Archive for March, 2010|Monthly archive page

Plan Your Internet Success: Part 22: Basic Optimization to Achieve Higher Conversions

22. Basic Optimization to Achieve Higher Conversions

No matter what you do, you must test, experiment and optimize at all time. This is one of the very few things that you can do at no expense, and it is critical to your success.

For example, try various combinations and approaches when you send offers to people who have registered on your Web site.

For example, if you are offering content that appeals to men, make sure to use offers, images, and a tone that appeals to men. Apply the same principle for women, teenagers, 30-somethings, baby boomers, etc. Tailor your message to your audience’s need and expectations.

When you look at verticals and want to appeal to both sexes, you may consider tailoring this appeal differently for men and women by creating messages, banners as well as pages of your Web site that are specifically targeted at each of the sexes.

To go back to the car example, a call of action via a banner such as “Need a car for the growing family?” would draw people who, in all likeliness have children. Make certain that the landing page and other Web pages corresponding to your demographics are specifically designed to their expectations with, for example, the latest in minivans or SUVs, as well as safety features for children, cost per mile, insurance rebate if it applies, additional family services or dealers’ offers, etc.

The idea behind all this is to “qualify” and “funnel” (an expression that you may have seen in the online marketing circuits) as much traffic as possible toward specific areas of a Web site that is designed to answer the needs and expectation of your target audience.

You can find examples of what I mean on the Internet if you look at online stores such as Amazon, Barnes &Noble and others. I It all comes down to the following:

Ideally three pages and as few clicks as possible that consist of the following:

• Home Page: Must be Attractive and Funnel Potential Buyers to Customized Areas of your Web Site
• Product Page: Show Product in its Best Light with Option to Review Specs or Information and Make it Irresistible
• Action Page: Turn Excitement from Potential Buyer into Action (Not Necessarily a Sale)

Examples of this can be seen at some of the most popular computer companies’ Web sites as shown below:

Pretending to be shopping online for a computer (not sure of the type) and looking at three major brands, I Googled these major computer brands, conducting a basic search using a combination of keywords as follows: ”name_of_company” followed by the keyword “computer.” This was used in all three instances to be fair to these brands as far as what page would show up.

The result was a typical Google list from which I clicked on the first listing showing the company name in the Web address (as in The result of this click on the listing is what you see below with, in all instances the company’s home Page.

The questions that I asked before apply here: get They are a) Is the page attractive and b) Does it funnel potential buyers to the right place?

Brand 1:


Brand 2


Brand 3


Let’s try to answer the first question (attractive home page)?

a) Attractiveness of the Web site: It is fair to say that all three companies have a well thought through and beautifully designed Web site, and while Brand 1 uses a more “product-oriented” page, its home page is excellent.

Ok, let’s look at the site’s ability to funnel potential customers?

b) Easily funnel customers: This is where I believe there are some dramatic differences between these three sites that will probably impact the way people act.

Let’s take a closer look at the three approaches:

Brand 1 offers a promotion for a printer, but we don’t care since we are looking for a computer. Right underneath this promotion, we are presented with the option to select products with for option laptop, desktop, etc. Bingo!

Brand 2 offers an immediate selection for a visitor to make between business and home computers with search options underneath each. This is a great approach but, in my opinion it has a disadvantage vis-à-vis Brand 1, since it adds one click to my search. After all, I will have to click on home or business first before being presented with computers to select from. On the other hand, if I were looking for a business computer, this approach may be more effective. As a result, let’s call it a draw between Brand 1 and 2.

Brand 3 offers… hmmmm… There is nothing in terms of selection for the type of computer that I would like to see. No laptop, no desktop icon or list to select from. I am not sure how I am going to find what I want unless I click on computers, or via the search. In my view, this is a mistake that guarantees that unless someone comes to the site with the express purpose of buying this brand’s computer, it has a tremendous disadvantage when compared to brand 1 or Band 2.

Some observations before we continue:

In this example, I used brands that are well known and with tremendous name recognition and gigantic marketing budgets that ensure that they are seen everywhere it counts and beyond. And while you may think that this does not apply to you, a sole entrepreneur with limited (or no) budget, think again. Here is why: imagine for a moment that Brands 1, 2 and 3 offered the exact same product. Which one would you select? Based on my experience, Brand 1 or 2 would be favored by a small margin compared to 3. And no matter how small this margin maybe, it adds up and end up making the difference between success and failure.

Note that Brand 2 is a very well known company with a very active business division. This probably is why it decided to go with offering an option for a home system or business system.

