The million dollar question : I want to become an affiliate marketer, but what product should I start with?
TIP: Affiliates are not using the term products or services, we call it the “OFFERS”, so let me use that term from now on.
Affiliates are promoting all kinds of offers, the range is so big, that it’s quite easy to get lost in the process of choosing some to promote. Even the small affiliate networks have hundreds of offers, the big ones boost a collection of several thousands of them. So how do you actually pick one, when there are so many?
You don’t just browse the huge lists and pick stuff randomly, you need to make a few decisions before you even look at the lists of offers – this will limit the amount of matching offers and the process of choosing an offer will become easier.
I will get to particular offer types and categories in a short while, but first we need to sort out one thing. We can divide affiliate offers based on some basic criteria and form some kind of groups, that we will focus on.
Vertical defines the main offer category, something like a large group of niches that have something in common. Let’s say App Installs – this is a large Vertical that groups many categories of mobile apps – games, utilities, antivirus …
Another one could be Nutraceuticals, which are nutrition supplements and again, there are many sub-categories within this vertical : Muscle, Skin Care, Diet …
Many times, a sub-category of a vertical, can actually be considered a vertical itself. Let’s use the Antivirus example that I mentioned above. It was part of the App Installs vertical, but antivirus offers can be also promoted as Carrier Billing offers or Desktop Installs … so we could say that Antivirus is a large Vertical itself, with several sub-categories – including the app installs sub-category…
I don’t want to confuse you more than you already are, so let’s just say there is a thin border between what is a Vertical and what is a sub-category within some vertical. As usually, there are no fixed definitions for this, so let’s just remember that a Vertical means something like : A group of offers that are related in some way.
2. CONVERSION POINT
The next thing that has dramatic impact on the way we are gonna promote the offers, is their conversion point or flow. In other words, what is needed for a conversion to happen or what we require from our customers.
Do we want them to buy something, so are we selling some goods or services? Or are we trying to register them for something, become a member of some site or maybe just fill out some form and give us permission to email them further offers?
There are some flows that you will be seeing over and over, so let me list them and briefly describe each of them too.
Flows that involve a payment :
Straight sale : this is the easiest one to understand, you simply offer a product or a service and the customer has to buy it – so a direct payment is involved. Almost all e-commerce site are using this model (sometimes it’s combined with the “free+shipping” model – where the inflated shipping costs cover the product cost too :).
Trials/ CC Submits / Rebills: These 3 are related and are often used in connection with each other. The customer get’s a product for free, so they can try it for a fixed period of time. If they don’t cancel the order within the trial period, they will get billed for the initial order or will get send an additional supply and charged for it. Very popular with Nutra products.
Rebills can run for a specific amount of cycles, or until canceled. CC Submit means that in order to actually get the trial product, the customer has to enter their Credit Card details – so the seller can charge them directly later on.
Paid Memberships : This one is used by sites/services that offer some service or content, for example dating sites or adult content sites, video sites … customers are paying a monthly rate (usually) that get’s renewed monthly, so it’s actually a rebill system too.
COD (Cash On Delivery) : Another popular model for NUTRA offers or e-commerce. Customer orders a product, then pays for it on delivery. In some GEOs, this is the most popular payment model. COD offers almost always work in connection with some call center that verifies the orders.
Carrier Billing : Very popular model for mobile content offers, antivirus, sweeps … Customer agrees to pay some amount in order to get access to some videos content, games, mobile app etc … and this sum is charged to his phone bill directly by the mobile operator. These charges are usually billed per week or month and they do rebill until canceled.
I have two more articles about Carrier Billing on the blog already, check them out :
PPC (Pay Per Call) : This method involves a call to some premium number that charges premium per-minute rates. This is often used in the sneaky Tech-Support vertical, but there are also legit uses for this model.
Flows that do not require a direct payment :
LeadGen : large part of these “free” flows could be classified as LeadGen – Lead is a possible future customer, someone who has either expressed an interest into a product or service or agreed to receive promotional material.
