Affiliate Marketing: Use These 15 Photoshop Tricks to Increase Your Click-Through Rates
I thought I knew a lot about marketing when I first joined this industry.
I graduated with a marketing degree from Georgia Tech, and I read over 15+ books on copywriting.
My competitor’s ads? They were SO boring – zero Photoshop tricks. So UGLY. I’m a creative guy and I was so sure my ads would outperform everyone else’s.
I started off by investing in professional graphic designers. I went online and got a banner pack. 10 banners for $150 (Which was a fortune to me at the time).
They did HORRIBLE. I figured well…let me test out other professionals!
I kept testing and testing until my budget started running out. I couldn’t outsource my graphic designs anymore.
I had to take things into my own hands reluctantly. I barely knew how to use photoshop and had to look at YouTube videos to figure out how to crop. Yea that’s how bad I was.
I was embarrassed to upload these ads. But you know what happened?
My click-through rates went up. My conversion rates went up. My CPC’s went down.
My crappy banners were outperforming all the professionals!
What was going on?
I forgot the point of being an affiliate marketer. The goal is to get a DIRECT RESPONSE. We want them to CLICK on the ad, and hopefully CONVERT.
I wanted to be “creative” and clever. I want my graphics to be professional looking and polished.
There are a lot of ways to increase the click-through rate on your ads. I’m going to focus on how you can make your images more appealing through the use of Photoshop Tricks.
Remember this…if no one clicks on your ads then the rest of your campaign doesn’t matter. The ad sets the tone for the rest of the tunnel.
By improving your click-through rate you’ll be able to have more profitable campaigns.
Why Is CTR So Important?
Your CTR is:
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of focusing on JUST the clickthrough rate.
- By itself, CTR is a vanity metric. What do I mean? Having a good CTR doesn’t pay the bills, it just tells you that people click on your creatives for some reason.
- It’s overhyped. Marketers love it because it sounds technical and impressive, and it’s not hard to increase it if you split test. In the corporate world and brand marketing sphere, CTR gets talked about like it’s some sort of magic bullet.
- It comes from a different age. Back when people first started making money with AdSense sites, all they cared about was the CTR on their sites – but that’s because CTR made them money. Every time someone clicked an ad on their site, they made a few cents.
As an affiliate marketer, or anyone who is running ads online, you’ve got to look at a more COMPLETE picture.
You are promoting an online gambling offer on Facebook. In your ads you’ve got photos of cute girls giggling and sipping cocktails, while they pull the one-armed bandits. Of course you’re going to get a high CTR. Guys see cute chicks and they click, no matter what the ad is for.
You’ve got a whole lot of dudes clicking on your ads looking for cute chicks… They get to your gambling offer, and they’re probably going to leave because there are no more cuties. In this case, increasing your CTR is going to LOSE you more money as it goes up. This is because you’re attracting the wrong people to your offer.
I’m not saying don’t put girls on your ads. I’m just saying that you want to pull the right people. This is especially important if you are paying per click, not per impression.
Getting the right person to click your ads is the goal.
How do you do that?
I’ve already talked about headlines, writing good copy, targeting etc in my other blog posts, but having a good image can fire your CTR up faster than good copy in my experience.
There are things you can do to your images to make them more appealing, enticing, and impacting, WITHOUT misleading people.
So What’s Great About CTR Then?
Higher CTR lowers your CPC
On Facebook you have what’s called a Relevancy Score.
Example: you’re promoting an app install for a game on Facebook with the headline
“Play For Free Now – The Best FPS of 2016”.
The user clicks through and finds out they have to pay for it. They’ll probably leave the page, leave you a nasty comment, and possibly report your ad.
This is an extreme example, as Facebook would probably ban you for doing this repeatedly, but Facebook measure how much customers like the content once they’ve clicked on your ad.
If their data says that the user liked it, you get a higher Relevancy Score. This means you pay less per click. It also by default means that you are targeting the right people, as they are receiving value from clicking on your ads.
Same happens on AdWords – the more relevant your content is to what the visitor searched for, the less you pay per click.
Those companies want their customers to have the best experience, and they want you to buy. Believe it or not, companies that sell ads actually do want you to profit!
CTR is a good baseline.
Imagine you’ve just uploaded 50 images to your mobile campaign. If nobody clicks on them, you’ve got NOTHING to go on. You can’t be worried about more important metrics like your conversion rate if nobody is even getting to your offer.
