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Earl Grey – MVP blogger 2010

If FinchSells was the breath of fresh air in the internet marketing blog space in 2009, then I think Earl Grey (owner of the syndyk8 black hat SEO forum) is in the running, together with MrGreen for most useful blog in 2010.

I’d heard of syndyk8 (reminds me of that old RTS PC game where you move 5 gangsters around the screen and blow people away) at WickedFire since about 2006, though I’ve not joined the forum. At the moment it’s set to admin-approval, so it might not be the easiest to get in.

But you might like to check out the blog, especially since Earl’s making a go at blogging every day for the past week. I’m guessing each post is about 30-45minute of effort and the fact that he’s blunt and in-your-face is a which is a welcome break from some of the other blogs you might read.

Although it’s labelled a blackhat SEO blog, I read it more for the biz management/strategy elements he shares. (I’m making an assumption that Earl is a guy).

Whether it’s by default or design, blog comments require user registration before posting a comment is allowed, which in my experience reduces interactivity.

Wondering where to start? I thought the fact that he places a monetary value on his communities, has an exit strategy in mind, places him ahead of many webmasters who’re only focused on immediate arbitrage opportunities.

So check out: “Building your business or community on facebook? No you aren’t, dickhead” (may not redirect correctly because of his secure HTTP cert. In which case, scroll through his blog entries).

I don’t think building a community on a third-party domain is a good idea, unless you can get an opt-in or get some control over sending communication to your followers, which ties in to the idea of building your own asset, rather than merely grow Twitter or Facebook’s userbase.

Getting Organized, Making Bank

It’s hard to imagine but it’s been almost half a year since I was in Vegas for Affiliate Summit West. At that time I had been working on about 5 projects. At the moment I’m working on 4 projects, although 2 of them are from the original 5 I had been working on.

The one thing that sticks out from ASW was at the Meetup202, er, meet up, was where Dr Ngo got on stage and talked about being focused. In his case he was refering to becoming a specialist in a couple of niches, rather than try to run hundreds of offers successfully.

Likewise, I’ve found that whether in online gaming or in my business, I get the best results from focusing on one or two tasks, rather than try to do many more than that.

In affiliate marketing terms, by all means test 5 to 7 offers at a time. But once you find one or two potential winners (profit or marginally in the red), you also need to focus on making them work. Else you could be locked in a permanent cycle of testing offers.

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I’ve spent the last couple of weeks focused on launching a major upgrade to one of my sites. If all goes well, you should see it by the end of the 1st week of June (if not, in the next couple of days). It’s the result of focus again. Just like it’s usually easier to make $1k/day consistently from one offer, rather than $500 each from 2 offers, I’m also placing most of my eggs in one basket with this new project.

Here’s one of my recent game changing moment: Track your time…ruthlessly.

For those of you who might have been or still are lawyers, accountants, consultants, you would be familiar with time sheets, especially if you’re charging clients on a per-hour basis. I’ve heard of stories where lawyers have sat on the toilet, doing their daily business, thought about a case and charged that time.

But, no, I’m not talking about charging THAT kind of time.

I’m refering to brutally counting how much time you spend on your business each day, doing something that will get you towards achieving your goal (you have a goal, right?).

So time spent reading email, AIMing, checking stats doesn’t count. Setting up new campaigns, optimizing an existing campaign, rotating creatives, whatever that makes your business more successful counts.

Since my experiment started, I’ve been updating my time usage on a Google Doc spreadsheet and the results weren’t pretty early on in the experiment. I was averaging 30mins of productive work on some days, and about 2 hours on other days.

Note: You have to be extremely brutal about whether you’re doing something “productive” to make this experiment work.

A research study shows that the average American exec probably clocks about 30mins of productive work for each workday (8-hour block). In efficiency, this is 30mins / 8x60mins = 6.25%. Terrible.

Upping how you use your time might make the difference between success and failure, especially if you’re slogging at a day job.

The way I see it, you can either become “educated” and aware about every offer out there, every new network, read a lot of blogs and forums to “know everything”. Or you can become really focused and bank.

Any questions?

Best Paid Affiliate Marketing Forum? A PPV Playbook Review

Update: to get a discount code for PPV Playbook, click here: PPV Playbook discount code (Limited quantities).

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Over the years I’ve joined multiple paid internet marketing forums. I was among the earlier members to the Warrior Forum’s “Marketing to the Herd” paid section, then later the “War Room” (you need to be a paid member to do most of the useful stuff there now), then later Gauher Chaudhry’s PPC Formula and PPC Classroom.

Sure, I’ve been a member of free forums too like wickedfire, digital point, sitepoint, Linda Buquet’s 5-star affiliate forum and assorted internet marketing forums.

