I'm working in online advertising since 1998 and finally decided to start my own blog.

SPY ON YOUR COMPETITION – Lesson #1 – WHAT IS A VPN?

KNOW YOUR COMPETITION!

Whatever business you are in, you should know as much about your competition as possible, I think there is no need to argue about this. You should know what your competitors sell, where they sell it, how they get customers etc … Online business is no different – whether you are running an e-shop, selling someone else’s products or simply promoting something as an affiliate, you should always know who you are competing with, in order to get as much visitors as possible to see your and not your competitors advertising campaigns.

Let’s say you are running a site about healthy lifestyle and you are looking for products to promote on your site. OR you are an affiliate working with paid traffic, who wants to start selling nutrition supplements related to healthy diet or loosing weight. The problem is, you’ve never done this before, you don’t know what products to promote, where to get them, what ads/banners to use … etc. What are you gonna do? SPY ON YOUR COMPETITION!

HOW TO START SPYING?

The easiest thing you can do is load google, search for “healthy lifestyle” or a similar keyword and see what big G comes up with. The top 3 or so results will be paid ads that you should click on and see where you land – these will be products worth promoting and you can use them as an inspiration when looking for something to promote yourself. You should also write down the text of the ads and use them to come up with your own promotional texts.

Next thing to do, will be to look at what the organic search results look like – what we are doing here now is trying to find a few quality sites that deal with the subject we are interested in. Check the sites and look at what they advertise and how. Chances are, there will be some banners on the site, linking to some products – save the banners, note what products they promote. Do these banners look like it’s managed by the site owner or sold to some advertising network? There will also be a newsletter sign-up form somewhere, fill it out and see what kinda deals you will receive from them. You can use all of this later on, when planning your own campaigns.

DOES THE COUNTRY I’M IN MATTER?

This is all self explanatory stuff so far, right? Nothing complicated and very easy to do. But there is one problem – in the world of easy “country detection” on the internet, waste majority of ADs is “GEO-targeted”. This means, that different AD’s are shown to people from different countries (GEOs). I’m living in Slovakia, so when browsing the internet, maybe 95%-98% of all advertisements I see are promoting Slovak products and are written in Slovak language.

But what if I’m running a site written in English and I want to sell something to my UK or USA visitors? How can I spy on my competition now, when all ADs I see are in Slovak language? There is a pretty easy solution to this problem – it’s called a VPN.

WHAT IS A VPN?

VPN means Virtual Private Network. What it does, is adding one more “step” between your computer and the internet 🙂 This was really simply put, but that’s how it works basically. Right now, when you connect to the internet via your Internet Service Provider, you are assigned an IP address that is something like your ID in the online world. This IP address makes it possible for the ad networks to detect where you are connecting from, up to a city level or even more accurate.

VPN services operate a network of private servers across the globe, the large ones have a couple of servers in pretty much every country that matters. When using a VPN service, you are basically connecting to one of their private servers and rewriting your IP address with the IP of that particular server. The benefit we are looking for is, that whatever country that private server is in, you will now look as a resident of that country.

Every VPN service has some kind of application or software solution that you need to install on your computer or smart-phone. When you want to use it, simply start it, pick a country you want to connect through and that’s it. Want to spy on what kinda Diet supplements are sold in India? Connect to an Indian private server through the VPN service of your choice, load a popular diet website and check the AD’s. Want to see what people advertise in google France? Connect to a French private server, load google.fr and search for ”compléments alimentaires” 🙂

ARE VPN SERVICES FREE?

VPN services are not free. But they are not expensive either. The most popular ones are priced at $5 – $12 per month and it’s one of the first investment any aspiring affiliate should make. In case you want to focus on organic traffic, it’s not such a must-have, but when working with paid traffic you definitely need this.

There is a lot of them to choose from and I have to warn you about one thing – the more popular they are, the more people know the IP’s of their private servers. This can result in the IPs to get blocked after some time. For example, I was using the “Hide My Ass” VPN for a long time, but they are so widely known now, that half of the ad networks I work with are blocking them and the service got almost useless to me. They still work to some extent, but I would recommend to look for less known services.

The good thing is, many of them offer trial periods for free or very cheap, so you can test them and see how good they are.

WHAT VPN TO CHOOSE?

I searched the net a bit today to give you a few starting points that could benefit from.

Here is a recent article from PC-Mag : The best VPN services for 2016 :

http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2403388,00.asp

And here are some “toplists” of VPN services. These are all affiliate sites that are advertised on google, so take the reviews with a grain of salt. But some of them offer discounts so it’s definitely worth checking out :

1. http://www.top10bestvpn.com/

2. https://www.vpnranks.com/vpn-providers/top-vpn/

3. https://www.top10vpn.com/compare/

4. https://vpn.thetop10sites.com/top-vpn-services.html

Whatever VPN you choose, do not buy more than a month straight away, you need to test it first! Browse some sites with it and see if you are being served GEO targeted AD’s for the country you want.

Friendly Tip : Try to hit “back” when on the site of the VPN service you decided to try, you will get a discount sometimes when doing this – or move the mouse to the close (x) button – some sites “watch” this and offer you a discount before you close the site 🙂

Ok, that’s it for today, I will definitely get into more details on spying in the future articles.

Thanks for reading!


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