Affiliates are Bullish

With the U.S. dollar sinking to new lows, oil and gold attaining new heights, and both food and gasoline prices rising quickly: corporate CEO’s, the media and government officials finally acknowledged what millions have seen coming for years – the U.S. economy is in BIG trouble – and the future looks bleak.

As expected, those hit hardest by the current downturn are working people. During uncertain financial times, people without jobs don’t spend money, while those who do have jobs tend to cut back on discretionary spending and postpone larger purchases, which doesn’t sound like a happy prospect for those of us who want to sell to them.

However, there are many ways for affiliates to survive and even thrive during a recession and diversification is typically the first key to continued prosperity. Fortunately for most affiliate marketers, making the leap from promoting luxury items to recession-proof products that consumers use regardless of their economic status or level of income is fairly simple. We can add new products to our current mix or start pumping out content on a new domain, join some affiliate programs, ramp up the marketing and be in a new business in relatively short order.

So, if your commissions from the sale of cars, diamonds and fur coats have been falling off of late, here area number of recession-proof product and service suggestions for your consideration.

Job Search: Although the employment market is perpetual, during a tough economy, mergers, acquisitions and layoffs all inevitably lead to more job seekers. Point your visitors to career websites such as Monster.com where they’ll find millions of job postings along with general career advice and help to prepare for interviews. Monster.com pays a buck for each new resume posted and 50 cents for each new My Monster account created.

Resume Preparation Services: As many of your job-seeking visitors will find it difficult to get an interview because they don’t have experience or their resume is out-of-date, you should also tell them how they will benefit by using a service to beef up their resume. Some services, such as Employment911.com, have market-specific offerings such as military transition resumes, a niche which CEO Frederic Thom reports was marked by a sudden increase in February. Employment911.com pays commissions of 12.5 percent to 25 percent and their resume writing package prices top out at $357.90 for executive level positions. ResumeEdge.com, which pays 12 percent and powers the resume writing services of The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo, HotJobs, and The U.S. Air Force is another option to consider.

Education: After all the stops have been pulled out and the job search still fails to pan out, many people choose to stay in school or return to school to beef up their education and subsequent chances for finding a job. Companies with affiliate programs in the education field include those that help with college and university placements as well as scholarship search, which provides direct assistance to students with college education funding. Online training to improve basic computer skills or those which are geared toward technical certifications like Microsoft, Oracle, Cisco and Novell as is offered through TechnieCert.com (ShareASale) are becoming increasingly popular. You might also consider promoting language-learning programs such as Rosetta Stone (available through CJ) for those of your visitors who decide to flee the country in search of brighter economic prospects.

Business Opportunities: While there is never any shortage of those seeking business opportunities, an increasing unemployment rate makes this market even more potentially lucrative, especially for those who have had business success and can teach others how business is done. In addition to selling instructional information products in the form of ebooks, podcasts, webinars and conferences to new entrepreneurs; affiliates can make bank promoting productivity and marketing tools as well as office supplies. Almost every business needs business cards and PsPrint, a CJ merchant that pays 15 percent commissions, has a staggering 3-month EPC of $521.15. When individuals eventually decide to form their own business and incorporate, you can promote American Incorporators $299.00 incorporation packages for a tidy 34 percent commission.

Tax Preparation and Filing Services:Economic slowdown or not, the tax man cometh every year and helping your visitors find additional spending money through deductions can be very lucrative. With more than 138 million taxpayers filing taxes online in 2007, industry experts expect 2008 to be the most popular year for filing federal income tax online – until the 2009 tax season. Several IRS authorized merchants can be found at Commission Junction, including TurboTax, H&R Block and Tax Brain, the latter of which pays a 30 percent commission on all their products, including a premium tax preparation service which costs $69.95.

Health Care: Workers that have just lost their employer-sponsored health plans will need to buy health insurance while they have no preexisting conditions and are still eligible. When you partner with eHealthInsurance.com, which has relationships established with over 160 health insurance carriers, you’ll earn $40.00 for each health insurance application submitted for an individual or family. Assurant Health pays up to $78.00 per lead and both Commission Junction merchants have 120-day cookies.

Budgeting and Debt Reduction:Helping folks reduce or consolidate their debt load and save money is always appreciated and the subject matter is relevant to almost any niche in which you are currently working. Partner with merchants that offer secured credit cards, debt consolidation services and help with foreclosures; and consider converting your weekly newsletter to a daily “Money-Saving Tips” or “Coupons and Deals” broadcast to gain additional traffic and branding for your site.

Entertainment and Vices: While the wise eliminate frivolous expenses during tough times, those less disciplined tend to seek more escape from reality through various forms of entertainment. So, if you were ever inclined to go the porn route, now might be the time. If that holds no appeal for you, try adding sports, concert, and theater tickets to your mix. TicketsNow.com (CJ) pays 7 percent commissions on gross transactions that are typically in the $450.00 range.

While the suggested items above don’t represent an exhaustive list of recession-proof products and services, it should get you thinking about options that will at least keep your affiliate business profitable during the recession. So, ignore the purveyors of doom and gloom. There are always ways to thrive during the hard times, if you are perceptive and swift. Choose to see opportunity and profit where others see only potential for loss and failure and use the recession as a compelling reason to diversify and grow your affiliate business.

ABCs of Online Marketing

With words entering the lexicon constantly, it’s a good idea for performance marketers to study up on some new industry jargon.

Because performance marketing encompasses a variety of different disciplines, including affiliate marketing, search, interactive advertising and lead generation – each with its own terminology – it can be difficult to keep up. Just getting a handle on this ever-changing industry can be a full-time job, never mind the time it takes to decipher cryptic acronyms. Planning an Internet marketing strategy is complicated. Will you get the best ROI from a CPA, CPC, PPL or a hybrid model? And how will you track your CPM and determine your CTR?

You are not alone if this question overwhelms you. Although many people who are new to the online marketing space understand the basic principles, they lack the essential vocabulary. And like any industry, it greatly helps if you can talk the talk and walk the walk.

To excel in online marketing, you have to communicate effectively with your design and development teams, your clients and potential strategic partners.

