EXCLUSIVE interview with Geno Prussakov
November 22, 2013
Hello my dear readers,
Today our guest is Geno Prussakov – acclaimed author, international speaker, award-winning affiliate marketing consultant, senior editor for the affiliate marketing section of the Search Engine Marketing Journal, founder and chair of Affiliate Management Days conference, and regular contributor to a wide number of industry publications.
Geno reveals in an EXCLUSIVE interview his best Affiliate Marketing Secrets
1. Can you give us a little bit of background about how you get involved in Affiliate Marketing and what led you to become such an Expert?
My path to becoming an affiliate marketer began from starting my own online store. In search for the most effective methods to market my products I discovered affiliate marketing, a way to involve independent online marketers to promote your product while you pay them only when a transaction/conversion happens. With time I got pretty good at managing my e-business’s affiliate program, won a few awards in the space, and started getting proposals from other online businesses to manage their affiliate programs. Since there was not enough time in the day to run both my own online store, and my newly-started affiliate management agency, I had to choose, and went with the latter. In the meantime, I also authored four books, three of which are on affiliate marketing.
2. What is so good about Affiliate Marketing ?
Let me give you two central benefits for the two main participants of all affiliate marketing relationships: the merchant/advertiser, and the affiliate/publisher. For merchants the two main pros are (i) affiliate marketing’s performance-based foundation (as mentioned above, the advertiser chooses what compensation his affiliates will receive, when, and for what online action(s)), and (ii) its universality (the fact that it embraces all online marketing channels, and a number of online ones too). For affiliates, in my opinion, the two key advantages include (i) the ability to sell without having to stock or worry about customer service or fulfillment, and (ii) the freedom that the involvement in affiliate marketing brings when you, finally, go into it full-time.
3. If you start from scratch now what would you do to start to earn $100 a day, thanks to Affiliate Marketing? How long does it take to reach such target?
It depends on the skill-set that you bring with you. If you are an SEO expert or want to monetize the online influence that you have, I’d say this goal is reachable within a matter of a month. With paid search it may, obviously, be achieved much faster.
If, on the other hand, by starting “from scratch” you mean beginning with no online marketing experience whatsoever, it could take a few months. Much will be conditioned by the time you are willing to invest in learning and then putting the knowledge to work.
4. What are the top 3 things that someone should know in order to be successful in Affiliate Marketing?
(i) Realize that there’s no such thing as get-rich-quick success. At least, not sustainable or ethical one.
(ii) Add value. Customers will appreciate it and buy from you. Advertisers will be happy to have you aboard as an affiliate when you bring them new business. Based on this, you may even ask them for private/higher commissions.
(iii) Never stop learning. In industry as dynamic as affiliate marketing you must constantly self-educate.
5. What are the secrets of picking up the right product to promote? There are so many to promote
Focus on a niche/area that you already have some knowledge about, and, most importantly, that you are passionate about. This may not be as integral in areas where a lot of automation will take place (like paid search, retargeting, building data feed-powered websites), but it will be greatly important if you rely on copyrighting, content curation, running topical social media efforts, etc.
6. What is the best way to get started ?
Once you’ve learned the basics (my bestselling Quick Start Guide to Affiliate Marketing will help you here), start with the due diligence to understand (a) what advertisers/merchants you will be able to promote, (b) how much they are paying and what their conversion rates are, (c) who you will be competing with as far as other affiliates working in the niche. And then get your hands dirty doing it!
7. Which affiliate networks/sites besides ClickBank do you use?
LinkShare, ShareASale, Commision Junction, eBay Enterprise Affiliate Network , and Avangate – in this order. Among other reputable U.S. ones I recommend looking into AvantLink, Affiliate Window, LinkConnector, and Webgains. When marketing in Europe, consider also: Tradedoubler, Zanox, PaidOnResults, Affili.net, and OMG.
8. Do you believe that social media can be used to promote affiliate offers? If so, how?
Absolutely! But not by blindly pushing “offers” bombarding people with Tweets and posts about them. As Jeffrey Molander recommends, you want to “design conversations” by listening/monitoring first, and only then participating. In social media marketing the key to success is in being relevant here and now. Only then you be helpful and add value. Only then people listen to you, follow, and buy from you (i.e. through your affiliate links, in our context). Value their time, bring something of substance to the table, and remember to disclose your relationships with advertisers too!
9. How long does it take to really become fully proficient at Affiliate Marketing ?
A lifetime. To become/be 100% proficient in it, you want to improve continuously, adapting to the changes, and responding to the challenges. Becoming familiar with the basics, and crafting the plan for your first steps, however, may take as short as a week.
10. Is it necessary to make a reputation research in Google about the product you are going to promote – to see if there are no complaining of scam? Which networks/sites/services are the most reliable?
By all means you want to research the product/service carefully before starting to promote it. After all, you want the offer to convert, as you will be paid based on the referred conversions. If there are substantial barriers to conversion, you want to spot these prior to even starting promoting the product. Additionally, do your due diligence on the affiliate program itself to see if there is anything with this advertiser that you should be concerned about (e.g.: high reversal rate, late payments, non-compliance with the regulations of the markets where you plan to promote them, etc). Do spend some extra time on such research. You will be thankful later.
As for the networks to consider, see my reply about the affiliate networks above.