In general (there are exceptions), paid forums have given me more bang for my buck. You don’t have freebie seekers posting misinformation, and 90% of the chatter isn’t in the off-topic or general discussion forum.

I took up David Ford’s offer of a PPV Playbook membership a couple of weeks ago and was impressed by the quality of content there.

In case you’re wondering, it’s more than just a PPV forum, there’re sections for SEO, social media and other forms of traffic too. Content-wise, David has been regularly been posting tutorials and video lessons for various traffic networks, CPA/affiliate marketing conversion tactics and invited various experienced marketers to post regularly on the forum.

But what makes a forum great is the community of members. Seeing both new and experienced members post their successful and ongoing campaigns as well as talk through the strategy behind the campaigns has provided a couple of idea for implementing in my own campaigns.

I decided to post one of my projects – to build a high authority content site which aims to generate $10k/month consistently by end Nov this year – in the case study/follow along campaigns section. I’ve also invited my partner, Clement, who’s handling parts of the project to post updates as the site goes up too.

Here’s an excerpt from the case study:

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One of my backburner projects had been to develop a high authority, rich content site, which would be sustainable, and fetch a nice acquisition price if we decided to go the M&A route at some point.

So why do I think this might be a good project to work on?
#1 I’ve been doing a fair number of arbitrage-type projects since i started in 2006, but have been moving towards developing/owning/operation community/subscription/continuity type sites. And the world of coupon/datafeed sites has been interesting.
#2 some of my friends like Scott Jangro have focused their efforts on building one big site (Costumzee.com – one of the biggest halloween costume affiliate sites online and ranks for many terms like ‘spiderman costume’)
#3 going public with it here will force me to put more time into it, especially since i’ve put a target income goal ($10k by end nov) in the title!

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Project kickoff
Finding the right partner is key. So I found someone local to me, who’s good at SEO and a number of different paid traffic networks.

My contribution is working on the strategy, marketing, and managing relationships with CPA and CPS merchants.

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So what’s the demographic?
I’ve not specifically focused on the female demographic, so this might be an interesting focus group.

I’m segregating the demographic with 3 characteristics
#1: Age: 25-45
#2: Kids or no kids
#3: working or staying at home

So if you visualize this as a matrix with 3 axes, or a graph with x-y-z axis, the 8 possible permutations are:

#1 female, 25-35, kids, working
#2 female, 25-35, no kids, working
#3 female, 25-35, no kids, not working
#4 female, 25-35, kids, not working
#5 female, 36-45, no kids, not working
#6 female, 36-45, no kids, working
#7 female, 36-45, kids, not working
#8 female, 36-45, kids, working

the demographic are important because the content, pre-sell LPs and offers will be tested to find the best converting combination for each demo.

Unless I get enough mass (or the site is established), I’ll use A/B split testing, rather than multi-variate/taguchi.

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Offer selection:
The only safe assumption is we don’t know what will convert. So I’ll test everything.

Cost-per-sale, Cost-per-action considerations.
I’m planning to build a long term site with sticky visitors, and incorporate emailing into the mix.

This means that a mix of CPS and CPA might give the best results.
I’m particularly concerned about not promoting rebills, which would ‘burn’ the list.

Some of the possible shortlisted offers include:
1) as seen on tv offers like the slap chop, sham wow
2) pet stuff (including Mr Green’s favorite pet snuggie)
3) finance
4) career/edu
5) health

By having a basket of offers to present to the demographic, there’ll be less offer fatigue, compared to just a colon cleanse/acai campaign.

I’m planning to do offer rotation:
1) same offer across different networks
2) different related offers across the same and different networks

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LP strategy:
The site will take on an expert advisor/review/ranking format to pre-selling offers.

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Traffic generation:
Likely a combination of organic/social, and paid traffic.

My plan is to post updates 1-2 times a week, depending on which part of the cycle I’m at. I’ve got some good feedback from my friend, Hannah McIntyre, who’s also a member on the site, along with other PPV Playbook members.

If you’d like to follow along the case study, why not check out PPV Playbook now?

-> PPV Playbook

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Update: to get a discount code for PPV Playbook, click here: PPV Playbook discount code (Limited quantities).

Getting Yourself Organized

In my books, you’re either planning/thinking/administrating, or you’re out there busting your butt/launching campaigns/optimizing campaigns.

If you’re the planning/thinking type, your stuff is probably well-organized.

If you’re constantly hustling, your paperwork is going to be in a mess.

Although I have the feeling that guys like Chad Frederiksen and John Hasson are both well-organized and ruthlessly efficient in their business.

I probably lean towards the messier side of marketing and as my wife might tell you, I sometimes have difficulty keeping track of schedule.