To assist those who are new to the Internet marketplace, we have compiled a list of essential Internet marketing vocabulary. Although this guide is most helpful to newbies, we think even more advanced affiliate marketers will find some useful information here.

And because this industry includes search and e-commerce, you can find an expanded list of key terms on our website. We will update that list regularly with new words that pop up in this constantly moving space.

A

Abandonment: When a user leaves a shopping cart with an item in it prior to completing the transaction.

Advertiser (also Merchant or Retailer): Any website that markets and sells goods or services. In affiliate marketing programs, advertisers contract with affiliates to get consumers to register for services, purchase products, fill out forms or visit websites.

AdSense: An advertising program run by Google enabling website owners to display text and image advertisements. Revenue is generated on a pay-per-click basis. Google uses its search technology to serve ads based on website content and users’ geographical location.

AdWords: Google’s text-based advertising system. It is cost-per-click (CPC) advertising and publishers pay only when users click on their ad. It has cost-control features that can set daily budget and limits.

Affiliate: A website owner that earns a commission for referring clicks, leads or sales to a merchant.

Affiliate Fraud: Bogus activity generated by an affiliate in an attempt to generate illegitimate, unearned revenue.

Affiliate Link: A piece of code residing in a graphic image or piece of text that is placed on an affiliate’s webpage, notifying the merchant that an affiliate should be credited for the customer or visitor sent to their website.

Affiliate Manager: The manager responsible for overseeing the marketing of a merchant’s program including forecasts and budgets, as well as communicating with affiliates regularly, establishing incentives and monitoring industry news and trends.

Affiliate Network: An intermediary between an affiliate and merchant. For merchants, it offers tracking technology, reporting tools, payment processing and access to affiliates. For affiliates, it offers a one-click application to merchants, reporting tools and payment aggregation.

Algorithm: A set of mathematical equations or rules that a search engine uses to rank the content contained within its index in response to a particular search query.

Analytics: Technology that helps to analyze the performance of a website or online marketing campaign.

Arbitrage: A practice through which Web publishers – second-tier search engines, directories and vertical search engines – engage in the buying and reselling of Web traffic.

Auto-Approve: An affiliate application approval process where all applicants are automatically approved for an affiliate program.

B

Backlinks (also Inbound Links): All the links that point at a particular webpage.

Banner Ad: An electronic ad in the form of a graphical image that is available in many sizes and resides on a webpage. Banner ad space is sold to advertisers to earn revenue for the website.

Behavioral Targeting: The practice of targeting and serving ads to groups of users who exhibit similarities in their location, gender or age, and how they act and react in their online environment.

Bid: The maximum amount of money that an advertiser is willing to pay each time a searcher clicks on an ad. Bid prices can vary widely depending on competition from other advertisers and keyword popularity.

Browser Helper Object: A DLL module designed as a plug-in for the Microsoft Internet Explorer Web browser to provide added functionality. Some modules enable the display of different file formats not ordinarily interpretable by the browser.

C

Chargeback: An incomplete sales transaction (for example: merchandise is purchased and then returned) that results in an affiliate commission deduction.

Click & Bye: The process in which an affiliate loses a visitor to a merchant’s site once they click on a merchant’s banner or text link.

Click Bot: A program generally used to artificially click on paid listings within the engines in order to artificially inflate click amounts.

Click Fraud: The deceitful practice of posing as pay-per-click traffic for the purpose of generating false revenue by the affiliates serving the ads. In PPC advertising terms, it generates a charge per click without having actual interest in the target of the ad’s link.

Clickthrough Rate (CTR): The number of clicks an ad receives, divided by the total number of times that ad is displayed or served (represented as: total clicks / total impressions = CTR). For example, if an ad has 100 impressions and 3 clicks, the CTR is 3 percent.

Client: A software program that is used to contact and obtain data from a server software program on another computer. Each client program is designed to work with one or more specific kinds of server programs and each server requires a specific kind of client.

Cloaking: A deceptive process that sends search engine spiders to alternative pages that are not seen by the end user. Search engines record content for a URL that is different from what the visitor sees in order to obtain more favorable search positions.

Cobranding: A website or page to which affiliates send visitors that includes their own logo and branding.

Commission (also Referral Fee, Finder’s Fee, Bounty): The income an affiliate receives for generating a sale, lead or clickthrough to a merchant’s website.

Compensation Rate: The rate at which an affiliate receives money in exchange for goods or services. It is how affiliates are paid and should be stated in the affiliate contract.

Contextual Advertising: The term applied to ads appearing on websites or other media where the ads are selected and served by automated systems based on the content displayed by the user.

Contextual Link: The integration of affiliate links with related text.

Contextual Search: A search that analyzes the page being viewed by a user and gives a list of related search results.

Conversion Rate: The number of visitors who convert after clicking through on an ad, divided by the total number of clickthroughs to a site for that ad. (Expressed as: total clickthroughs that convert / total clickthroughs for that ad = conversion rate.)

Cookie: Small file stored on a visitor’s computer that records information. For affiliate programs, cookies have two functions: to keep track of what a customer purchases and to track which affiliate was responsible for generating the sale and is owed a commission.

Cost Per Acquisition: The cost metric for each time a qualifying action, such as sales and registrations, takes place.

Cost Per Action (CPA): The cost metric for each time a commissionable action takes place.

Cost Per Click (CPC): The cost metric for each click to an advertising link.

Cost Per Lead (CPL): The cost an advertiser pays per qualified lead.

Cost Per Order (CPO): The cost metric for each time an order is transacted.

Cost Per Sale (CPS): The term for advertising in which the advertiser pays only for those clicks where the user clicks through on the banner or ad and actually purchases a product on the advertiser’s site.

Cost Per Thousand (CPM): The cost metric for 1,000 banner advertising impressions. The amount paid per impression is calculated by dividing the CPM by 1,000. For example, a $10 CPM equals $.01 per impression.

Crawler (also Spider, Robot or Bot): Component of a search engine that gathers listings by automatically trolling the Web and following links to webpages. It makes copies of the webpages found and stores them in the search engine’s index.

