I started writing this guide in January while I was doing my “10 in 10” follow along
. At the time I was pretty much learning as I went and since then I’ve been reading a lot to study up and I want to pass on what I’ve learned. I think this is also a great time to build on the masterclass @Luke
has been sharing with his push campaigns!
Ultimately, I hope you'll contribute your experience with scaling so this guide becomes a collaboration. I'm kicking it off, but a lot of you have years and $$$ on me so I want to continue building up this guide after I publish it to incorporate links to new follow alongs and case studies. I also want to include what you share by replying to this thread, so please don’t hold back – if you've got some tips, then please reply and share so we can all benefit!
One of my goals this year is to achieve consistent $250/day profits. To me, this amount represents a minimum full-time salary I’d like to be able to achieve from this business. I’ve only been in the game for about 9 months and I think I’m going well, but if I want to enjoy the business for a few more years, I know it has to be very profitable (i.e. so I don’t have to worry about a J.O.B. and so I can put aside a decent amount of savings for other opportunities and – ultimately – early retirement
I achieved my first $250 day in January but couldn’t sustain it long because the offer was paused. Such is life, but while I was scaling it, I gained a lot of confidence and since then I’ve been consistently working to improve my ability to scale.
- I’ve joined more affiliate networks, so I’ll have access to more offers and opportunities
- I’ve been running traffic from more traffic sources, so I’ll know how to use them when the time comes with the next big offer I catch.
Three stages of a successful campaign
There are three stages to every successful campaign:
- Maximizing opportunity: searching for and identifying offers with good potential
- Maximizing profit: optimizing a successful campaign to squeeze as much profit as possible
- Maximizing scale: increasing the volume of traffic to a profitable offer to increase revenue
This guide is primarily about stage 3, but I want to quickly touch on stages 1 & 2 so that you’ve got a bit of background to help you get to stage 3 as quickly as possible.
Stage 1: Opportunity
The ‘Opportunity’ stage is about finding a good offer. At this stage, you’re more concerned with profit ‘potential’ than actual profit. In stage 1 you’re testing a traffic source
/vertical/geo combination and simply trawling for something that looks promising. As to what ‘promising’ means at this stage, well, that’s up to you and depends on what your goals are.
At the opportunity stage you might be using any number of techniques to find the ‘right’ offer for you, including:
- Spy tools
- Recommendations, hot offer lists
- Gut feel, etc
If you want to read more about the opportunity stage, have a look at these threads to get you started:
Stage 2: Profitability
The ‘Profitability’ stage is about taking an offer that converts and optimizing it effectively so that you can turn a positive ROI. Knowing how to optimize is the most fundamental skill you need in this business. Without it, you could run the best offer in the world and still lose money. All affiliate marketing campaigns start off spending money on generating data (or losing money, depending on your perspective). If you know how to optimize, then you’ll almost always be able to use the data you generate to turn a campaign profitable and make
. If not...
Optimization techniques include:
- Split testing ads and creatives
- Using landing pages, scripts and code to boost ROI and detect bots
- Cutting zones, placements, demographics, etc
There are a lot of optimization techniques and methods and you’ll probably spend your whole affiliate marketing career perfecting this skill. The AffLIFT Pops Guide
is the first place you should go to learn the fundamentals of setting up a new campaign and optimizing it. From there, you could head in a bunch of different directions, but here are a few of my favorite threads on the topic:
Stage 3: Scale
If stage 2 is about boosting your profit
, then stage 3 is about increasing the revenue
your campaign can generate. When you start to scale your ROI might go up, but it’s more likely that it’ll start to come down because boosting your revenue usually means increasing your costs. At this stage, your campaign might even drop back into negative territory for a while. As such, when scale, you’ll have to continue to optimize so that the increased revenue brings increased profit.
The most obvious way to scale is to go to new traffic sources
, but there are also ways to boost volume while staying with the same traffic source. But I don’t want to just summarize the process of scaling a campaign, so let’s get into some detail.
How to pump up the volume
Scaling is about increasing the volume of impressions, clicks and views
for your offer. Scaling isn’t about increasing profit per se
, it’s about increasing revenue
and most of the time this also means increasing costs, so before you start to scale you need to be sure you have a very solid grasp of the whole process of running successful campaigns. If you don't, you might end up losing a lot of money if you try to scale.
Imagine a machine that produces an endless supply of successful campaigns by:
- Maximising opportunity
- Maximising profit
- Maximising scale
It probably looks like this
View attachment 17576
Which can be represented by this more abstract blueprint:
View attachment 17575
Within that machine there are a lot of moving parts, but imagine there’s one part that determines the volume of impressions, clicks and views.
View attachment 17574
On its own, scaling means cranking up the output of that part
of the machine, which in effect means the whole system gets more volume
Of course, when you do this, you’ll need to monitor the impact this has on the output of the rest of the machine and adjust the other parts to ensure your campaign stays profitable.
