You probably don’t know who Anthony Raymond is or why it should matter to you. But if you are an affiliate marketer anguishing making a dent on the internet, then you should hear his story.
1. I have learned that you actually started marketing online with affiliate marketing and niche websites and were fairly successful at it. How long have you been an affiliate marketer? Could you tell us some key differences between what you thought you knew going in and what you have learned along the way?
I had some success during the real estate boom in the early 2000′s. Fortunately, I got out of that game before the crash in the housing market. Then I took the money and travelled the world. I was backpacking for years, and had read “The Four Hour Work Week” on the road.
I got back to the USA on February 2, 2009 and basically locked myself in my room–to study this elusive dream of “passive income.”
It took me several months before I really understood what I was learning. But eventually, the pitholes in the model became clear. And in September of 2010, I drew this cartoon depicting what I saw the affiliate marketing business model to be.
At that time (and still today) Internet Marketing (Affiliate Marketing) was primarily based on (what I call) the “grifter paradigm.” Basically we were all trying to fool the worlds biggest digital “Yellow Pages” (Google) into thinking that our “business” should be listed on page one. The fact that the business didn’t actually produce anything of value was never even considered.
To put it another way, the majority of I.M. efforts seem to be devoted to creating this “grand illusion of interest.” We use text spinners, link networks, and cheap outsourced content to fool Google’s naive robots into thinking that our 300-word product review should receive traffic. (Google would call this a “doorway page.”)
When I realized that this was how most marketers in the forums made money, it was quite depressing. And then when I realized that many of the bigger gurus didn’t really make much money on the actual methods they were teaching, I got even more depressed. And drew another cartoon. (I gotta get into the cartoon business someday…)
So I staggered around for a while trying to find a more viable path to success. At some point I realized that I had enough “Gray Hat” knowledge to make a killing in search (at least temporarily). But the methods didn’t sit well with me. For what its worth, the self help gurus call this “not living in line with your values.”
Note that Leo’s “confessions” post here is completely parallel with the “crisis of conscious” I personally had. And his blogging for money post perfectly echoes my thoughts on the problem with traditional I.M.
2. You just recently started “pivoting” away from affiliate marketing and entering product development and programming. Was this just a natural “evolution” for you or was there a reason why you decided on programming as the next phase of your online business?
One morning I woke up and simply didn’t know what to do with myself.
I had written several pieces of keyword software for my own use. So I just decided to see if I could sell a few copies of one of my tools. This led to the construction of Keyword Researcher–my software for generating Long Tail Keywords.
I thought, “Well, maybe I’ll sell fifty copies or so…”
But after a few months, I had a couple thousand customers.
It was then that I realized that I could never go back to owning a Google-dependent business again. I had to start building a customer list.
3. Can you talk a little bit about what types of applications you are currently building and where you see this leading ultimately for you? Can you talk a little about your vision with your new website, clevergizmos.com?
I just registered CleverGizmos.com a week ago. At this point I’d love to turn it into a successful WordPress gizmo business. There’s a pretty inspiring video by Jason Schuller talking about his theme company here And a post by Vladimir talking about his success with plugins here. I’d love to replicate a portion of their success.
Aside from WordPress stuff, I have two other software apps, an ebook, and a video course in the works.
God knows how much of it i’ll manage to get done. There isn’t nearly enough hours in the day and “time management” is really a challenge in this business. It’s amazing how fast 16 hours goes by.
4. How did you learn programming?
In the 80′s my elementary school bought Apple IIc computers and taught a class on computer programming. After that, I was hooked and mostly just learned by fiddling around with my PC.
5. Have you run into any marketing difficulties with selling your software? How are you marketing them?
I haven’t been nearly as aggressive with marketing KeywordResearcher.org as I should have been. But I’ll go over a few strategies:
A. Build a free version and a paid version
Once the software was done, I made two versions. A free version that sought after keywords from half the alphabet. And a paid version, that searched the whole thing. I knew if I could get the free version into people’s hands, then it would do a lot of the selling for me.
B. Email marketing via Aweber
Visitors to the site can download the free version in exchange for their email address. I have a standard Aweber set of emails that goes out to the new subscribers. Basically just some tiny emails that show tips on SEO and various ways to use the software. The emails are in many ways a red herring. And a way to keep the product in their daily stream of consciousness.