Email Collection : This is the most popular version of a Lead Gen flow, user submits their email address and gets access to some content, get’s enrolled in a contest … Additional confirmation of the email might be required, which sets the difference between SOI and DOI email leads. I have an entire article about this model, check it out here: http://www.matuloo.com/soi-and-doi-leadgen-offers-detailed-explanation/
Contests / Sweeps : This is usually a simple email LeadGen, but since it’s very popular, I have a separate article on the subject here on the blog : http://www.matuloo.com/sweeps-offers-wtf-is-that-do-they-work/
Free Membership : Very popular model with Dating Sites for example, members can register for free, but they will get a limited access only. In order to unlock all the functionality, they have to upgrade and become a paying member. This model pretty much always works hand in hand with email collection.
Form Submit : This is a popular method with offers that require further communication with the customer, so like a follow up to specify details. This could be a financial offer, solar donation, insurance quote, real estate inquiry …
Incentive based : This is a direct opposite to any paid flow, the customer does not have to pay anything, we are actually offering them something in exchange for some action. The action can be filling out some form, trying some mobile app, agreeing to receive ads … the incentive is usually some digital currency, bonus credits in some app …
App Installs : Any owner of a mobile app wants more users, if you can deliver them, they will pay you a fixed amount per install. The most popular apps that you can promote this way are utility apps, browser extensions, games …
Toolbars / Extensions / Game Installs : Similar to the above, but in the desktop world now. Users install toolbars, browser extensions or plugins, browser based games etc … The initial install is free for the users, then they have to upgrade, purchase digital currency or agree to get ADs served.
LET’S MOVE ON.
Ok, so by now we know that the offers can fall into certain Verticals and each of them can have a different Conversion Flow. There are some more GENERAL statements that we can say in relation to the conversion flows.
Offers with PAID flows :
– usually offer higher Payouts
– are harder to convert
– face less quality problems
– are better for experienced affiliates
– are more popular in Tier-1 GEOs
– require higher initial budget
– work better with quality traffic
– require more precise targeting
Offers with FREE flows :
– usually offer lower payouts
– are easier to convert
– are more prone to quality problems
– are more popular in less developed GEOs with less payment methods available
– are easier to conquer with lower budgets
– can convert even lower quality traffic with poor targeting options
– are more suitable for newbie affiliates (with a few exceptions like carrier billing)
As you can see, it makes sense to focus on let’s say email collection lead gen or carrier billing offers when starting out. But whatever conversion flow you choose, you now understand the pros and cons of each.
Ok, let’s say you understand how to pick the conversion flow that you would focus on, but I guess you still don’t have a very good idea about the many Verticals or Categories that you can choose offers from. So let’s focus on that in the next part of the article.
WHAT ARE THE MOST POPULAR VERTICALS OR OFFER CATEGORIES?
NUTRA OFFERS : this is a very large category that covers all kinds of nutrition supplements. The most popular categories are Skincare, Diet, Testosterone boosters, Male enhancement, Muscle building, Brain performance …
Nutra offers can be promoted as straight sale offers, COD, trials and also rebills. Trials are regulated in some GEOs, so it might be a problem to find enough cap available (amount of conversions that you can deliver).
COD became very popular lately, since it’s very popular in the less developed countries. If you want to read more about this, check out this article of mine : http://www.matuloo.com/introduction-to-the-nutra-vertical-with-expert-advice-from-adcombo-com/
SWEEPS / SHOPPING VOUCHERS / CONTESTS : I will address these 3 at once, since they are usually using the same setup. The user enters their email, to get enrolled in a draw. The prize can be a phone, shopping voucher, some discount …
In most cases, these offers are using the SOI conversion point and the payouts per lead are in the lower area. I have also seen Carrier Billing used for these offers. These offers are a good choice for new affiliates, even though they are a bit saturated by now. I have written an article about Sweeps, some time ago, check it out for more info : http://www.matuloo.com/sweeps-offers-wtf-is-that-do-they-work/
DATING OFFERS : Another huge vertical, we can further divide it into 2 sub-categories : Adult/Casual OR Mainstream. Mainstream dating is for people who look for standard relationship, Adult is more about one night stands or sexual relationships in general – this is a perfect match for traffic from adult sites and it’s also one of the most promoted verticals for adult traffic.