Higher CTR enables faster testing
If your CTR is low, your testing will cost more, and take more time. When you are testing new landers, ads, verticals, offers etc, you want testing to be as fast and efficient as possible. If you’ve got a solid ad that is getting a good CTR, then you can start testing your landers.
Trying to test landers with an ad that gets a poor CTR is a waste of time and money.
You’ve gotta focus on the funnel works and think about it logically.
How to Find Jaw-Dropping Images
The average person sees around 362 images a day.
And because they see so many images, they’ve sort of developed banner blindness. So the first goal of your ads is to STAND OUT.
They need to make the person STOP what they’re doing and think, “Whoa what’s that?”
How to find these images?
First, decide what images would align with your offer. Popular offers are often based around dating, fitness, beauty, app installs, bizopps, travel, adult etc. Think up a few terms to search for.
Example: we’re promoting a weight loss offer, so we come up with a list of search terms:
- Fat to skinny
- Crazy weight loss
- Biggest weight loss ever
- Skinny to ripped
- Most ripped guy ever
- Fattest person ever
- Person eating junk food
You wanna have a brainstorm for 5 minutes and come up with some ideas of search terms.
Second, fire up your favorite image search engine and start searching.
You want to look for images that catch your eye and evoke some sorta feeling. You could feel creeped out, weird, disgusted, offended, intrigued, happy, turned on, whatever…. You want to generate emotions.
*Notes: Don’t use images without permission. If you wanna be 100% clean you can go to stock websites or use public domain rights images.
I recommend Shutterstock as a place to get super high-quality images that you can buy the rights to use.
Also be careful of using before / after images of people as you CAN get sued.
The Main Event – Photoshop Tricks for Insane CTRs
Here are some of my best-performing, closely-guarded (until now) Photoshop tricks to send your CTR through the roof.
Note: Some of these are gray-hat techniques, but some of these techniques are used by Fortune 500 companies. Everything has it’s place. I’m not going to tell you which ones to use on which platform. Partly because new guidelines come in overnight and this blog post will be around for centuries to come, but also because every vertical is different.
If you’re running in the adult vertical, you’ll have to bring the full arsenal of tricks to compete, some of which are borderline.
If Facebook is your domain, then you want to focus on getting attention and clicks, but NOT at the expense of deceiving the user, or getting in hot water with their legal team.
Trick 1. Crazy borders
This used to work like a charm on PoF. First, it grabs the attention. Second, once you’ve seen the crazy border, you HAVE to look at the image. If the image is above average, you’ll get more eyeballs on your ad.
To add a normal border, click the lock button on your image to enable editing, then click “Stroke” where I have. This brings up a dialog box so you can edit thickness and color.
If you can get the size of a crazy border low enough that it loads fast, it will definitely draw attention.
Trick 2. Blend into, or blend out of the platform
Facebook is white and blue, PornHub is… I don’t know I’ve never been there. If you know the colour scheme where your ads are running, you can try to blend in, or blend out.
Facebook is strict with this, so you might have to do the opposite. On the opposite side of the colour wheel from blue is orange, so this might be better at snapping your viewers to attention.
If you can though, use greys, whites and blues on Facebook – I’ve noticed campaigns can do well if you use those colors on there. Just be aware that Facebook don’t really like you trying to make your affiliate marketing campaign look like their billion dollar empire.
Are there any image tricks you can add to the bottom, top or side of your image that makes it look more like part of the website your images are on? Things like side scrolling bars on images are kinda old-school now, but you can always innovate and imitate the site your ads are on.
Trick 3. Add a CTA button
The above image with the car is something I did in Photoshop in about 10 seconds – just found a cool car image, made up a rectangle, put some text inside it. Didn’t do anything else, and it looks like it’d be an alright ad. I kinda blended this image with the above tip.
There are plenty of styles of buttons you can add to your image.
Trick 4. Text-heavy banners
There’s a reason Facebook restricts the amount of text in your image – because it WORKS! It works almost too well. Massive headlines and text overlaid on an image will often increase CTR. Look at magazine covers if you need inspiration here… Most covers are packed with headlines, captions, wild colours and images.
“Give a man a text file and he’ll read for 5 minutes. Give a man a text file and fill it with images, buttons, quotes and good design, and he’ll read for a lifetime” – Charles Ngo
Trick 5. Point to something
ViralNova rely on this heavily. This technique can be used on most platforms, and it GRABS people’s attention. This image says to me: “There is something SO important in this image, that we had to circle it for you.” You can use arrows, underlines, circles etc to point to a certain part of your image.
