OK. This is it. You’re ready to go. You’ve signed up for affiliate accounts. Your tracking is humming away.
Let’s launch a campaign.
This tutorial is designed to show you how to launch a campaign on any traffic source. If you are launching a campaign on a specific traffic source, you should follow that guide instead: however, you may also find this guide useful to get a better idea of not just what you’re doing, but why.
If you are launching a campaign on a different traffic source, follow along step by step. You will have to figure out the technical details for your tracker, affiliate network, or traffic source, but this guide will tell you what to do when.
What To Expect
First things first: this campaign will not make you money!
At least, it’s very unlikely to.
You’ll need to launch quite a few campaigns and do quite a lot of optimization before you hit a winner, any time you start a new traffic source. Most people need to launch at least 20 campaigns before they hit their first good one.
You’re paying for data and learning here – learning that will pay off massively if you stick at it.
Secondly: if you’re new to affiliate marketing, this is going to feel complicated and overwhelming. That’s OK – it feels that way for everyone!
Do feel free to ask questions on STM if you get stuck!
And start a Follow-Along Thread to track your progress and get advice – it’s the best way to learn.
Finally: we’re setting up the simplest type of campaign here, a “direct linked” campaign. For most traffic sources and verticals, you’ll do better by adding a landing page: but that also makes the process more complex. Start out with direct-linking, and add a lander once you’ve got the basic process down.
Step 1: Ask Your Affiliate Managers For Offer Recommendations
First, we need to know what offer we’re going to run.
Contact each of your affiliate managers by Skype or email and ask them what offers they’d currently recommend for your traffic source or niche.
Your affiliate managers will suggest a few options. Pick an offer that as many of your networks have as possible, so that you can split-test between them.
For example, if you’re recommended Mate1, which all your networks have, and SpeedDate, which only one of your networks has, pick Mate1 for now.
Step 2: Research The Competition
Now, load up a spy tool for your chosen traffic source.
We’re going to use this to figure out what styles of ad work for your chosen offer.
Search for ads from the last three months, and look for ads that have been running at least 10 days, for an offer that’s similar to yours.
So, if you’ve been recommended an antivirus app install offer, look for antivirus ads. If you’ve been recommended an iPhone sweepstake, look for other sweepstakes – not necessarily just iPhone ones.
This will take you a little while – but it’s worth it!
Note down similarities between the ads you see: what type of images they’re using, what type of headlines they’re using, whether there are words or phrases they use a lot. Note common headlines, main text bodies, and the text they use to encourage you to click (“Click Here!”, etc.)
Click through the ads too and check what landing pages they’re using.
Again, look at what the layout is, what pictures they’re using, and what words they’re using to sell. If you’re working with a platform that lets you target “placements” – sites or apps you can run on – you should also check what sites the ads you see are running on.
TIP: This is exactly the sort of work that most people trying to make money with affiliate marketing won’t do – they’ll either make something up in a hurry, or just straight-out copy the first ad they see. If you do the hard work up front, you give yourself a big advantage.
Step 3: Gather Your Images
Now, it’s time to gather images for your adverts.
There are dozens of ways to gather images based on the niche you’re in.
These days, it’s much easier to gather images that are licensed for commercial use than it used to be.
You can search on Google Images for “Creative Commons” or “Public Domain” images. (Creative Commons images need to be licensed for commercial use and alteration – check this when you download.). You can also select the “Commercial Use” option on Google Images, under Search Tools -> Usage Rights
Flickr.com also has the option to search for Creative Commons images, and has a completely different selection to Google.
There are also many, many free stock photo sites out there.
You can also sign up to a paid stock images site like Dreamstime. That will cost a couple of hundred dollars a month, but gives you access to hundreds of thousands of high-quality images for both your ads and your landers.
TIP: It’s a myth that stock photographs can’t work for affiliate marketing. You have to choose natural-looking images, rather than super-posed fake stuff, but I’ve made a lot of affiliate money with stock photography.
Find images that look reasonably similar to the ones that other affiliates had been using – at least 20 of them. Then, look over those images you’ve gathered, and pick the 10 most different-looking ones – different age models, different shots, different colours dominating the image.