Dating offers use several conversion models : SOI/DOI leadgen, Per Sale, Revshare (rebilling memberships) – the payouts are very different for each model. SOI leads pay the least, Per Sale model offer the highest one time payment, but requires the users to actually pay a monthly fee.
The back-end setup is the same in all cases : users register for a free membership to a dating site, or download a free mobile app. The functions are limited, until they upgrade to paying members – that’s how the sites are making money. I have a very long article about dating on the blog, check it out for more information : http://www.matuloo.com/what-is-dating-and-how-to-promote-dating-offers/
CARRIER BILLING OFFERS : Carrier billing can be considered both a Vertical and a Conversion Model. As the name suggests, these offers charge the customers on their mobile operators bill. This model is extremely popular in developing GEOs, due to the fact that it can be used for micro payments.
There is a very wide range of offer categories to choose from, the most popular are video content, wallpapers, games, antivirus or other apps, sweeps, membership sites, adult content etc …
I’m not gonna get into details here, read this article for more info : http://www.matuloo.com/how-to-profit-from-carrier-billing-offers-with-kimia/
BIZ-OPP OFFERS : This is an acronym for Business Opportunity, so basically offers that promise a chance to earn money, usually in the online space. These can be both shady and legit, depends on the particular offer.
The Biz-opp vertical is often mixed with Financial or Gambling offers, for example Forex trading, Binary options or Gambling manuals that promise a recipe to fool roulette for example. Courses, guides, training programs … these are also part of the bizopp category.
The conversion point will usually be a straight sale or recurring membership that grants the user access to some members area with study materials. Alternatively, these can be SOI/DOI leadgen offers too, I have seen some form submits within this category as well.
GAMBLING / CASINOS / BINARY : As I already mentioned, these are often marketed as Biz-Opp offers, but let’s talk more about them. You might wonder why I’ve put Binary Options in here, when it’s often presented as a financial offer… well, the principle is, that you are basically just betting on the direction that the markets will take, up or down … so it’s basically gambling 🙂
Casinos or Binary offers usually pay very high commissions for every paying customer you are able to send them, the payout per player can reach several $100s. Some advertisers also accept adult traffic for these offers, but it’s better to ask prior to sending it.
The high payouts make this offers a bit harder to get going, since a larger budget is required for proper testing – this means, it’s not the best choice for new affiliates.
APP INSTALLS : This is another vertical that also defines a specific conversion point/flow. The standard flow is : user installs an app, starts it and the conversion is considered valid. Standard payout per install starts at about $0.10 – 0.15 and goes up all the way to several dollars per.
There are two ways of promoting app installs : you can either promote the official apps in the biggest app stores : Apple Store or Google Play for example … OR you can promote apps from alternate app stores or link to the app install files directly – this doesn’t work with a standard iPhone for example, but it’s possible on Android devices.
The most popular apps are games, utility apps, alternate browsers, UI updates/mods … they are usually free and pretty easy to convert. The problem is, the market is quite saturated right now, and the high traffic prices make it hard to profit from app installs in the more developed GEOs. They still work good in “new” markets, where mobile usage is still growing rapidly, so users are hungry for new apps to try.
EDUCATION / E-BOOKS : There are e-books or educational courses on pretty much any topic and you can promote many of them as an affiliate, there are networks that specialize just in this category, the most known is www.ClickBank.Com.
These are usually paid products, where you can get a fixed % share of each sold copy. The standard rates are 50% and more, I’ve also seen some that offered 100% payout – these rely on up-sells and email sales for profits.