ViralNova up to their usual tricks…
Trick 6. Place images above headline/text
This is not so much a Photoshop trick, but it’s still worth knowing.
David Ogilvy, one of the godfathers of advertising states this in his books. The reason for this rule? People love images so much that often they will skim read, or entirely skip your headline to look at your image. Give them the image first, then they can focus on consuming your headline without a distracted mind.
Gary V and Moz, both massively successful bloggers follow this style of giving the image first, then serving the headline.
You probably notice sometimes when you read that you skip ahead to juicy parts such as numbers, images etc… This is the same principle in action.
Ogilvy also states that captions get read up to 4x as much as any other text… So you should make sure your captions have a solid CTA!
Trick 7. Enhance features
If you’re featuring people in your ads, this is a MUST. There’s a reason magazine covers featuring half naked girls get edited so much – it works. It pulls the guys in because they’ll never see a girl like that walking down the street.
- For girls, you can add tan, darker lips, more defined eye colour etc
- For guys you can sharpen hair colour, define jaw line, muscles, tan etc
- Even just enhancing the colour of clothes can make an impact – vivid red, ultra black, perfect white.
This is a bit more advanced in Photoshop, and to be honest your time would be better spent on the more basic tactics here.
Trick 8. Blur for extra focus
Blurring out the background draws attention. Most photos and ads are 100% in focus, so the human eye doesn’t notice anything out of the ordinary. We want eyeballs to get confused and take a second look, so blurring an image can help achieve this.
Try blurring out your main image to draw extra curiosity. For example, nobody knows what the iPhone 8 is going to look like, but a blurred out image would raise curiosity.
- Select your image (I normally use polygonal lasso tool). Remember to unlock the background first so you can work on it.
- Copy it, then paste immediately. This creates a new layer on top of the background.
- Click Filter from the top menu with your new layer selected
- Try out different styles of blurring
Notice how the image kinda pops out?
Trick 9. Play button
You’ve just gotta click play on this! Sorry, it’s just an image I made and not an actual video…
This is not allowed on some traffic sources, but it still works. If you actually have a video on your lander then using this strategy is normally okay, but if it’s just to get a higher CTR, it’s gray hat for sure.
You won’t get away with this on Facebook (unless it’s an image that goes viral), but on some sources you will. Again, I just foundan image that looks like things are about to turn south, then put a .PNG (transparent) image over the top. Easy.
Trick 10. Take a couple of tutorials from this blog
Design crowd is a seriously cool blog. They have tutorials on a massive range of themes, so you can create your own images that shock people.
Example: they have a tutorial that teaches you how to make people look tattooed. What if you Photoshop tattooed a baby? What if you tattooed a celebrity? I’m not saying this is going to work for you, I’m just trying to get you to innovate.
They also have a tutorial you can take that turns a person into a statue – imagine the reactions that a statue of Donald Trump on the front lawn of the White House would evoke.
Trick 11. Add in Social Proof
Adding likes, comments, pins and RTs to your images can work wonders. Of course you only want to do this if you actually have this social feedback.
Example: you’re running a campaign promoting a golfing ebook, how many likes does it have on Facebook? Can you make up an image what says how many likes your app has and put that on top of your image? You might have to check the ToS. Social proof is powerful.
Trick 12. Animate your images
A lot of the top quality traffic sources don’t allow this, but I’ve included it anyway seeing as it works. Search on Google for a tut, as this is a bit more effort than just making a border or inserting text in Photoshop.
You can make complex animations, or ones that just cycle through two or three static images.
Trick 13. Add/remove backgrounds
If your offer revolves around a single thing such as a girl, iPhone, car etc – try changing the background. You don’t have to be good at Photoshop to do this, there are bits of software out there that can do it for you (free).
Background Burner is one that I’ve tried, but it only works for images with a really clear background. They do have a basic editing tool you can use if it screws up the transformation on the first attempt. Here’s an image I ran through Background Burner, and the screenshot below is what it spits out.
Trick 14. Adjust HSB (Hue, Saturation, Brightness)
Sometimes an image just doesn’t feel right. I wouldn’t go through and do this to a lot of images, but you can make images feel like they “pop” a bit more. You want images to feel a bit more 3D than standard images. I can’t really explain how to do this as it’s more something you feel, than can be taught.