Custom Feed: Enables submission to XML feeds for each of the shopping engines. The engines have different product categories and feed requirements.

Customer Bounty: The merchant payment to an affiliate partner for every new customer that they direct to a merchant.

D

Dayparting: The ability to specify different times of day – or day of week – for ad displays, as a way to target searchers more specifically. An option that limits the serving of specified ads based on day and time factors.

Data Feed: A text file that contains the information needed to generate a website. It is provided either directly to the affiliate or indirectly through a network. The affiliate then converts the data feed into a database, which is then used to populate webpages full of products.

Deep Linking: Linking to content buried deep within a website.

Delisting: When webpages are removed from a search engine’s index.

Demographics: The term that refers to specific information about a population or a target market. Demographics include information such as age, sex, geographic location, and size of the group.

Destination URL: The specific location within a site where the user who has clicked on the ad should be directed. The destination URL does not have to match the display URL but should be in the same domain.

Distribution Network: A network of websites or search engines and their partner sites on which paid ads can be distributed. The network receives advertisements from the host search engine, paid for with a CPC or CPM model.

Domain Name: Controlled by the worldwide organization called ICANN, domain names are obtained on a first-come basis and are used to identify a unique website.

Doorway Page (also Gateway Page): A webpage created expressly in the hopes of ranking well for a term in a search engine’s non-paid listing. It does not deliver much information but is designed to entice visitors to enter.

Dynamic Content: Information of webpages which changes, or is changed automatically.

E-F

Earnings Per Hundred Clicks (EPC): Earnings or average payout per hundred clicks.

Earning per Thousand Impressions (EPM): Earnings or average payout per thousand impressions.

Eighty Twenty Rule: A rule of thumb that dictates that typically 80 percent of the products sold in a product category will be consumed by 20 percent of the customers.

Escalating Commission (also Sliding Scale): A compensation system based on an increase in the money paid to an affiliate. It is a percentage commission that increases based on the achievement of certain targets, such as specific number of copies sold.

Feeds: A Web document that is a shortened or updated version of a webpage created for syndication. Usually served at user request, through subscription; also includes ad feeds to shopping engines and paid-inclusion ad models. Ad feeds are usually in eXtensible markup language (XML) or rich site summary format.

Freemium: A business mode that offers basic services for free, or is ad supported, but charges a premium for advanced or special features. The model is popular with Web 2.0 companies that acquire companies through referral networks, organic search marketing and word of mouth.

Frames: An HTML technique that allows two or more pages to display in one browser window. Many search engines had trouble indexing websites that used frames, generally only seeing the contents of a single frame.

G-H

Gateway Page (also Doorway Page): A webpage created in hopes of ranking well for a term in a search engine’s nonpaid listings.

Geographical Targeting: The analytical process of making decisions on the regions and locales on which a company should focus its marketing efforts.

Hit: Request from a Web server for a graphic or other element to be displayed on a webpage. Sometimes the misleading term hit is not the same as a visitor.

Hybrid Model: An affiliate commission model that combines payment options (i.e., CPC & CPA).

I

Impression: An advertising metric that indicates how many times an advertising banner, link or product on the Internet is viewed.

Inbound Link: A link to a particular page from elsewhere on the Internet. Inbound links are important to SEO because many search engines’ rankings are at least partially based on the amount of inbound links.

Index: The database of webpages maintained by a search engine or directory.

Interactive Agency: An agency offering a mix of Web design and development, Internet advertising and online marketing, or e-business/ e-commerce consulting.

K-L

Key Performance Indicators (KPI): Metrics that are used to quantify objectives that reflect the strategic performance of online marketing campaigns. They provide business and marketing intelligence to assess a measurable objective and the direction in which that objective is headed.

Keyword(s): The word (or words) a searcher enters into a search engine’s search box. Also the term that the marketer hopes users will search on to find a particular page.

Keyword Buys: The act of bidding on specific search terms related to a specific industry.

Keyword Density: The number of repetitions of a keyword as a percentage of the total word count of a webpage. For example, if a webpage has 200 total words on it and 20 of them are keyword advertising, then the keyword advertising has a 10 percent keyword density on the page.

Keyword Domain Name: The use of keywords as part of the URL to a website. Positioning is improved on some search engines when keywords are reinforced in the URL.

Keyword Marketing: The method of getting a message in front of people who are searching through the use of particular words or terms.

Landing Page: The specific webpage a visitor reaches after clicking on a search engine listing, pay-per-click ad or banner ad.

Lead Generation: Websites that generate leads for products or services offered by another company. On a lead generation site, the visitor completes a contact form to get more information about a product or service. The submitted contact form is considered a lead.

Link Bait: A useful, entertaining, creative Web content or Web tool that encourages website owners to link to it.

Linkspam: A company attempts to place as many inbound links as possible to its site regardless of the context of the originating site.

Listing: The information that appears on a search engine’s results page in response to a search.

Loyalty Affiliates: Affiliates who offer incentives to their members with cash-back or other benefits and rewards to shop through their website. Often they own cash-back shopping websites.

M-N

Manual Approval: An affiliate application approval process where all applicants are manually approved for an affiliate program.

Merchant Account: An account with a payment processor for settlement of credit card transactions. Any merchant that takes credit card orders must establish a merchant account.

Meta Tag: A way to describe various aspects of a webpage that is not intended for users to see. Meta tags pass information to Web crawlers and spiders along with browsers and other applications.

Minimum Bid: The least amount that an advertiser can bid for a keyword or keyword phrase and still be active on the search ad network. This amount can range from $0.01 to $0.50 or more for highly competitive keywords, and is set by the search engines.

Multilevel Marketing (also Two-Tier Marketing): Affiliate program structure whereby affiliates earn commissions on their conversions as well as conversions of webmasters they refer to the program.

Nanopublishing: An online publishing model that uses a small-scale, inexpensive operation to reach a targeted audience, especially through blogging. Sometimes communities of shared interest emerge quickly online, such as PaidContent.org and Gawker.com.

Niche Sites: A website oriented toward a very specific topic or audience. Niche sites often have high traffic and items can bring higher prices than on general purpose sites because they serve customers looking for unique content.