11. Will your methods or advice work in any area and for anyone?
12. What are the most important things to track and test when promoting affiliate offers
Three Cs: (i) clikthrough rate, (ii) conversion ratio (i.e. what percentage of clickthroughs convert into the action you are paid for), (iii) cancellation rate. It is a combination of these three that directly affects your affiliate earnings. This formula may also be of use when attempting to estimate/project your future affiliate earnings.
13. How you are emailing your list – are you using promotional emails or make your own? What’s your recommendation?
Always craft your own email copy! Do ask advertisers for those pieces of data that you may not have, or that they are more familiar with; and then embed it into your own unique email marketing campaign.
14. How much experience does a person need to be successful in Affiliate Marketing ?
As mentioned at the outset of this interview, it can range from no experience whatsoever to running an established online marketing agency. Ultimately, previous experience and expertise will affect how quickly you will start making good money, but you may start at any level of professional maturity. Just never stop learning and improving!
15. What niches are best to operate for Affiliate Marketing ?
Obviously, the ones with the most demand, and less competition. But, in reality, with proper effort put into it, any niche can start bringing you a sustainable “full time” income; provided there is demand for it, of course.
16. Suppose I already have a website or blog with decent traffic. How can I use affiliate marketing to monetize my site?
There are several ways existing websites and blogs may monetize their traffic. Here are just a few:
ñ Contextual monetization (e.g. via tools like Skimlinks and VigLink)
ñ Topical banners and widgets (e.g. Amazon’s)
ñ Product reviews (again, mind the FTC’s requirements for affiliate disclosures mentioned above)
ñ Adding an “online store” (e.g. via PopShops, DatafeedR, or any of these tools)
17. Do you start by choosing an offer, and then building a website/email list/PPC campaign around it, or the other way around (i.e., first build a website or email list and then try to find suitable offers)?
It depends on your starting point. If you already have a website you want to monetize, it will be the latter. If you are planning on building a new site, then – certainly the former. It can work either way.
18. Do you think that super affiliates necessarily need to use PPC to power their campaigns? Or is it possible to make big money with affiliate marketing without using PPC?
There are “super affiliates” that do not do paid search at all. I know of some content producers (bloggers) who make a steady affiliate marketing income of $7,000 a month (and higher) per website.
19. If you had one secret to give about Affiliate Marketing , what would it be?
I don’t have secrets. I am a big believer in sharing everything that I know, as only then I myself have room to grow further. Everything that I know is in my books, blog, Tweets, etc.
20. Do you recommend using pre-selling/review pages promoting affiliate offers? Or do you recommend sending the traffic directly to the sales page of the merchant?
I do recommend pre-selling on your own website. It opens up several opportunities. To name but a few:
a) You can then test and improve based on the results that you register,
b) You can harvest the end-user’s email address (with a basic “newsletter sign-up” mechanism) to market to them directly later,
c) You can even engage in re-targeting,
d) Your income isn’t then as dependent on your relationship with the merchant (you can always switch links to another merchant) or potential changes to their policies where they may prohibit direct linking altogether.
Having said this, I know of super affiliates in both camps: those that land traffic on their own site, and those that stick to DTM (direct-to-merchant linking) relationships.
21. Do I need to spend money (e.g., PPC, paid advertising, etc) to make money with affiliate marketing?
You don’t have to (you can start as an affiliate on a $5 a month hosting and a free WordPress-based website), but with time, as you start receiving profits, it is a good idea to invest into further success.
22. How do I get quality affiliates to promote my own products and services?
(i) Research who is linking to your competitors (whether promoting them directly or via affiliate links),
(ii) Reach out to influencers in the niche (to attract them to promote your product/service),
(iii) Rinse and repeat. Ok, the last one was more than one “R.” But you get the idea!
23. What are some of the common problems that people experience in Affiliate Marketing ?
If I had to narrow them down to three, they would be (i) underestimating the effort that needs to be put into it to achieve success, (ii) overestimating their “future earnings”, and (iii) jumping into the water before they are ready to cope with the currents and the underwater reefs.
24. What sort of things can someone do to stay on top?
Read blogs, forums, magazines, listen to podcasts, attend conferences. And do not focus on affiliate marketing resources only. Soak up all knowledge that is relevant to your primary methods of promotion, and the niches you choose work in.
25. Do you lose money on offers while trying to find profitable ones? Is this process inevitable?
Unfortunately, it is. Though, in some cases (e.g. with content marketing) monetary investments can be kept to a minimum.
Just as with any entrepreneurial effort, you will have to invest your time, effort, and money into it. You will waste all three at times (that’s how business goes, doesn’t it?) The key is in staying persistent, learning from the mistakes, replicating successes, working hard, and giving the end-user something for what he will want to come back.
26. What product do you have? How People can benefit from your product? Where people find more information about you and your products ?
Besides the books which I have mentioned in the beginning of our interview, I also provide affiliate marketing consulting and affiliate program management services via AM Navigator. I also run a conference on affiliate marketing for advertisers. It is called Affiliate Management Days, and it is being held bi-annually: once in the U.S. and once in Europe.
27. Can you provide some real life examples of other people, who have followed your advice?
While I cannot give out the names without prior permissions, in the course of the past 12 years I have contributed to the success of thousands of affiliate programs and individual affiliates. You may view our client testimonials here, as well as on my LinkedIn profile (under “Recommendations”).
27. How can people contact you?
I am easy to find; just Google my name. But for fastest answers, email, phone (1-703-879-3155), and Twitter are best.