Trick 15. Set up actions for bulk edits (Thank me later for this)
Uploading images is tedious enough, but if you’ve got 250 images you wanna resize and add a filter to in Photoshop as well, that’s a boring ass day ahead for you. Photoshop lets you automate processes like this. Here’s a real simple explanation, but there are plenty of tuts if this isn’t enough to get you running.
Step 1. Build your action
Windows>Actions> then click the icon to create a new action.
Once you get the new action going, it records all of your actions. So resize, add the filter, change colour, sharpen, whatever. Then save it in the right folder. (Tip:
Step 2. Batch it
File > Automate > Batch
Set the folder of images you want apply the action to, select the action you’ve made then set it to run.
My Top Places for Image Inspiration
ViralNova – these guys love clickbait-style headlines, but their image choices are a good source of poaching ideas for your campaigns.
DeviantArt – probably the biggest place in the world where designers and artists upload their work
WeirdWorm – similar to ViralNova
Spy tools – native ads tools are often best as these rely on grabbing the attention of the viewer and pulling them from existing content.
Bing – I don’t know if it’s just me, but Bing Images gives me way better results than Google. They also have an “Image Match” feature that lets you search other places that have your image that you input. It seems like you can be more specific with Bing Images too – highly recommended.
Things to Avoid With Photos and Images
Whenever I see stock images I immediately think they are too cheap to hire a photographer or buy images. Pictures of a corporate guy and girl wearing suits, glasses, and flashing perfectly white teeth while smiling in the meeting room. This is probably the biggest sin of marketing – conformity. You want to stand out, not look like a 1999 dot-com company.
Pro Tip: You can always photoshop a professional stock photo to make it look more “amateur”.
Often you’ll want a focal point. It doesn’t matter where it is, but you want something that the viewer’s eye is drawn to. If the picture is too busy, the brain won’t want to put in the work to decipher the whole image, and it will be skipped.
Unless you’ve pixelated or manipulated the image for a specific purpose, get the highest quality image you can find. Use a reverse image search to find the original.
Large file sizes
Most platforms have a limit to the size, but your landers don’t. Use kraken.io to compress your images quickly, without any noticable loss in quality. ALL affiliate marketers know that page load is important. Increasing page load speed (which is normally image load speed) can take a campaign that is breakeven to profitable.
First, realize that a good CTR is a step in the right direction, but it’s not the end goal. Increasing your profit is the end goal.
Second, a higher CTR can actually be a BAD thing.
Let me explain:
A mentioned earlier how you can put images of hot chicks on pretty much anything and your CTR will go up, but that’s not always what you want. You want to keep it RELEVANT. Show guys images of girls and their brain goes off to fantasyland.
What’s More Important Than CTR?
I’ve shared with you a ton of photoshop tricks, but remember that they’re the “sprinkles.” The following are much more important to your overall profit.
You could find 1000 images of jacked dudes to put in your ads for your fitness eBook, but that might not be the best angle, and you’ve wasted days on it. Brainstorm angles, because that’s the big picture that’ll get you serious gains in this industry.
- Some guys might respond well to the angle of being picked on (so they wanna get ripped and never be pushed round again).
- Other guys might want to get lean so they can run around and play ball with their kids.
- Another angle might be wanting to get in shape for beach parties this summer and pick up chicks.
Those are all angles, but you’d never think to search for “guy playing soccer with kids”, if you were promoting a fitness product and didn’t know about angles. Check out my article on marketing angles to help step up your creative game.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not in affiliate marketing for a size measuring contest. I don’t care about your CTR, bounce rate, cost per click or anything. All I care about is profit.
Conversion rates are the one metric that you should be focused on once you are getting a good CTR. Your conversion rate is DIRECTLY in charge of how much profit you make. You could jack up your CTR and your profit goes down, but pump up your conversion rate and all else equal, profits ALWAYS go up.
This is where your focus should be after you achieve a CTR that is good enough to start gathering meaningful data. If you need help knowing what meaningful data is, read this post on statistical significance for affiliate marketers.
Photoshop is easy to pick up, and it costs about the price of a cheap lunch each month. Adobe also does a cheap deal for students so some of you guys could take advantage of that.
A great alternative for the Mac is Pixelmator.
What’s your go-to trick to getting a higher CTR/CR?