Opt-in Email: Email information that the recipient explicitly requests such as a newsletter or eZine.

Optimization: Changes made to a webpage specifically to improve the positioning of the page on search engines.

Organic Search Results: Non-paid search engine results (also called natural search) – the pages that search engines find in a vast index of the Web that the search engine determines are the best matches for the search keywords.

Outbound Link: A link on a webpage leading to other webpages both on the same website and other websites.

Page Rank: An indicator of the value of a webpage that is used for ranking in search engine results and that is governed by a proprietary formula by search engines. It is based on factors including the number and quality of links to a website and the content of the website itself.

Page View: The term for the loading and screen presentation of a single webpage.

Paid Inclusion: Advertising program where pages are guaranteed to be included in a search engine’s index in exchange for payment.

Paid Listings: Listings that search engines sell to advertisers usually through paid placement or paid inclusion.

Paid Search: Paid search often referred to as pay per click (PPC) is a strategy used by a large number of affiliates.

Parasite: Software that works on a person’s computer, typically without their knowledge or consent and without a visible interface. It can include software that is installed along with another application.

Pay Per Call: A model of paid advertising similar to PPC, except advertisers pay for every phone call that comes to them from a search ad, rather than for every clickthrough to their website landing page for the ad.

Pay Per Click (PPC): A program where an affiliate receives a commission for each click they refer to a merchant’s website. PPC offers some of the lowest commissions and high conversion ratio since visitors need to only click on a link to earn the affiliate a commission.

Pay Per Impression (PPI): An advertising pricing model in which advertisers pay based on how many users were served their ads.

Pay Per Lead (PPL): A program where an affiliate receives a commission for each lead that they generate for a merchant website such as completed surveys, contest or sweepstakes entries. Pay per lead generally offers midrange commissions and midrange-to-high conversion ratios.

Pay Per Sale (PPS): A program where an affiliate receives a commission for each sale of a product or service that they refer to a merchant’s website. Pay-per-sale programs usually offer the highest commissions and the lowest conversion ratio.

Q-R

Query: The word (or words) a searcher enters into a search engine’s search box.

Quality Score: Reflects an ad’s historical CTR, keyword relevance, landing page relevance and other factors proprietary to Google. Yahoo refers to it as a Quality Index.

Rank: How high a particular webpage or website is listed in a search engine’s results.

Really Simple Syndication (RSS) Feed: A data format for syndicating news and other content. Subscribers to RSS feeds are notified every time content is updated on a particular site.

Reciprocal Link: A link exchange – the process whereby two websites’ owners agree to display a link to each others’ sites.

Residual Earnings: A program that pays affiliates not just for the first sale, but all additional sales made at the merchant’s site over the life of the customer.

Revenue-Sharing Program: A program that allows merchants and website owners to increase sales. The host site links to the merchant site with a banner, button or text link, for a fee. The merchant pays the website owner for increased traffic, sales and leads from the host site.

S-T

Search Engine Marketing (SEM): Tactics that seek to promote websites by increasing their visibility in search engine results. SEM methods include SEO, paid placement and paid inclusion. It includes the practice of buying paid search listings with the goal of obtaining better free search listings.

Search Engine Results Page (SERP): The page the search engines returns to after a visitor entered a search query.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The practice of altering a website so that it does well in the organic, crawler-based listings of search engines. The process usually involves choosing targeted and relevant keywords and phrases that will drive traffic to the site.

Shopping Cart: The term for software that is used to make a site’s product catalog available for online ordering, whereby visitors may select, view, add, delete and purchase merchandise.

Social Network: Online networks of communities who share interests and activities or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others, which necessitates the use of software.

Spamdexing: Also called search engine spamming. It combines techniques employed by some Web marketers and designers to fool a search engine’s spider and indexing programs to ensure that their website always appears at or near the top of the list of search engine results.

Spider: A software program that crawls the Internet by following links and indexing webpages.

Sponsored Listing (also Paid Listings or Paid Sponsors): A term used as a title or column head on search engine results pages to identify paid advertisers and distinguish between paid and organic listings.

Spyware: Generally refers to deceitful software that is secretly installed on a user’s computer and that monitors use of the computer in some way without the user’s knowledge or consent. Most spyware tries to get the user to view advertising and/or particular webpages.

Super-affiliates: The best affiliates in a program based on performance and earnings, usually the top 1 percent, who generate the majority of revenue for a program.

Targeted Marketing: The act of making the right offers to the right customer at the right time.

Text Link: A link that is not accompanied by a graphical image.

Tracking Method: The way a program tracks referred sales, leads or clicks. The most common is by unique Web address for each affiliate or by embedding an affiliate ID number into the link that is processed by the merchant’s software.

Trademark Poaching: The act of using PPC ads to appear as though they have come from a merchant (using its trademark). When clicked on, the ad directs the consumer to the trademark owner’s site through a link that inserted the affiliate ID, generating a bogus commission for any resulting purchase.

Trusted Feed (also Paid Inclusion): A trusted feed is a fee-based custom crawl service offered by some search engines. These results appear in the ‘organic search results’ of the engine. Typically, the fee is based on a ‘cost per click,’ depending on the category of site content.

V-Z

Visitor Segmentation: Differentiating of users to site by categories such as age, sex, etc.

Visit: Measurement that has been filtered for robotic activity of one or more text and/or graphics downloads from a site without 30 consecutive minutes of inactivity and which can be reasonably attributed to a single browser for a single session.

Web 2.0: Also referred to as the Semantic Web. In this iteration, sites, links, media and databases are ‘smarter’ and able to automatically convey more meaning than those of today.

Widget: A small application designed to reside on a PC desktop or within a Web-based portal or social network site offering useful or entertaining functionality.

XML (eXtensible Markup Language): Its primary purpose is to facilitate the sharing of structured data across different information systems. It is used both to encode documents and to serialize data.

Get Inspired

Has this ever happened to you?

It’s late evening and your weekly newsletter, which would normally be queued for delivery on your autoresponder and blog by this time, is still nothing more than the vast white expanse of a blank Word document. Not only haven’t you written a word, you also don’t have the first clue what to write about, or which product you should try to sell.