We can continue this exercise and go to page two and three of these sites, but I believe that by now you should get a sense of what I am trying to demonstrate. You must be extremely aware of what you show and what you do to make visitors take some kind of action. Their questions or needs to go beyond the page they are on should be intuitive. If someone has to look for a button or something to take him to another page where he may find what he’s are looking for, chances are this person will be gone before you know it. And you must do all this in such a way that it appears natural and conductive to helping your visitors find what they want when they want.

Last note: Another obvious observation here is that the more you know about your visitors, the better you will be able to tailor your Web sites, pages, offers, etc. For example, do you target by gender, age, Zip code, car driven, habitat, etc.? There are hundreds of variables that you may want to take into consideration, depending on the offer you want to promote and the way you want to approach the design of you pages.

Unfortunately, there is no one single formula for all and this is why the workbooks in Volume 2 and the online seminars that are offered are critical. During this time, we will look at every entrepreneur’s Web site problem and, as a group (or individually), help each other solve these problems via constructive criticism and brain storming.

While this is very challenging for some, it is an irreplaceable and invaluable approach to making your Web site and business the best it can be, and complete the best possible plan of action that will insure your success.

To review and download the complete manuscript go to


Plan your Internet Success – Part 21: Create Affiliate Accounts

21. Create Affiliate Accounts

At this juncture, you have learned how to spend money on Web design, ISP, advertising, directory listings, etc., so it is time to start learning how you can make money. Affiliate marketing is the easiest way to start understanding how you can create affiliations that will drive traffic from your Web site to an advertiser’s Web site and use someone’s else’s platform to track and account for each impressions, clicks and conversion and take care of paying you.

A short history lesson first: affiliate marketing started with Amazon in the mid ‘90s, when Amazon realized that many people could tell others about Web site purchasing books for cheap at the site. The great idea that Amazon had was to create a simple interface where people could come and grab a banner and code, put it on their Web page, tell others, and get a commission on the sales that were made by the people who were referred by these “affiliates’” Web sites. Barnes & Noble hired a company to do the same shortly after and the race was on.

In the late 90s, I was an executive with Commission Junction (CJ) and we launched the first ASP-based affiliate platform that offered both advertisers and publishers a place where they could exchange banners and get paid for traffic. I believe that one of the reasons for the success of CJ was that we were the first ASP affiliate marketing network, and, as a result, were able to offer much faster integration to merchants at very reasonable prices. The other critical factor to the success of CJ (and I believe it was even more important) was the perception by affiliates that CJ cared about them and that they would get paid for their work. Indeed this was, and to some degree continues to be, one of the most dismal aspects of this industry. Advertisers and merchants will try to avoid paying for leads or sales when they can or try to get away from their obligations by being dishonest with small (and not so small) affiliates.

Unfortunately, while advances in tracking have made things much better today, abuses by some advertisers and so-called brokers or merchants continues to be a real problem. At the same token, abuses by publishers also is flagrant and is estimated to be as high as 20-25 percent of all traffic generated by affiliates and search engines for their clients. I believe that anyone who is running a campaign on the search engines will attest to that fact.

With this in mind, it is critical for an affiliate to work with reputable companies. The good thing is that there are many these days with some of the biggest ones including the following networks:

Commission Junction (CJ)
Google Affiliate Network

There are a great number of affiliate networks, and I try to keep an up-to-date list at one of my Web sites, I invite you to check it out.

For the purpose of this example, I went to Azoogle to look at some of its most recent offers and came up with the following:

Several “Video Professor” offers ranging from $66-$72– Action requires a user to give personal information and provide a credit card.

A $72.00 offer from “Discover Card” – Action requires that a user complete required fields on an application page and successfully create a new credit card profile (in other word submit credit card information).

A “Snoring Solution” offered at $32 – Action requires user to enter valid credit card.

You probably see a pattern in these examples, and it shows that some kind of purchase must be made, or at the very minimum credit card information is to be added. However, Azoogle also offers “leads” deals paying from $1.25 to $10 per lead depending on the complexity of the lead that is required. For example, I selected the following:

An insurance company paying $4.25 per lead when a visitor provides information in five required fields on page one.

I also found a $1.25 or $1.64 for a “makeup survey” as well as a milk survey on page one or page two – submit, respectively.