It’s probably too convenient for many marketers to claim they have ADD (attention deficient disorder). In fact, it’s almost a badge of honor to claim you have ADD. But if you check the DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual) published by the American Psychiatric Association, you’d see clear-cut definitions. Not some pop culture nonsense that some sitcom hack penned into an episode of Seinfeld which has since spread into pop culture.

The upshot of this is that there’s a sub-culture of products, services and courses to cater to people who are disorganized and can’t get their act together. Stuff like time management and goal setting courses from the likes of Brian Tracy, Tony Robbins, reminder services like RememberTheMilk, scheduled email reminders may just add to the complexity of your life without solving the underlying problems.

The solution to being able to get shit done lies simply in getting your shit done.

No amount of writing love notes to yourself or giving yourself a pep talk as you stare in the mirror is going to launch another campaign, nor get your testing done for you.

Do the most important thing first thing in the day before you go to your day job (if you have one), or before you login to xbox live or WoW (if you don’t).

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I’ll be the first to confess that one of the main motivators for creating Smart Link Manager was that maintaining spreadsheets with multiple tracking links, sub IDs to track campaigns across multiple PPC and PPV networks was getting to be too much of a pain in the ass. One of the reasons why I started pulling a number of CPA campaigns.

Smart Link Manager might not have conversion tracking now (go ask yr AM about pixel misfires sometime. I just use subIDs to track) and not have link rotation now. But what it does, it does well.

Between me and my bank balance, we’re both doing well.

I have to get back to completing the June updates for the Internet Marketing Cookbook.

But go check out Smart Link Manager now.

Smart Link Manager link management, cloaking, web stats tool launched!

One of the frustrations of online marketing is getting an integrated picture of how effective your marketing efforts are, especially which are the traffic sources are working effectively.

I’d given off up some off-the-shelf free and paid software and decided to develop my own tracking system a couple of months ago. Besides getting a better picture of what’s working and what’s now in promoting my own products and affiliate/CPA offers, I’ve decided to offer my in-house link management and tracking system. I believe new and intermediate level marketers who don’t have their own tracking systems in place, or are doing a lot of redirects manually are going to see a productivity boost out of this.

Introducing: Smart Link Manager

What it is:

  • Creates different types of redirect links (301 redirects, iframes, meta refreshes, double meta refreshes and cloaked links)
  • Option of creating keyword-optimized redirects or with a random structure (minimizes the footprint)
  • Web stats, including referring URLs, geographical location, browser type
  • Option of setting up CRON jobs to email you your campaign stats on your preferred schedule

Recovering profit in real time: Some CPA (cost per action) offers may hit their caps or may be redirected to other offers. Being able to edit, update and control which offers you’re promoting from one central location, with changes made in real-time are a major boost. No more scrambling to update multiple traffic sources/networks. Do it from ONE location. No more “offer not found” headaches, resulting in lost sales and profit.

Integrated marketing: This tool was created for traffic promotion types like article marketing, social bookmarking, blogging, forum promotion, social networking (squidoo, hubpages), video marketers. Having one universal tracking URL saves you the hassle of creating multiple links to track different channels.

I’ve also used the tool for PPC and PPV marketing and it scales without any issues even if you’re sending bucketloads of traffic through the script.

Some technical details:

  • You need your own webhosting account
  • PHP5 support and ioncube support are required
  • Fantastico/cPanel admin interface would make setting up MySQL databases and CRON jobs a whole lot easier

I’m not a coder by any means, so I’ve documented the process from installation, setup, configuration, campaign launch and optimization. I’ve also written a marketing guide on techniques to integrate Smart Link Manager into existing or new campaigns.

Here’re some other reasons why Smart Link Manager is a great tool:

  • It’s evolved from an in-house tool, and we’re running live campaigns using the script now.
  • It’s self-hosted, so all the data resides on your own server. Your data remains yours.
  • Constant upgrades: In the course of running campaigns, we make enhancements to the script constantly. You’ll get regular updates (we expect one upgrade each month).
  • Low resource utilization: Whether you’re using a shared webhost or a dedicated server, the script has been designed from scratch to be reliable and scalable, even if you’re running a high volume traffic campaign.

The greatest advantage in using Smart Link Manager on a daily basis is that it creates redirects, incorporate tracking and cloaking within seconds, shaving a lot of manual work and getting the links correct each time (perfect for copying-and-pasting links). An easy-to-use, intuitive web-based interface makes campaign setup a snap.

Launch offer: You can get about 40% off the $47 price by using promotion code “WIAWPROMO” to get it for just $27 (limited to 20 buyers).

Be sure to check out: Smart Link Manager