Although you are usually passionate about your topic – organic vegetable gardening – you begin to wonder what the heck you were thinking when you chose to build a site around a seasonal niche.

Throughout the spring and summer, your income spiked nicely every time you sent out your weekly newsletter. As temperatures started to drop however, so did your subscribers’ interest, sales revenue and the better part of your motivation.

A vision of the repo man coming to get your new truck convinces you to persevere into the wee hours if necessary – but before long, the thought occurs that you simply have nothing to say on the subject and now you’re paralyzed with fear.

Well, fear not. Inability to select a topic, last-minute crisis writing and paralysis are all symptoms of writer’s block; something most writers experience at some time or another. With some strategic planning, you can prevent writer’s block, spark your imagination and earn commissions in any niche – at any time of year.

The first step is to build a “swipe” file that is chock-full of ideas for future articles and which you can access whenever you are in need of inspiration – and contrary to what the name may imply, a swipe file is not for copying other authors’ content to publish later, a.k.a “plagiarizing.” We just want to collect ideas from their work, such as headlines that grab your attention or unique topic ideas, and then create our own work based on the concept.

You can build a swipe file using an Excel spreadsheet with columns named for primary topic categories, suggested article titles, notes, relevant products and proposed publishing dates. If you have a number of sites on different subjects, create a new worksheet within the file for each topic.

Another method is to draft a post on your blog whenever you get an idea for an article. The post may consist of as little as a title and a few bullet points, but each time you log in to your blog’s interface, the draft titles will jog your memory about topics you can develop.

One of my swipe files currently holds 672 entries of both “swiped” titles and a number of fill-in-the-blank title suggestions such as “5 Quick Ways to ________,” “5 Brilliant Strategies for ________” and “How to Conquer _________.” There’s also a long list of emotional trigger words within the workbook. I find both the trigger words and the fill-in-the-blank titles are especially helpful when I already have a topic idea, but need some help crafting a catchy headline.

To start building your own swipe file, consider the following suggestions.

Although organic gardening is used as an example, the suggestions apply to any mainstream niche.

Search article directories

Article directories such as EzineArticles. com, GoArticles.com and ArticleCity. com are idea gold mines. My search for “organic gardening” at EzineArticles.com resulted in 1,540 articles targeted to people of different regions, skill levels and interests. From the results, you could quickly build a list of generic titles such as “Organic Gardening Supplies to Help You Get Started,” “Organic Weed Control” and “How to Grow Organic Tomatoes.”

Visit Amazon

At Earth’s Biggest Bookstore, I dug deeper into the topic and found Mike McGrath’s book, “You Bet Your Tomatoes! Fun Facts, Tall Tales, and a Handful of Useful Gardening Tips” at the top of the search results. Key phrases under the main title included “compost tea,” “sunny windowsill,” “Georgia Streak” and “Tomato Head.” If “Sunny windowsill” sparks an idea for an article about indoor tomato gardening, put it directly into your swipe file along with a link to the book.

Use the “Search Inside” feature to scan tables of contents. Sometimes an interesting chapter title will present a unique perspective on a topic. In this case, the first chapter is titled “Picking Your Tomatoes: Do all of these things have funny, rude, mysterious names?” which prompts an idea for an article about the best types of tomatoes to grow indoors.

While you’re at it, swipe the “Listmania!” title “The Dirt Diva’s Picks: A List of ‘Green’ Books to Save the Earth!” as a reminder to put your own Top 5 or 10 list of recommended books together.

Items such as the AeroGarden Indoor Gardening Kit and Felknor’s Topsy Turvy Upside-Down Tomato Planter can be added to the file as potential products to sell.

Visit relevant forums

Dig up what gardeners are saying right now at forums such as GardenWeb. com and HelpfulGardener. com. The latest posts with the most replies are a good indicator of hot topics.

Set up Google Alerts

To get the latest scoop on tomato hybrids, Google will send you email updates of its latest relevant search results. You can elect to receive Alerts once a day, as it happens or once a week from news sources, the Web, blogs, video or groups; or receive a comprehensive Alert with news from all five sources. Sign up at Google.com/alerts.

Read trade publications

Now you can finally put those stacks of old magazines to really good use! Subscribe to publications to stay current, and don’t forget to check whether your favorite magazine publishes an online version.

Poll your readers

Create a weekly survey and ask your readers what topics they would like you to cover. Regularly invite your readers to leave a comment on your blog by asking a question at the end of your post. Answers to such questions as “What’s your biggest gardening challenge?” will provide you with plenty of grist for the mill. The free Democracy polling plug-in can be downloaded at http://blog.jalenack.com/archives/ democracy/ or use the service at SurveyMonkey.com.

Use merchant resources

Review your merchants’ sites and recent newsletters to find out on which topics and products they are currently focusing. And although I usually advise against using merchant copy – because it is so overused by affiliates that your subscribers will question your credibility as an expert when they see it for the 10th time in your newsletter – in a real pinch, you could check a merchant’s affiliate interface for a well-written advertorial to publish on your blog. Better yet, use it as a basis to write your own product review.

Repurpose your content

If you wrote “Organic Garden To- Do List: March” in 2007, republish the piece in 2008 and incorporate any new tips you’ve picked up during the year.

Share your experience

What’s happening in your garden right now? Get out there, take some pictures, share your news and don’t forget to throw in some emotion! People are far more likely to respond to “Yikes! Giant green-horned caterpillars are eating my tomato plants!” than to yet another “Tomato Pest Management” article.

Those are but a few suggestions to get your swipe file started. Try to add to it frequently so that you always have fresh article ideas at hand.

Ideally, it’s best to create a publishing plan and work at least two to three months in advance. For example, you should be planning for Christmas in September and writing your spring articles in the dead of winter.

Not only does having a swipe file with a plan completely remove the stress of “crisis writing,” but it frees you up to react swiftly when there is breaking news within your industry. Best of all, advance planning and preparation give you the freedom to get out in the garden without looming deadlines to spoil your fun.