What does this all mean? It means that all is not as cut and dry as some people would like you to think. It’s not because you have a site with some smart content and that you’ve managed to get some traffic that you will convert this traffic into buyers, leads or clicks, especially if your traffic is what I call transient traffic. In other words, traffic (or eyeballs as it used to be called) is made up of people who are reading something or looking at some pictures on your Web site and then move on. To really take advantage of traffic, you must find a way to have these visitors want to take an action. As a result, the question that you must ask yourself is: “Is my site geared to make visitors take action?” If you answer “Yes” then great. If you answer “No,” then you must ask yourself “What can I do to make visitors to my Web site want to take an action?”

Here is an example of someone who used his thinking cap, along with some basic math, and came up with a simple solution and made some money online.

This was a few years back when I was at CJ, and we were watching an entrepreneur in Asia whom I called “Hong Kong T”. Honk Kong T offered a free T-shirt to anyone coming to his site and registering with basic information including e-mail and physical address.

His traffic and conversions built up to something quite substantial within a very short time, and we decided to keep an eye on him, fearing that it was some kind of scam.

However, people who came to the Hong Kong T Web site and registered received their T-shirt (he may have charged a couple of dollars for shipping), but nothing fraudulent was going on and he kept his account in the black.

What we realized within a short amount of time is that Hong Kong T collected information from the people who came to his site to get a T-shirt (in order to qualify, one had to leave a first and last name, their e-mail and physical address, as well as a telephone number and other basic info). Equipped with this information Hong Kong T would promote advertisers’ offers to these people. The advertisers were from within the CJ pool and “Hong Kong T” would send offers to his T-shirt customers on a regular basis and generated revenues this way. I suspect that he also sent promotions via snail mail as well, since he had their address and provided these people’s telephone numbers to telemarketers. The numbers were not huge at the beginning, but slowly they grew into a sizable chunk of money and a very nice profit for Hong Kong T.

Furthermore, we figured that he must have done the same thing using offers from our competitors using Linkshare, Be-Free (defunct now as it was absorbed by CJ) as well as promoting other advertisers or merchants.

In short Hong Kong T found a way to acquire customers who gave him their information for the price of a T-shirt and a small commission to an affiliate along with the CJ’s fees (all combined these amounted to no more than $3-$4 per submission). In exchange Hong Kong T turned around and sold this information as leads or used them for his own mailings and e-mailing system and generated a minimum of $15-$20 per user, or a cool $12-$16 per customer. Not bad!

However, I also hope that, aside from the anecdote, you do see that this is very much the same principle as the example I gave you in the preceding chapter. If you recall, I was describing how I got users for $3.50-$4 per submission and finding offers to push to these people in order to generate revenues and cover the acquisition cost along with my overhead. Does that mean that giving away T-shirts for free is the solution? Maybe if you have the model to support it. What this example is set to illustrate is that using your imagination, you can find ways to create traction and action on your site and get people to do something and, as a result, general immediate or potential revenues for you.

Interestingly enough, the “game” has not changed much since what we did eight or nine years ago. What has changed, however, is the way we manage this information, the ease with which we can now program Web sites, optimize database, serve images. As a result, we must be smarter and much more sophisticated. A few Web pages with just text or lists won’t do anymore. You need to have something engaging that has the ability to optimize by user, IP, location, time or all the above.

Your can also download the complete “Plan Your Internet Success” manuscript at my personal Web-site or at

Plan Your Internet Success – Part 20: Arbitrage and Commission Based Marketing

20. Arbitrage and Commission Based Marketing

Arbitrage Based Marketing

You may have heard of the term “arbitrage” from the financial market and it applies in the same manner to the Internet. However, a short explanation is in order, in case you are not familiar with this word. “Arbitrage” can be summed up in a very short sentence: “it is the “art” of buying low and selling high.”

You probably can think of many ways to arbitrage. For example click arbitrage is one of the best examples and entails buying clicks for “x” dollar, and re-selling those clicks at “x+y” dollars, hence making a profit for each click sold.

Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? Pseudo Internet marketing gurus have made a killing (and I mean it) convincing people that this was is easy as one, two, three. In reality, arbitrage is an “art” that very few people have been able to master, let alone become rich at it. This does not mean that you cannot be successful at doing this, but to be successful you must be focused on this game 24/7 and constantly hunt for the best deals and know how to negotiate your way into profitability.

The reasons for this are very simple. Click traffic has become very expensive and, as mentioned in preceding sections, unless you have a great margin, it has become very difficult to make a profit (hence, the advantage of niche markets).