C. The homepage
I did some research (using Keyword Researcher itself) and peppered in some long tail keyword derivations onto the homepage. Google probably acounts for around 25% of my sales. A lot of thought went into optimizing the page for maximum conversion. If you check it out, you’ll notice that its a fairly simple layout. But it’s designed to have the main three elements above the fold:
- The headline (and sub-headline)
- The two-minute video
- The email optin box
The lessons learned in designing this theme are currently be applied to my info product theme that is about to go to sale. Typical WordPress themes tend to display content in a date-wise format. This is great for bloggers with bored readers (a.k.a. fans). But if you’re trying to sell something, you really need a theme that prominently features your actual product content–not you pet cat posts.
I like making YouTube videos. And because their brand is so astoundingly recognizable, and has positive connotations, YouTube links tend to get clicked on. I also think there is a “media preference” of sorts. e.g. people are often quite ok with sitting back and watching a four-minute video presentation, rather than reading a wall of text. It requires less work on their part.
I had some success with this video.
Hint: Ironically, in this sort of video production, audio is everything. Buy a good mic and a Pop Filter.
I did three interviews with some succesful marketers who run (what I consider to be) “real businesses.” I use the mp3 files and YouTube videos as free subscriber content.
I give away a lot of copies of Keyword Researcher for free. Basically to affiliates who have active blogs.
G. Web-Based App
I created a free online version of the Long Tail tool which runs via a Google Chrome extension and gets a bit of traffic. Lots of people online are searching for free web-based keyword stuff. So this is a pretty nice linkbait ploy–that also gets people famliar with the tool.
The tool is for sale via the Clickbank marketplace. Hence, half of my sales come from Affiliates. This is a real unexpected ancillary benefit of selling your own product. Affiliates actually “do the marketing for you.” They also tend to link to you without placing in the “nofollow” attribute. This has the effect of increasing the PageRank of your homepage. Which results in more Google traffic.
Hint: Don’t forget your canonical if you got affiliates linking to you. Because affiliate URL’s tend to have lots of characters after the domain name. And you want all that juice pointing ot your naked homepage URL.
Anyway, as you can see it’s a very “soft sell.” I really need to go back and redo all my Aweber content and on-site content.
6. If you could name one website that has influenced your marketing path, what would it be?
To this day, Grizzly’s website is the only website on which I’ve read every single post. He ran the (now retired) blogspot site at makemoneyforbeginners.
I remember staying up for three days and reading every word on that site. It was then that I learned about the importance of keywords and the proper usage of the Google Keyword Tool. That sent me down the road of “traditional affiliate marketing.” Basically, creating a lot of somewhat questionable content, backlinks, and buying up EMDs (Exact Match Domains) in low-competition niches.
Since then Grizz has moved on. And in one of his last posts on January of 2011 he wrote:
“To some it will be the last they see of me. To some it will be my way of apologizing for the past and starting over. For me I just needed to clear the air – my air. I’ve endured the stench of this niche for a long time and need to admit the hypocrisy and bullshitery I engaged in before I can move on. No I didn’t take your money but I let people believe the dream and encouraged it while knowing that it benefited me while not really benefiting others. I talked about tricks and short cuts and manipulation that worked for short term gain and, yes, still works today but I should have said enough – I should have said stop the bullshit and start building a long term business based on marketing fundamentals that will provide a lasting presence and a sustainable income. Fundamentals that don’t rely on tricks or the whims of algorithms or whatever the current social trend is. I talked about A while doing B. It was wrong and I apologize…”
Note: This post is still listed on his mirror site.
In retrospect, I wish I would have read a post like that first. And not gone down the “trickster” road with my marketing efforts. But I did learn a lot in coming full circle.
7. Aliens have abducted you and put you on a remote island and you can only choose one personal possession to take with you. What do you take?
The obvious choice these days would be to take an iPad–full of as many books as it can carry.
But if there is no power supply on the island, then I’d be a fool if I didn’t bring my handy dandy Gerber 31-000751 Bear Grylls “Survival Series” Ultimate Knife with Serrated Edge, Ergonomic Design, and Military-Grade Nylon Sheath–that fits securely in those hard-to-reach places. Great for stabbing wild boar in a Cambodian jungle. Fashioning a snare to defend your camp from a competing group of hunter-gatherers. Or simply for impressing 20-something Swedish backpackers with your knife juggling skills.
And, coincidently, this amazing knife just happens to be For Sale Right Now on Amazon.com!
; ) Once an affiliate marketer, always an affiliate marketer…