Rexanne Mancini: The Free Thinker

Mancini says she thought the Internet was the wave of the future and wanted a way to connect and be part of it. She waited to get on the Internet until after her younger daughter’s third birthday because she had the feeling that once she got on it she would never get off. And she was right.

Although she knew she wanted to sell something online, she had no idea what. She says she just had a feeling that “the Internet was going to be the place to be.”

In the beginning, Mancini wanted to reach out to other parents about her unique parenting philosophy, so she covered topics ranging from spanking to setting limits for children to self-esteem issues. As she built a community with returning visitors, her site gained traffic and she won several awards, including AOL’s Page of the Week.

Early on, she included a link to Amazon as part of their early affiliate program, Amazon Associates, which is how she discovered affiliate marketing. Her first sale was an Amazon book that she recommended, called Parents Please Don’t Sit on Your Kids. Although Amazon helped her figure out the business model of affiliate marketing, her beginning days were filled with trial and error.

She was aware of the wants and needs of parents because she was a stay-at-home mom. Mancini wrote about issues that came up in her day-to-day life and then researched retailers that sold merchandise appropriate to the topic. She tried merchants she thought would make sense for a family-oriented site like hers, such as Disney and Hallmark, but found those did not convert.

“I learned about affiliate marketing by the seat of my pants at first,” Mancini says. She didn’t start to make “real” money until she found and joined the online marketing forum ABestWeb.com. By participating in the various discussions on the forum and reading advice from others, she learned why she wasn’t making money and how “to turn traffic into gold.” In 1998, she built out her website into sections to offer holiday items for Halloween and Christmas.

But then in 2000, Mancini decided to take a full-time job and began working for an online traffic school. After a few months, another Internet company doing online video made her a much better offer. Even though she was managing everything from shipping to customer service, the company allowed her to work from home. That freedom gave her time to build out her own site.

Mancini says that both companies were very successful online, and having the firsthand opportunity to “see the power of Internet marketing from different angles was very exciting.”

Still, Mancini realized if she devoted the huge amount of energy she was putting into the online video company into her own effort, she could really be successful. That’s when she quit her job and jumped into affiliate marketing full time. Leaving her day job wasn’t her goal at the time, but when she began to make more money with affiliate marketing, she knew she had to concentrate on her own business.

Around that time, she decided to get her own domain in order to start a newsletter. Because Mancini had a somewhat unusual first name, she thought that might work well for building a brand. Even though the domain name had nothing in it to indicate that it was a family site, Mancini went with her instincts and bought www.Rexanne.com.

According to Mancini, the newsletter turned out to be an instrumental way for her to build community and keep people coming back. Currently, her site continues to get a surge in traffic when she sends out a newsletter. She says it is a great way to keep her in front of her visitors. One successful tactic she uses is to introduce a theme in the newsletter and then carry that same topic over to the forums on her website for people to debate.

Against the Grain

Not one to shy away from controversy, Mancini writes about topics not typically in line with mainstream thinking, and she’s not afraid to take a strong position on issues. She often ends up being “quite controversial without trying to be.”

When she writes about topics like immunizations, fluoride in toothpaste and talking to your kids about sex, debates among her audience ensue. For example, she was surprised to find out that 64 percent of her audience believes in spanking, because to her it seems so archaic. “It was shocking to be in the minority.”

Mancini also found out that her beliefs about childhood vaccinations and inoculations are the minority. Her father was a holistic doctor who started a movement against the polio vaccine and was instrumental in making sure that parents know their rights regarding mandatory inoculations in schools. She believes that vaccines can damage kids’ immune systems and thinks it’s crazy for infants to be exposed to an onslaught of disease. She feels the same about circumcision – infants should not be exposed to that type of pain when they don’t understand it.

Many of her ideas for what to write about stem from what to her seems like common sense. Mancini says she didn’t know anything about children before having her own – except that she had absolute beliefs about parenting and raising a sane, healthy child. “I found myself wanting to be the type of mother I wish I had had and wanting to protect my kids from a lot of mainstream beliefs and parenting advice that I felt was wrong and dangerous.” Her strongest belief is that children need to be loved and cherished and filled with positive self-images.

La Dolce Vita

Mancini’s own childhood was unique. She was born and raised in Los Angeles and lived there until she was 10 years old when her family moved to Rome, Italy. Mancini stayed in Rome for more than a decade before she returned home to the States at 21. She likes to embrace the spirit of the Roman culture – she loves life and thinks it should be enjoyed. One of Mancini’s mottos is that life is supposed to be fun and she doesn’t like to do something unless it is fun.

Her positive outlook and sunny disposition transcends to all aspects of her life. She lives with her two daughters, Justice, 19 years old, and Liberty, 13; Frankie the dog; and her cats, Holiday and Sage, in Studio City in the San Fernando Valley. She loves living in Los Angeles because of the weather, people and the opportunities that it offers.

Although Mancini loves her affiliate marketing job, she also has a passion for music, and sometimes freelances as a music supervisor for films and television. She’s careful only to take on music jobs that allow her to do some of the work at home so that she can keep up with her sites. It’s the creative process behind fitting the perfect music with a film that she loves and she says her specialty is finding unpublished songs and building a soundtrack of great unknown music. Before she started doing music supervision, she ran a music publishing and production company where she discovered new artists and songs for current recording artists.

In addition, she’s had a small acting role in the 2004 film, “Yard Sale.”

Her love of creativity and freedom makes her well-suited for affiliate marketing. She has also made lots of friends and enjoys the camaraderie of the affiliate marketing community. She’s a vocal and active poster on ABestWeb.com and enjoys friendships with many others involved in the forum. She counts many ABWers as close friends and some she considers her family. She’s also forged relationships through conferences and events like the Affiliate Summit and ShareASale’s annual Think Tank gathering of affiliates and merchants, which she “wouldn’t think about missing.”

Mancini is a big fan of ShareASale because she finds the network to be “honest and honorable.” It doesn’t hurt that ShareASale’s merchants also convert well on her site. She really noticed the difference in her traffic when she switched to ShareASale. Mancini doesn’t work much with LinkShare anymore because she claims she did not have much success with the merchants converting for her. AvantLink is her No. 2 choice in networks.