More often than not, companies and people in the arbitrage space are buying traffic on a CPM or CPC basis and re-selling it on a CPA basis, a game that can be as lucrative as it can be risky. Imagine paying Google AdWords, for example, $1 per click and re-selling this traffic at a $10 CPA… One must have a minimum of 10 percent conversion just to pay for Google, let alone for any overheads, employees, etc.

The same is true (with just a little more flexibility as far as pricing) when you buy CPM or CPC from e-mailers, survey sites, list management companies, etc.

So what to do?

The tendency for many Web entrepreneurs is to look for cheap traffic, and if you were to conduct a search for “cheap traffic,” you would probably come across many offers. You’d see something like a $10 offer for 10,000 visitors guaranteed, or digging a little deeper, you may find a sale offer for 1,000,000 email addresses for anywhere from $25 to $300 (probably both prices for the same list too).

These offers are very often what I term “garbage offers.”. For example, e-mail lists that are offered for sale were harvested through “not so legal” means, and sold thousands of times. By the time they come to you, most e-mail addresses are probably dead, since these e-mails were bombarded with so many scam offers. And even assuming that you had your hand on a legitimate list, what could you do? The infrastructure to send 1,000,000 emails is complex and requires servers, specialized software, all of it running in the hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.

The other option that you will see is to buy 10,000 visitors “guaranteed.” At best, this is completely untargeted traffic that comes from dead domains that have been re-directed to you. In the best case scenario, you may buy the worst possible remnant traffic that no one else wants to buy.

This is all grim, and, as I mentioned, the kind of stuff that gurus do not want you to know about when they try to convince you to buy their e-books or services. However, you MUST be prepared and in order to do that, you MUST know what you are dealing with and be realistic about offers that sound too good to be true.

Like so many others, I’ve made all the mistakes that I probably could make trying to find cheap traffic and you should learn from this experience. But most of all, apply this simple logic: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! And please, do not make the mistake of thinking that you know better or that Guru John Doe knows the secret of Internet traffic… 99.99 percent of the time this is simply not true.

With this in mind, there are ways to make some money in arbitrage, but it requires work/research, common sense, and focus.

As demonstrated in the example of a $1 click that could be re-sold on a CPA basis for $10 that is not realistic, could this work if you could resell these clicks for a $20 or $30 dollar CPA? Probably, but getting a $20-$30 dollar CPA is not easy. And even assuming that we could find one of those, the conversions would probably be low, since in all likeliness it involves a credit card conversion.

Okay then, would it be plausible to assume that we could buy clicks at $0.45 and resell this traffic on a CPA basis for $15? Sounds more plausible? It is. Just check out the math.

I’m going to use as an example an actual test for a free survey that I am running on various search engines with Google as my reference. After a short test, my average cost for clicks is averaging $0.50 per click (CPC). So far, this has been a typical Google campaign with a conversion of around 10.3 percent on the average (the best conversions I have so far are 20 percent, while the worst stand at .05 percent – I even have one that run at a dismal 0.0% on one of the top 50 ad networks… so much for that!)

So far, the cost for this test is $193.40 for 386 clicks and 304 conversions according to Google. In reality, these 386 clicks resulted in only 41 actions, which consisted of a submission of information containing at minimum the following:

Name (first and last)
E-mail address
State of Residence (US and Canada only)
Level of Education
Type of Housing
Type of Vehicle
Place of Employment

In other words, the information described here has cost me $4.11 for each person who submitted it. This is obviously much higher than the $0.45 premise that I set up.

So far, this is quite straightforward and simple math and someone reading this could say “So what?” and walk away… But wait… Did you ask the real question and are you putting your creative hat on? This is when work and research will pay off and when common sense and straight thinking comes into play in order to figure out how to monetize these actions.

In this “live” example, to cover my cost of $4.11, as well as make some money to pay for my overhead and (I hope) make a profit, I need to make substantially more than the $4.11. By the way, my test went on to cover other networks and channels of marketing with various results and costs that went down to $3.50 per submission and probably could go down substantially lower, but I will keep $4.11 for this example.

Furthermore, I will have to account for a portion of this information not being valid (I assume 10 percent) and, more importantly, come to terms with the fact that, no matter what, a number of these people will never generate money or will opt out (I typically assume half). In other words, my cost is suddenly rising from a steep $4.11 per submission to an atrocious $9 per submission.

Based on this, to break even and make a profit, I will have to make at least $20 from each submission.

How can I do that? Well, let’s take it one step at the time and look at one of the most obvious options: affiliate networks and what is known as “commission-based marketing.”