Step 4: Create Your Banners
It’s time to open up your image editing tool and get started!
First, check the size of the image you need.
Most Web advertising will need either 300×250 or 796×80 images. Mobile advertising often uses 320×50.
Now, come up with a rough layout for your banner based on the banners you saw when spying. You’ll probably want something like this:
Add in a headline, body text, and a Call To Action (“Click here to join!” – abbreviated to CTA) as you’re doing this – you’ll use the same headline, body text and CTA for now. Base each of these on the most popular lines you saw while you were spying.
Make 10 copies of your banner template, and add your 10 images, one to each. Save them with simple-to-remember names: OFFERNAME-AD1.jpg, for example.
Step 5: Set Up Your Offer In Your Tracking Software
Your tracking software ties everything together: it tells you what ads are working, what landing pages are working, and ushers your visitors between traffic source, landing page and offer.
However, if you read through that guide you’ll end up with a much better idea of what you’re doing when you set up your tracking system.
Now it’s time for the practical setup! This is pretty complicated, so don’t be too worried if it takes you a while the first time around! Fortunately, we’ve got some excellent guides here to help you through the process.
- Prepare your chosen Offer URL (just choose one to start with).
- Set that offer URL up in your tracking software: Set up a Direct Link for now – that’s the simplest type of campaign.
- Set your Traffic Source up in your tracker – again, see the guide above for Voluum. You’ll probably need to know what “tokens” the traffic source supports – these contain information like the country, the device that the ad was viewed on, and what ad was viewed. Ask your traffic source if they’re not listed in there. (If you’re running Facebook – it doesn’t support tokens.) If your traffic source does not support tokens, add a dummy token called BANNER with a value of BANNER – you’ll need that to know what ad was clicked.
- Create a campaign in your tracker. Choose a direct linking campaign for now – it’s the simplest sort. Save the URLs you get from this step somewhere – you’ll need them in a moment.
- Set up the Postback for your offer.
Step 6: Create Your Campaign!
Firstly, fund your traffic source account. You won’t need too much money at this stage – $100 is fine, or the smallest amount the traffic source allows, whichever is larger.
Secondly, search for information on your traffic source. Read as much as possible about it and how to use it to your advantage. Knowledge is definitely power! If you can’t find anything about the traffic source you have chosen, ask about it!
Setting Up Your Campaign
Next, start a campaign and upload your banners into it. Most traffic sources will have guides on how to do this available. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from their support team, either (unless it’s Google or Facebook) – remember, you’re paying them for this service!
You should create a single campaign, then upload all of your ads into it. Use the URL you saved in Step 5 as your URL for each banner. If your traffic source supports dynamic tokens, the URL you should have will already have those in it. If it does not, replace the VALUE “banner” (after the = sign in the URL) with the name of each banner – this will help you tell which ad is doing well and which is doing badly.
You’ll need to choose targeting options. This will vary widely for each traffic source, but will definitely include Country. Choose the country your offer runs in, and your ads are designed for.
TIP – DO NOT try to run a campaign in more than one country at once. Different countries react to ads very differently.
Other than this, search or ask on your Follow-Along for recommended targeting options for your traffic source. If you were able to check targeting options in your spy tool, use the same ones that seemed to be working for the ads you spied on.
Bidding will vary very widely for each traffic source, and figuring out how much to bid is a key part of your AM strategy. Search or ask for advice on this.
If in doubt, don’t be afraid to bid high (but not crazily high) and then reduce your bids once you have traffic coming in. It’s usually easier to bid high then reduce on an unknown traffic source, rather than bidding low and then increasing.
Also, if you can see the other bids, aim to be #2 – #4 in the bidding, not #1. Obviously, this only applies if those placements also get advertising! If you’re in a “winner takes all” auction, that doesn’t apply.
All of this advice will vary hugely by traffic source – again, do try and gather information on your specific traffic source if at all possible.
Step 7: Let’s Go!
Got through all that? Nice work!
Set the campaign live!
Congratulations: you are now officially an affiliate marketer! Allow a couple of days’ worth of data to come in, then start to optimize your campaign. Read When Should I Stop Running A Campaign Or An Offer? to know how to do that.