Secret to Her Success

For Mancini, one of the most important traits needed by an affiliate marketer is the ability to write well. Whether it is ad copy or telling a story – she says marketers need to be able to relay information effectively. She’s been successful at starting and growing a parenting site, even though there is so much competition online, because she has a unique voice. That has earned her a loyal audience that continues to come to her site for advice on issues like baby showers, teacher appreciation, how to care for infants, and birthdays. She matches these pages with affiliate links.

She says the products that sell the best for her today are Halloween costumes and holiday items for Christmas. Although she knows that apparel is a big online seller, she has not yet found a niche that works well for her, and she also has not had much success with learning products. Among her best sellers are Barbies, because they never seem to go out of style and girls love them – and grandparents and parents love to buy them.

Rexanne.com has more than 500 pages, and 10,000 visitors per day. The site gets up to 50,000 page views per day during the height of major holidays. Mancini allows advertising on most pages in the form of text links or buttons and banners. Because she has years of experience with affiliate programs, she understands what works and sells on her site and how and when to best reach visitors, and enjoys working with advertisers to help them achieve success on her site.

Because she loves to help people and finds it very satisfying, her site features parenting articles on topics like school overplacement, sex offender laws, and routines and schedules for children. Two years ago, she added forums to her site and found that they are a great way to build community. Topics include family photo albums, humor, prayer requests, and parenting issues like pregnancy and adolescence.

One area of her website she is building out is devoted to raising young ladies, and it focuses on topics such as how to be articulate, and improve appearance, confidence and grooming. However, Mancini points out that she doesn’t recommend any products or services she doesn’t believe in. For example, she will not promote an acne product if she doesn’t think it works.

Her honesty and straightforward attitude is another reason her site is successful, she believes. It’s a comfortable place for parents because she is a real person and not a corporation that is pushing products or an agenda on them.

Despite her Roman upbringing, Mancini is a Buddhist. The Buddhist philosophy plays a big role in her outlook on raising a child with kindness and compassion. Her signature line in forum postings is “loving everyone’s child creates magic.” She is truly caring about the world’s children and believes that adults should be open and honest with them. She sends her kids to private Catholic high school because it is a blue-ribbon school close to where she lives, but talks with them after school regarding what they learn philosophically to make sure it is in step with her beliefs.

In the future, Mancini plans to follow her heart into one of her other passions – and start a separate food and cooking site. She already has a separate section of her site devoted to recipes and gourmet cooking as well as a forum devoted to topics where users can exchange recipes. Enjoying food as well as family is definitely in step with her life philosophy.

Marketing Reality: Q & A with Joel Comm

Joel Comm has been building websites for over 12 years. He sold his first business to Yahoo in 1997 and it became Yahoo Games. Comm is the author of several best-selling e-books, as well as The AdSense Code, a New York Times best seller. His next venture is as the creator and producer of the online reality show “The Next Internet Millionaire.” The show, which is an “Apprentice”-type reality show being filmed in Loveland, Co., will air only online. The show features 12 contestants vying for a $25,000 prize and chance to start a business with Comm. It began taping in late July and started airing on the Web in mid-August. There will be 12 episodes and the winner will be announced in November. Comm spoke with Revenue Editor-in-Chief Lisa Picarille about the stigma of e-books, why the time is right for an online-only reality show and why viewers find marketing as compelling as he does.

LISA PICARILLE: Given the success of your books, are you making most of your money as an online marketer or as an author?

JOEL COMM: Many people got caught with their pants down when the bubble burst in 2000. I learned my lesson and have become a believer in multiple revenue streams. I now generate revenue through books, affiliate programs, courses, content sites, public speaking and advertising. The more you can position yourself as an authority, the more options become available for monetizing your brand.

LP: How do you get your books noticed with all the noise out there?

JC: I think it’s important to stand out from the rest of the crowd by creating a product that is more than another “me too” book. You have to give people original content and deliver it in a way that makes it accessible to a larger portion of the population. Of course, it never hurts to have great affiliate partners who believe in you and are eager to promote your products.

LP: Also, there is somewhat of a negative stigma associated with e-books as get-rich-quick schemes. What do you do to combat that image?

JC: There have always been snake-oil salesmen. There will always be snake-oil salesmen. Just like the television preachers who make legitimate evangelists look bad, there are so-called marketers who use legitimate techniques for illegitimate business models. People can frequently see through the game of the charlatans. I would hope the public would not throw out the baby with the bathwater. The best I, and other legitimate infopreneurs, can do is provide quality products that really help people. That’s one reason I post testimonials on my pages with full names, and audio when possible. It lets people know that there are others who are really succeeding with my material.

LP: Just curious ” there are many people who sort of bash the ‘gurus.’ What you think about people out there like RichJerk.com?

JC: It’s all just a show for those guys. I don’t care for RJ’s style of marketing. I guess there is money in condescending to people, but I sure wouldn’t want to have that as my claim to fame. If what I do doesn’t have a positive influence on people’s lives, I should probably be doing something else.

LP: You have a coaching club. Explain exactly how it works and what prompted you to start it.

JC: Once people have my book or course, they sometimes request assistance consuming the material. Having a coaching club where members can receive new material and teaching on an ongoing basis can make a huge difference in whether or not they succeed. It’s one thing to have information that can make you money. It’s another to implement what you have learned and take action on it. The same thing that attracts many people to making money online is the thing that can become one of the biggest obstacles to success. In other words, we want to be able to work at home in our pajamas, but it is difficult to stay motivated and disciplined when you have no one to answer to but yourself … in your pajamas. A coaching club and other continuity programs help people stay on track so they can reach their goals faster and with greater efficiency.

LP: Your newest venture is ‘The Next Internet Millionaire.’ How did the idea come about?

JC: Early this year, I began playing with the concept of producing my own reality show. As a reality TV fan, I realized that no one had attempted to do a competitive show on the Internet. As I spoke with my joint venture partner, Eric Holmlund, I discovered that he had a desire to get into video production. Our discussions led to planning, and here we are with the world’s very first competitive Internet reality show.

