivo®!


Beyond the immediate topic of this article, I wanted to provide you with some keywords and terms for your further research. For example, in the article I've mentioned "landing page" and "SEO." If you are unfamiliar with these terms, or only slightly familiar with them, take the time to look them up and learn more. You should look into all the opportunities and possibilities available for promotion of products and services as well, with long-term goals in mind. PPC advertising can help you financially while you get something even more substantial off the ground. Best wishes to you and I'd love to hear about your progress!


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©2006-2007 Carsten Cumbrowski
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