I decided to write this post to help all newbies out there, since I heard too many times that the only way to start earning some good money with affiliate marketing is to have a substantial starting capital to invest in the purchase of traffic.
Today I’m going to reveal how I generated € 21,621 using search traffic in about two months and from this figure, over €5,000 of the initial profits were generated without spending any money in traffic.
These figures are from two years ago but the strategy still works today and while it was developed in the Spanish market, the key points can be applied for other markets with similar basics.
I launched this campaign soon after starting with affiliate marketing. My last business venture had failed and I had virtually no capital to invest.
With no money to buy traffic, I decided to look for an out of the box way to get free traffic I could monetize with affiliate offers in Spain.
There are thousands of affiliate offers, from many sectors and verticals, that pay a good commission for each client or prospect that you obtain.
Since the offer was not a problem, I decided to start my search by focusing on traffic. If you get cheap or better yet, free traffic, you would have many options to find an offer related to that traffic.
I had just learned the basics of performance marketing, so I had no experience creating ads that would spark interest and the desire to buy from the users. Realizing my weaknesses, I decided to focus on my strengths so my chance to get quick results was to find a source of traffic that, besides being cheap (or free), got me users that were already interested in a particular product or service.
The only type of traffic whose visits come with a specific interest or desire is Search Traffic.
Google is not exactly cheap with your search advertising, but the key to this whole strategy is that Google is not the only search site that exists and I don’t mean other search engines like Bing, Yahoo or 7search.
There are websites where people go for the purpose of buying and offering products and services. In these websites the user also browses using searches.
It also happens that one of these pages is one of the most visited websites in Spain, so it has tons of traffic:
Milanuncios.com? This website at that time had over 70 million monthly visits. This is the Spanish Craigslist, attracting traffic that once inside, turned into search traffic with users looking for all types of products and services on the portal.
That volume should be sufficient for a good campaign. On top of all Milanuncios offered and continues to offer to publish ads on its website completely free.
One million visits a month + free ads = free traffic to my affiliate campaign.
Once I found the ideal source of purchase intent-driven traffic, I set to work:
1. Ad format analysis
An ad in Milanuncios consists basically of:
- Main photo (and additional photos)
- Contact information
Depending on the category, there may be some additional information, but this is the main information that can be displayed.
In addition to this info, each advertisement already published shows metrics that were crucial to decide on the best offer to promote:
Times Listed: Shows how many times a user has performed a search on the website that has triggered this ad.
Phone number shown: Shows how many times a user who has read the ad, has pressed the button to contact the advertiser by phone.
Email contacts: Shows how many people contacted via email with the advertiser using the ad form.
Another important detail regarding the ad format is that the ad does not allow hyperlinks inside. So we can’t link to the product or service directly from the ad.
The client will have to contact us first using the form and once we have their contact, we will be able to send the offer that fits your needs.
Having this flow in mind and the fact that the people that sent a contact would be directly interested in my offer, I made a plan to set up a simple email auto-responder which would further pre-qualify the lead and send him the offer link in an email response.
2. Deciding on the offer
Using the existing ads metrics, my strategy was to discover which ads and which categories within the site were of greatest interest to users, an interest that potentially translated into more sales coming from those ads.
The ideal indicators of interest were the Times listed, the Phone number times shown and the Email messages. In addition the Auto-renewal counter indicated the times an advertiser had paid to bump their ad to the top positions. If they were paying for ads that could be published for free, they were surely making money with that ad and offer.
This stage of the process can be done manually, checking each of the categories of the site and taking notes of the ads that had already been published during the last 24 hours: how many times they had been listed and how many times they have been contacted.
In my case, I programmed a simple PHP crawler script that went through each of the categories and was annotating the counters of all the ads of the first results pages, turning the results into Excel later, so that it was very easy to sort in each category, which ads were having the greatest success.