Commission Based Marketing

Commission-based marketing is not comparable to arbitraging since it involves a payout (typically on a CPA basis) that an advertiser makes to what is called an affiliate. For example, if an advertiser is selling shoes at $50 and an affiliate sends a buyer who will spend this money the affiliate would then get a percentage of the sale. Simple as that…

In theory for an advertiser, affiliate marketing is one of the best way to market product since the advertiser pays only when an action (sale, lead, etc) is taken by a consumer. Hence the CPA (cost per action) model is by far the most cost efficient way to sell products and services, and acquire customers. However affiliate marketing is often poorly understood by advertisers and poorly represented by CPA networks. As a result, many companies that have affiliate marketing programs are bitterly disappointed by the results. The reason for this is that affiliate marketing is based on establishing relationships with affiliates, and that in order to do this successfully, companies must dedicate the “men–power” to succeed but often don’t.

Simply joining a CPA network, no matter how reputable it may be, does not insure the success of an affiliate marketing program unless this CPA network offers to actively recruit affiliates on behalf of the advertiser. And when this is offered it is often done at a price.
Notwithstanding the above, affiliate marketing is by far one of the most cost effective ways to acquire customers., However an advertiser must invest in its program by investing in its affiliates and the people who manage the program.
From a publisher/affiliate perspective, the beauty of affiliate-based marketing is that an affiliate does not have merchandise, inventory, shopping carts, or pretty much anything. The affiliate makes his money from the percentage (or fee) that is paid to him in the form of commission or finder’s fee.

In some instances, the pay is based on other form of actions, such as a lead, the submission of an email address or, in some cases, as little as the submission of a zip code (known as “zip submits”). Of course, each one has a different price tag, but curiously enough if you look around you will find zip submits that pay as much as $0.75, which may sound a bit crazy, but if you can monetize what comes with it, why not (remember it’s a numbers’ game.)?

Now, imagine for a moment that you were able to locate great offers that pay $20 per lead. I can tell that you’re already smiling because you know that profit is at hand.

And on this note, let’s move on to our next section and become an affiliate and try to locate these “juicy” offers that may yield the kind of results that we must have to be successful.

Just as a reminder that the complete manuscript is also available at

Plan Your Internet Success – Part 19: Put It Together

19. Put It Together

By now (and if you followed the steps that I explained in parts one through four), one of two things may be happening for you:

1) You understand the overall concept and are ready to dive in and explore the infinite possibilities that marketing on the Internet offer.


2) You are somewhat overwhelmed or intimidated by the information and the options that are available and are unsure about how to proceed.

If you fall in category 1) read on as we now enter a new level of marketing on the Internet, and explore how to turn an idea into a really successful business by utilizing all the levers available to you.

If, on the other hand, you fall into category 2) do not despair, the Internet can be overwhelming to most anyone, including people who, like myself, have done it for years. I suggest that you re-read the high points in the previous pages and limit yourself to a couple of resources to simplify managing the information that you need to absorb.

The objective of this first volume on Internet success is to give a Net entrepreneur enough information to get started and put you in a place that will ensure that you avoid obvious mistakes and, hope, prepare you to succeed.

If you are afraid of screwing up something, don’t worry… you will, as I have done and most Internet entrepreneurs do, no matter how good or experienced they they are.

There are too many channels, too many verticals, too many variables and too many options for anyone to be able to keep on top of it all. The objective with this manuscript is to provide you with enough information and know-how to minimize the damages when you will screw up (and you will).

However, for those of you who fall into category 1 (and 2 for that matter), by now you should have:

1) A good domain name and a Web site that has good content and that is optimized.

2) These elements should reside on a server at one of the ISPs that provides reliable service at a decent price.

3) You should have created a press release and articles and all of them should be posted at various specialized Web sites and broadcasted via your accounts on social networks, where you have connected with friends and relatives (and anyone else for that matter).

4) You should be familiar with Google AdWords and have experimented with some keyword bids. You should understand bids for search vs. content and managed content vs. automated content. Your curiosity has probably made you explore the concept of broad, exact and phrase matches for keywords. If you’ve gone ahead and bid quite a bit, you may have seen the option to do some CPA. Be very careful…

When you have done all the above, you should be ready for the next chapter, and equipped to continue your voyage in the depth of success.

Our first venture in being truly successful will start with affiliate marketing and how to explore and make the most of it.

To read the complete manuscript go to my website and follow the links to downloading “Plan Your Internet Success”