Affiliate Marketing: Defend Your Campaigns With a Moat
“In days of old, a castle was protected by the moat that circled it. The wider the moat, the more easily a castle could be defended, as a wide moat made it very difficult for enemies to approach. A narrow moat did not offer much protection and allowed enemies easy access to the castle. To Warren Buffett, the castle is the business and the moat is the competitive advantage the company has. He wants his managers to continually increase the size of the moats around their castles.”
Warren Buffet (The #2 richest man in the world) evaluates potential investments by looking at their moats and competitive advantages. What protects the company from a competitor coming in and taking all of their market share?
Coca Cola has extremely strong branding. You can start a company with the exact same formula, but it’s not going to take a dent out of their market share. Some companies can patent their technology and others can sign exclusive deals with big distributors.
Unfortunately internet marketing is still kind of like the wild west. If you figured out the “winning formula” to a campaign, there’s not much stopping competitors from seeing your ads and how you’re monetizing everything. On top of that the industry is very low barriers to entry so there’s always new guys coming in every day.
Having a super hot campaign is kind of like having a super hot girlfriend, there’s going to be a lot of guys out there trying to take her away. The guys that complain about the instability of internet marketing are same ones that just kinda copy campaigns and chase hot offers every 2 weeks. What we can do is starting thinking about ways we can erect barriers to keep campaigns lasting longer.
Think About The Offer
One of the most important aspects of any campaign. Your traffic sources and brilliant angles don’t matter if you can’t find an offer that converts high enough. So once we find that winner, what should we do?
- Go as direct as possible. Lets say the advertiser only works with affiliate network A and pays them $5 a lead. Joe Newbie is working with a ghetto affiliate network B that gets it from affiliate network A, but pays you $4.50 a lead (they keep $.50). If you can work with the advertiser themselves, they might pay $6 a lead. The more middle men you cut, the higher the payouts and the lower the click losses.I was looking at someone’s offer link, they were running something that was brokered like 3 times.
Keep in mind that going direct isn’t the holy grail. They take a lot longer to pay, can sometimes be frustration to deal with, and payments are a lot less reliable than affiliate networks. Evaluate your options.
- If it’s a lead gen, increase the quality of the lead for the advertiser. I’ll use the dating niche as an example.They pay you if you get someone to sign up to their website, but they make money from whether the person signs up with a credit card for additional services. So if Affiliate A sends $1000 worth of quality leads and the advertiser generates $1500, Affiliate B sends $1000 worth of bad leads and the advertiser generates $500. Who do you think the advertiser likes more?Affiliate A will get higher caps and a pay bump, Affiliate B gets kicked off the offer. Affiliate A now gets paid $6 a lead while everyone else is working off of $4 a lead.Think about what you can do to make the lead better for the advertiser. I’ll give you one hint – if the offer’s not free, then don’t advertise it as free. Don’t be one of those retards using “free chat” in your dating ads.
- Some advertisers have limited budgets. If you can send a lot of traffic…and high quality traffic…it’s easier for them to work with just you and give you exclusivity. You have a moat now because you’re the only person allowed on this offer.
- Do you know everything about the niche? Instead of being an affiliate, try being the advertiser and promoting the offer yourself. Easier said than done obviously, but it’s a lot harder for someone to come in and setup merchant processing, call centers, etc. to compete against you.
Keep Information Hidden
I always found it weird when people talk publicly about traffic sources or niches that they run. It’s like living in the hood and telling everyone you just bought a new big screen TV – you’re inviting people to come steal it. My advice is to share as little as possible to anyone. What you do for a living, what traffic sources you run, what niches, etc.
Be careful of the information you reveal to affiliate managers and never tell them more than what’s necessary. A lot of them run campaigns in their off-time and well, you can figure out the rest. Use a proper tracking software and encode your subid’s. I swear I see some guys with &t202kw=18-22-male-usa. Stop passing along information and keywords.
If you’re starting to make money finally, then lay low. It’s something I should’ve done more when I was younger – if you’re flashy then people are going to try and figure out what you’re going to do. That’s it, I’m deleting this blog.
One time I had a very good direct site media buy. I liked it so much I went ahead and bought out all their traffic for a few months. Guys that wanted to test out the traffic couldn’t because I already prepaid for it. Not only that, but my CPM was 30% cheaper because of my bulk deal. Not only was that a moat around my castle, but I put like crocodiles in the water and spikes at the bottom.
Every traffic source has its own little secrets – ways to get more traffic, bidding strategies, ways to get campaigns approved faster, etc. Focusing on a few traffic sources and learning the ins and outs of them give you an edge over the new guys trying it out for the first time.
Work on establishing better relationships with your account manager. It’s their job to know everything about the traffic source and you should always try to learn what you can from them.
Protecting Your Creatives
Imagine you spent hundreds of dollars getting landing pages created, thousands of dollars testing testing them, and someone comes along copies it.
Lawyer up. DMCA their traffic source, affiliate network, and hosting provider and get the landing page taken down. It’s not going to stop it completely, but we’re just slowing down the viruses.
There are ways to cloak your landing pages from affiliates. You can also encrypt the pages so they’re harder to steal. It’s not going to stop 100% of people from ripping it, but it’s enough to stop the stupid ones.
Some campaigns just naturally have more moats built into them. Anyone can sign up for Facebook and start advertising, but some networks require $25,000+ deposit. TrafficVance requires referrals to enter and only want to work with Americans. It’s nice to work with traffic sources that put up barriers.
Some places you just can’t copy and paste a campaign. You need to research keywords for Google Adwords and maintain a high quality score.
How easy is it for competitors to see your ads? Every landing page and creative in the adult dating space is easily seen by going to tube websites. But if you’re advertising something in Greece, I don’t think too many people are going to see it.
A moat’s not everything by the way – it’s just one thing I look at. Some campaigns have very small moats, but a LOT of traffic available. It’s all a balancing act.
Don’t Let People Steal Your Affiliate Marketing Campaigns
- Be attractive
- Don’t be unattractive
- Start thinking about ways you can add moats to your existing campaigns
- Stop jacking other people’s work