This is a very clean vertical, that can offer a lot of value to the customer – in case you chose quality products of course. These offers are also very popular with webmasters building their own sites and growing organic traffic.
FINANCIAL PRODUCTS : We are entering the high ticket space here and these offers are a bit harder to get. Think about products like loans, insurance, mortgage … all of these markets are regulated quite heavily, especially in developed GEOs, so they need to be careful when choosing the affiliates to work with.
These offers usually work on a leadgen basis, since they need to finalize the deals with each customer. Some will utilize a form submit, request for contact via phone or email … the value paid per lead can be very high, in case you are delivering the right customers.
E-COMMERCE / TANGIBLE PRODUCTS : This is a very large vertical and one that is gaining massive popularity lately. It’s all about selling various goods or gadgets, clothing, accessories … there are pretty much no limits on what you can sell.
There are several ways of approaching this model. You can promote the products of someone else as their affiliate, usually they have a site with 1 or a very limited amount of products – for example e-cigarettes, flashlights, teeth whitening devices.
You can promote the e-shop of someone else, these can be niched e-shops or general stores with tons of products. Your goal is to drive traffic to the shop and the owner will pay you some % commission from whatever your users would buy. Amazon is good example of such large selling platform.
Or, and this has become really popular lately, you can start your own e-shop and sell whatever products you want. This has exploded along with the massive growth of AliExpress and similar services that offer drop-shipping. Drop shipping means that you collect the orders, forward them to AliExpress sellers and they send the product to your customers directly. The payments are also handled by you. So it’s like running your own shop, without manually dealing with the goods. This is quite complex method, so I’m not gonna get into details in this article.
ADULT CONTENT : This is another large vertical, that is used with adult traffic. The truth is, it’s quite hard to run these offers on paid traffic, so it’s usually promoted mostly on organic traffic. Adult content usually means Adult Movies/Photos that you can watch or download in members area of adult paysites. Members are charged a monthly fee to get access. As an affiliate, you can usually choose between a Flat Rate payout per membership sold or revshare payment that is usually 50% of the monthly fee, for as long as the member remains active.
Another alternative is so called Live Shows or Live Chat – customers use either monthly memberships again or purchase credits to tip the participating models and fill their wishes 🙂 These offers work way better with Paid traffic, so you can see them promoted quite heavily, usually on POP traffic. The payout for the affiliate is the same as with video paysites – flat rate or revshare from the spend on credits.
SPECIAL OR PRIVATE OFFERS : All the offer categories or verticals that I have mentioned so far are common in the world of affiliates, and you can promote them through standard affiliate networks. However, there are also private offers or deals that you can enter or negotiate on a case by case basis.
Pretty much any online merchant, whether they sell goods or services, wants more customers. If you can deliver them, there is always a way to work with them. You might strike a monthly deal with them, agree on a certain amount of clicks that you deliver to their sites …
There are also services that have their private affiliate programs and you can make money with that too. Think about sites like booking.com for example, they have a private affiliate program too. Real estate portals utilize the affiliate model as well. Used cars markets, national gym chains, beauty saloons … all of them are looking for leads and many are willing to work with affiliates. It takes quite a lot of effort to make deals with them, but the opportunity is there are it can be very lucrative.
The world of affiliate marketing is huge, I only scratched the surface with this article, but I’m pretty sure you see the wast opportunities now. In case you are starting out, I would suggest to start with one of the standard verticals that are available at pretty much any affiliate network … once you are familiar with the affiliate model, you can venture out and focus on some particular area or start hunting for custom deals.
Please, do not consider this list as a FULL list of affiliate offers, I’m well aware that there are more that you could focus on. In case you think I should add something, please post a comment below.
Got questions or need help? … Don’t forget that you can find me on the STM Forum, which is the only forum that I’m regularly posting and helping affiliates on.
Thanks for reading.