View attachment 17573
If you think you’re ready, then let’s discuss some common ways to scale your campaigns as well as some common issues you’re likely to encounter.
Scaling method 1: Get more traffic from an existing traffic source
The first place to start looking for more volume for a profitable campaign is the same place you’re currently running it. Different traffic sources perform differently, so if you’re already tapping a source with a profitable campaign, then it’s is a known performer and it’s the first place you should start to scale (and because you’ve already optimized zones & sources the cost of testing more options is potentially going to cost less!)
The most obvious ways you’ll be able to scale on an existing traffic source are:
- Increasing your bid (this can help you win more auctions and access more expensive placements you weren’t getting much traffic from before)
- Increasing the frequency your ad is displayed per day or per user (more ads = more traffic)
- Targeting more options if permitted for the offer (i.e. more geos, carriers, browsers, os, demographics etc)
- Retargeting (e.g. if you’re running social or similar)
Example: I'm running a campaign now where there's a cap of 1000 conversions per day (for all affiliates). I’ve been able to get about half this cap each day and I want to increase the proportion of the cap I can convert before other affiliates their grubby little hands on it. It currently takes about 8 hours for the cap to be exhausted so my strategy is to get as much traffic to the offer as possible as quickly as possible to get as much of the cap as I can. I’ve got a few sources firing traffic at this offer, but one is about 500% more effective than the others. This means I’m trying to squeeze as much traffic as I can out of this source.
To do this I’m increasing the number of campaigns I’m running on that source, starting with the broadest campaigns and adding smaller and smaller campaigns incrementally. I started the campaign with two campaigns – one mainstream and one adult – and while I was optimizing, I targeted only Chrome & Android v6-9. Now that I’m there and I have a good list of profitable zones I’ve been increasing my bid to get more traffic to the best placements. This means that some targets that were marginally profitable are becoming unprofitable. The thing is, some of these targets had a lot of traffic and a lot of conversions, just not a good CR. To keep getting these conversions and profiting from them, I’ve created new campaigns targeting just these low CR zones, with a lower bid. At the same time, I’ve created more campaigns for other versions of Android and other browsers.
The only disadvantage when scaling on an existing traffic source is diminishing returns. This means that sooner or later, you’re going to find that you hit a ceiling or get to a point where the amount of effort required to squeeze additional volume isn’t worth the effort, particularly if you’re already targeting all the allowed geos, carriers etc.
Scaling method 2: Get more traffic from a new traffic source
While you’re maximizing your opportunities on one profitable traffic source, you should also start campaigns on new traffic sources. I think this is self-explanatory, but note that with each new source, you’ll have to go back and do some optimization to get the campaign profitable.
Starting a new campaign on a new source might temporarily eat up some of your profits, but the good news is that your previous campaigns should already give you a good indication of which creatives/landers/offer combinations are the best and what kind of OS/browser/carrier and demographic options are likely to be the most profitable. This means that although you can expect to run at a loss to start with, you should be able to get into profit quickly.
Scaling method 3: Run different types of traffic
In the two methods above, I’ve assumed that if you’re running one traffic type successfully, then you’ll keep running the same type (e.g. push, or pop, or native), but you can also consider other types of traffic to get access to more volume. I think that some offers are more suited to certain types of traffic, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get some traction with different types. If push is working, try some native. If pops are working, try domain redirects. If you’re doing PPC, try Facebook. There's a veritable feast of traffic options out there on the interwebs, so go crazy!
Issue 1: Dealing with caps
If you have an offer that’s capped – and let’s face it, this is almost certainly going to be the case – then you’re going to run into the issue of caps. This can be one of the biggest obstacles to scaling a campaign and when you start hitting the cap you only have three options:
- Ask for a higher cap
- Find the same offer on another network
- Find similar offers
(I've got some quick tips below, but if you want to read more about managing caps, check out @Luke
's 'Cap Management Guide
Asking for a higher cap
If you’re consistently hitting an offer’s cap you might be able to ask the advertiser or network for a higher cap. This doesn’t always mean you’ll get it. Most of the time a cap is probably just a safety mechanism to ensure that new affiliates can have their traffic checked for quality before they can generate too many conversions. If this is the case then if you ask for a higher cap you’ll probably be subject to a quality check and if you pass, then you might get an increase. If the cap is set because of an advertiser’s budget, then it might not be possible to get an increase. In any case, it can’t hurt to ask.
Running the same offer on another network
A lot of networks run the same offers. Sometimes they’re exactly the same and sometimes they’re set up slightly differently (e.g. different payout or different flow). If you’re hitting the cap on one network then you might be able to find the offer somewhere else to scale up. Even if you can’t find the offer on your favourite network, you might be able to ask the network to approach the advertiser and get it.
Finding similar offers
A lot of offers are very similar in nature and might be virtually interchangeable.
