I read “If You Had To Start Over With $0 Budget” at Deneil Merritt‘s blog (great blog by the way), and it got me thinking about how I would start again. I don’t think I would start with a $0 budget, and if you’re interested in affiliate or internet marketing, you should try with a hearty effort, or don’t try at all and save yourself the misery of making $0 on your $0 budget. I think I do have some different opinions now for starting in internet or affiliate marketing.
Start with what you know..?
Seems like the common suggestion is to pick a niche that you’re familiar with. It definitely makes sense, and that is definitely the direction I started a few years ago. If I was to start over now, I would through that logic out the window. I think you should start with what can earn can earn decent commissions. It’s easy to be comforted with areas of interest and feel there is a level of knowledge or expertise related there, but reality says.. it doesn’t matter. It can be helpful, it can make things easier, but not worth the lost commissions.
I would start with products, services and/or niches that earn and learn about them. Spend a few hours understanding categories, trends and values and grow from there. The energy and time devoted here will reward you more in the end.
One site or many sites?
I see this question often, and there really isn’t a ‘right’ answer here. Is it better to have a few or one great site vs. many mediocre sites? Initially, I started with one ‘community’ site, then started branching out from there, tweaking, waiting, tweaking, waiting, etc. If I was to do it again, I would start with my current regiment of a minimum of 2 sites per month. Either creating new ‘test’ sites in new niches, or using the 10 degree separation with sites that are earning. All other down time is spent in blog posts, or tweaking and improving existing sites. I really believe creating new sites is the key to success to finding what you’re good at, what sites produce earnings and enhancing new traffic strategies.
What types of sites?
I’ve always broken down my earning sites into three basic categories. Community Sites, Store Fronts and Blogs. Each are good for different things, but it’s somewhat important to generate all three types, especially when starting out.
Community Sites are sites that are based on a common interest to a group of individuals. Once the site starts and grows, it will basically grow from the content provided by the community itself. Forums is a good example of a community site. These sites are great, once they go, it’s basically set-it-and-forget-it since the content is always evolving and growing without your involvement. You’ll still need to admin the site, etc. These sites are great for AdSense, product placement, etc. But the hard thing is developing a site and getting users and achieving that momentum needed for it to grow itself. Lots of time, lots of effort with very little return in the beginning.
Store Fronts are basically product stores utilizing product feeds. EPN sites and CJ sites using categorization is a example of store fronts. To me, these are by far the most successful. You’ll be targeting buyers vs. readers and conversion is much much higher. I like to promote these sites with PPC to even target better traffic than organic search traffic.
Blogs are blogs. You can blog about products, news, etc. I’ve always been ‘down’ on blogs, thinking the work is to high vs. the return and they’re hard to maintain over the long haul. I’ve changed my opinion on this.
So, if I was to start today, I would focus on getting a network of store fronts initially, maybe start a community site, but a site that I have good confidence that I can gain interested users. I would then work on a few product oriented blogs or review blogs and associate all these types of sites with Twitter. Once I saw some earnings, I would begin light PPC campaigns on the store fronts. Then work on building more sites and diversifying across affiliate networks.
Wow, Twitter. This is one of the biggest things that have changed my position in affiliate marketing over the last 6 months. I would DEFINITELY get Twitter accounts for my sites if I was to start today, and I would definitely buy Bird Feeder to grow those Twitter accounts. I cannot believe how useful Twitter is for getting consistent traffic to my product blogs or store fronts. Using Twitter Tools in my WordPress blogs to auto-Tweet posts is a must, and using the TweetMeme plugin for others to re-tweet posts is another fantastic way to get traffic back to your site.
Initially when creating new sites, I would do the normal, submission to search engines, do a few backlinks, post to a few directories, then wait. If I think it’s a hot site, I’ll fire up a PPC campaign, but overall the initial launch is slow going. Now with Twitter, I can get immediate traffic to the site, and traffic that seems to convert. Not super great like PPC traffic, but WAY better than low organic traffic or Stumble traffic.
This is something I was a little behind on. For some reason, I could never justify the expense for buying tools. I’m also a web developer by day, so I always felt I could write some of these things. Now, I’m starting to value my time more. The time it would take me to write a plugin costs more than purchasing the plugin itself. The time I would be spending writing a plugin or platform, I could have spent on writing new sites, reviews, researched new niches, etc.
I’m a total believer of software tools now. The amount of time these tools save and the amount of work these tools accomplish throughout the day is incredible. If I was to start over again, and after getting some earnings coming in first (I like to roll my earnings back into the pot for tools, domains, etc initially). I would buy the following tools for sure:
ReviewAZON product review plugin for Amazon products
WPReviewSite Review plugin for ranking across your blog
BirdFeeder awesome tool for getting targeted Twitter followers
SEO Elite excellent suite of tools for determining where you rank, find backlinks, research competition, etc.
Blog Comment Demon excellent tool for finding WordPress blogs related to keyword search. Great way to find quality sites for potential comment backlinks
In conclusion, I think the most important thing is consistency when it comes to production. Make sites, keep making sites, keep improving sites, keep moving forward. The earnings will trickle and drizzle in, but it’s important to create the foundation of sites where you can always research with analytics and determine what sites work for you. The other item to pay attention to is diversification, remember to diversify across different niches, affiliate networks and sites. Things change ALL the time so you want to make sure your eggs are not all in one basket. Lastly, remember to be flexible and learn to adapt to situation. Don’t let your network crumble because of a ‘change’ to policy or TOS, learn to take the punches and adapt with the new trend, and be ‘okay’ with letting something go if you need to.
Well, I hope this was useful to someone. I really wish I could have a time machine, I would definitely do some things differently, but at the same time, the path I took gave me the experience I needed for where I’m at today.