I love data analysis, the numbers never lie and most of the time they reveal trends that we would never have imagined on our own. In the case of this analysis, these were some of the top categories in the site triggering massive proven interest:
- Cars, buying and selling (thousands of contacts accumulated in a single advertisement)
- Mobile phones, specifically, replicas and fakes (thousands of contacts to a single advertisement)
- Tarot and Psychic services
- Adult contact services
- Quick Loans
- Locksmith Tools
There were more categories with lots of potential customer contacts and products of great value.
With all the offer ads I found with proven interest (more than 500 or 1000 contacts in a few days in some of the ads), I decided to search what offers were available in the affiliate networks, which could fit a service or product that responded to this proven interest.
Offers and Affiliate programs list
There are several websites where you can find information about available and active affiliate programs. For the Spanish market I used www.afiliado.com, but you can also use www.offervault.com and www.odigger.com, both have a big list of international offers.
For each advertiser, you can see the name of your program, the percentage of commission they pay for each sale, or a fixed amount or if they pay per potential customer (form).
Since we are going to work with high quality traffic, people who are actively looking for a product or service, I found that the easiest thing would be to find an offer that paid for each lead or filled-in form.
I reviewed dozens of offers from different categories, products and services. Among all of them, immediately highlighted those that fit the most successful categories in Milanuncios. Specifically, I decided to go into the Quick Loans category due to the variety of offers and the high payouts per lead.
As you can see in the capture of affiliate.com, there are many offers of micro loans and fast loans, which pay a good amount for each form filled out by a customer who needs a loan.
When working with pay-per-lead or CPL offers, make sure you pre-qualify your traffic in a way so the leads are of good quality for the advertiser. This is pretty easy with my strategy with a simple email copy which will include the offer link at the end.
3. Setting up the campaign
I signed up with several Spanish affiliate networks and tested multiple offers from the top lists. Nothing too complicated here, just try to work with proven CPL offers, make sure you comply with the traffic requirements and test their funnel since not all CPL offers are real CPL, in some cases they make the customer go through a very complicated survey that will lower your conversions.
This strategy uses “search traffic”, transforming it into “email traffic” afterwards, so my suggestion is to not give much details to the affiliate network about the traffic.
Since it comes from search traffic, the quality of the leads will be very good anyway if you make a decent email copy prequalifying the borrowers to the correct offer, so the advertiser should be happy with your results.
Setting a free ad in Milanuncios is pretty simple, most of my ads were very similar to the existing top ads which look similar to this:
I optimized a bit the headline, to include most of the keywords that refer to quick loans.
I optimized the ad image, to make something more clickable and with the best optimized size (most advertisers didn’t do this).
My ad obviously didn’t include any phone number, but people could get in touch through the contact form.
I did publish a lot of different ads during the day manually, in order to have always a couple of ads showing in the first page of results right under the “paid” ads.
Forget about Mailchimp, Aweber, etc. this strategy just required a free GMX email account and a free Thunderbird email client.
Because of the initial work of research, my first ads received traffic almost immediately. The usual lead would contact me with a message like this:
“I need X.XXX euro urgently. I don’t have any properties on my name, only a payroll. Please help urgently.”
I tested several email answers, most of them had this same structure:
- Personal greeting with the name
- Thank you note for contacting us
- Description of the offer I was promoting, a simple paragraph of “we have the best platform of quick loans, the money is available in your account in 24h after you fill in your info, etc etc.”, mostly copied from the offer page of the advertiser.
- Call to action over the link with urgency
Eventually I created rules to answer all emails from the inbox automatically with the best performing copy.
Once the lead clicked on the link inside the email, the conversion rate was insane due to the high prequalification.
I was making easily 200-300€ in commissions every day after the launch. The more time I put in creating ads, the more contacts I got and the more my revenues increased. Not bad for free traffic!
Eventually I found a really good converting offer and after they confirmed the quality was good, I decided to scale it up buying search traffic by using the initial revenues I got, hitting over 20k in revenues before the offer died.
I did continue to use this strategy for some time with different offers, verticals, even with pay-per-call, adding my affiliate phone number directly in the ad contact.
Now here it is for you to steal and apply into your own affiliate marketing journey, I hope it helps you think outside of the box and realize that when you want something, you can find the means to make it happen.