Check out these VPN
offers currently available on Monetizer
View attachment 17577
In this case, imagine you’re running SurfShark
and it’s capped out (it currently has a cap of 500/day). In that case you’re going to find it impossible to keep scaling the campaign unless you can get the offer on another network.
But if you’ve already discovered a high converting creative/lander combination then I'll bet you can scale by promoting one of the other offers. In this case, the VPN Pro offer actually has no cap, it pays 20% more and it’s available in multiple geos. You’ll probably end up making a lot more money from VPN Pro than you will from SurfShark. Of course, you might have to set up and optimize the different offers slightly differently, but this is just part of the process of scaling you need to get used to.
Issue 2: Dealing with new geos
Scaling up the volume of a campaign often means going out of your comfort zone, particularly if you want to run an offer in multiple geos. There are lots of cultural differences from one country to another and promoting an offer to someone with a different cultural background could mean you have to change lots of things about your campaign, including creatives, landing pages and – especially – language.
Sometimes people across the world are familiar with the same things, but it’s unlikely they’ll be exactly the same.
I lived in Japan for several years and after I moved over there I discovered a lot of big and small cultural differences. One of my early discoveries what that in Japan they have a Seven Eleven on pretty much every corner and from the outside it looks almost exactly the same as anywhere else in the world, but if you want some hot food, you’ll find a hot bain-marie with fresh hardboiled eggs, noodles and tofu, instead of pizza.
Other things you might think would be the same – like the menu at KFC and McDonalds – are also pretty different, like this delicious McDonalds Fillet-o-Shrimp burger:
In fact, if you wanted to use a culturally accurate creative relating to fast food (maybe you’re running a Nutra creative of some kind), then you’d probably want to use someone gorging themselves at MOS Burger instead of McDonalds:
…or at this Takoyaki (fried octopus) stand instead of a hot dog cart:
Updating landing pages
As with creatives, your landing pages also have to be updated to reflect local culture and customs. I think the best example of how this could be obvious would be in sweepstakes campaigns where someone can win a shopping voucher. In the USA a Walmart voucher might be the obvious example of a prize to run, but this wouldn’t work in Australia, where you’ll need to run a Woolworths or Aldi voucher instead.
Watch your language
This should be a bit of a no-brainer - people speak lots of different languages, so you can't use the same language in creatives and landing pages in every country. Sure, there are lots of people who speak English in a lot of countries, but there are even more who don't!
If you don't know what to do to translate your creatives and landing pages, check out these posts:
Issue 3: Dealing with budget
Another issue you’re likely to face when you’re rapidly scaling a campaign is that you’re going to have to manage your budget. If you’ve got a gold mine at your disposal then this might not be a problem, but sooner or later everyone is going to run a campaign that scales to the point where cash flow starts to become a problem.
We’d all love to be able to run a campaign where the money we make is instantly deposited into your account, but this isn’t the way it works. Most of the time you’ll be running a campaign for a network and each network has different rules on minimum payouts. Most network simply have a standard minimum before they’ll pay you. This could be anywhere from $50 - $1000. They could also have different payouts for different methods, such as $100 for PayPal and $500 for wire transfer.
You need to be sure that you understand what the minimums are before you start running with a network because it can make a big difference to your cash flow if you’re waiting to accumulate $1000 earnings before you can get paid, particularly if you have an offer with a cap.
Like minimums, most networks have different terms for how often they’ll pay you. When you start up with a new network, you’ll probably have to live with the longest terms for a while – like Net 30, which means you have to wait 30 days after the end of the month to get paid (potentially a 60 wait to get paid for the first conversions you get each month). As you get more credibility with the network and start to earn more you might be able to ask to be upgraded to better terms, but this might take a while to achieve (e.g. Monetizer offers Net 7 terms when you’ve achieved $5K lifetime revenue and Net 0 after you’ve achieved $10K lifetime).
Besides minimums and frequencies, one of the other common issues with payment is approvals, particularly on offers like COD
and CPS. If your payout is subject to approval, then you might not get paid if the traffic looks fraudulent or suspect of if your leads aren't making deposits. If you’re running a CPS offer, then you might also have income set aside or even clawed back for returns.
In the introduction I mentioned that one of my goals this year is to achieve consistent $250 (profit) days. This represents an income of about $90K a year, which is my idea of the kind of money I can start to think of replacing a full-time job. Of course, this is before taxes and any expenses, so the money I’d have to live off would be less, but it’s just a goal. Your own goal might be to earn more or less – you might want a very comfortable living from this business, or just some extra pocket money – it doesn’t really matter what the number is or what your ‘machine’ machine looks like.
What matters is that you learn to:
Learn to do these three things and you can shape your goals anyway you like
- Maximise opportunity
- Maximise profit
- Maximise scale
This guide is just one part of the puzzle and I highly recommend you spend time on the forum regularly picking up the other pieces and putting them together through running campaigns. Nothing will help you make it faster than doing what you learn!