LP: Why do you think the time is right for this show right now?

JC: Reality shows are a cultural phenomenon. Video on the Internet is all the rage. And regular people are looking for ways to leverage the power of the Internet to bring in some extra cash. It’s a perfect storm whose time has come.

LP: Do you think that having the show air only online negates some of the legitimacy? If it is a good idea, why not try and get broadcast TV to pick it up?

JC: Broadcast TV is losing viewers faster than you can say dot.com. The Internet is the new medium of choice, and one of my goals is to prove that there is a significant audience who is eager to embrace original programming on the Web, provided it is compelling and professionally produced. I don’t believe that anyone has created a production solely for the Web that is of the scale that this project is. If the TV networks want to pick up the series in syndication, I’d be interested in speaking with them, but I’ve never considered selling the show to a network out of the gate. I guess you could say that I am on a mission to prove that the time is right for this concept.

LP: OK, I hate to admit it but I’m a reality show junkie. I’m also a marketing junkie. Yet I’m not sure that I’ll actually watch this show, because it is only online. What do you say to those who may share my opinion?

JC: You’ll be missing out. Having spent the past two weeks of my life on the set with my guests and crew, I can tell you that this is going to be an incredibly entertaining and educational series. Every speaker and sponsor who has visited the set has been overwhelmed at the scope, uniqueness and professionalism of the production, with several people staying longer than intended just to hang out on the set! We’re breaking new ground, and those who watch will see a historical event online unfold before their eyes. Yes, it’s that cool.

LP: What is the target demographic for the show? Who do you think will be watching it?

JC: Our obvious base is the Internet marketing and affiliate marketing crowd. However, we have designed the show and our promotions to appeal to a more mainstream audience. I have never wanted to spend time in misery on a desert island, but I enjoy “Survivor.” And most people will never be pop icons, but millions watch “American Idol.” In the same way, “The Next Internet Millionaire” will appeal to a broad segment of the population, with the additional benefit of reaching an audience on the other side of the world via the Internet.

LP: You have a group of a dozen well-known marketing folks (teachers) who are working with you on the show. What is their role?

JC: I wanted to expose our contestants and viewers to some of the most successful marketers in the world. Unlike other reality shows, I wanted the content of “The Next Internet Millionaire” to go beyond entertainment into the educational realm. The experts who have been on location have been teaching our contestants about product creation, copywriting, branding, viral marketing and a number of other strategies and techniques for building a successful online business. These contestants must then apply their newfound knowledge to a relevant and entertaining challenge each day. It has been a privilege to work alongside such legends as Mark Joyner, Armand Morin, Marlon Sanders and Perry Marshall. The experts also play a role in the judging of challenges, as well as advising me on who they believe should be eliminated from the competition.

LP: The show runs 12 weeks, but you only spend a little over two weeks to film the entire show. Is that enough time to see the traits you are looking for in a winner?

JC: Yes. In fact, I’ve been amazed at how quickly we’ve been able to observe these traits. The contestants bonded on the very first day and the intensity of the competition has continued to increase. You really get to see what people are made of when put under a strict time crunch to complete a task. There are so many excellent qualities in our contestants, that while I’m certain we will end up with a great joint venture partner for me, each of the contestants will most likely go on to do some very significant things in the future.

LP: The winner of ‘The Next Internet Millionaire’ will receive $25,000 and get to start a business venture with you. Do you have a particular idea in mind already?

JC: No. I went into the audition process and the actual competition looking for a person, not a project. As I got to know the contestants on the set, I began thinking about what kind of project would be the ideal fit for each individual. Marketing is marketing. The key is to have the right partner. Once you’ve got that, there are always more ideas than there is time to execute. So I’m confident that my new partner and I will put together a fantastically successful product.

LP: How much input and financial investment does the winner have in the venture to be launched?

JC: The partner will have significant input in the venture, as well as a time investment. We will work closely together to develop the product concept and execution. It’s going to be very exciting to see it all come together.

LP: The show is called ‘The Next Internet Millionaire.’ That sort of puts the idea out that the winner will make at least a million dollars. But what if the venture doesn’t live up to those expectations?

JC: I’m not concerned about that. We make it clear that the winner will receive $25,000 and an opportunity for a joint venture with me. Certainly, I and my team will do everything in our power to build another success story with our winner. But my very first deal wasn’t a million-dollar deal. It was, however, a step in the direction that led me to where I am today. My goal is to build a success story with our winner. And while there is always the chance that we won’t make a million dollars right away, I’m confident that our work together will set the winner on the path to being the next Internet millionaire.

LP: You’ve enjoyed years of success. Does that make you more or less anxious about how this new show might be received by the public and your peers?

JC: Not at all. Once again, every one of my peers who has visited the set has been completely blown away at the scope and professionalism of this production. Several of them decided to hang around longer after they got a taste for what is happening here. The buzz is just beginning and I’m confident that we have a groundbreaking hit on our hands. How many people will have the opportunity to say that they created the world’s first competitive Internet reality show? Just one. Whether the public accepts it as a pop culture phenomenon or not, I can’t imagine ever regretting this project. If you aren’t willing to take significant risks, you will never reap the significant rewards. Besides, I’m having a blast.

Kim Rowley: The Marketing Mama

Rowley is a successful affiliate marketer who runs 50 websites and also has her hands full raising four kids. Still, she found time to design her own house from the ground up and manages to shuttle between Nebraska and Denver to see her boyfriend every other weekend.

She has an easygoing manner, and carries the enthusiasm of someone just a few years out of high school even though she’s 34 and has been through a tumultuous seven years, which included a divorce.

Rowley says she didn’t have the best of childhoods. Her parents were also divorced. At the time it was scandalous for the tiny town of Pierce, Neb., (population about 1,700), which she describes as “very fl at.” She graduated in a class of 50 and she says that living in a very small town has its good aspects and bad. Her plan was to leave as soon as possible. She wanted to become a commercial artist, maybe make TV commercials, maybe light out on the promise of a track scholarship. But then at 17 years old, she got pregnant, subsequently married and stayed in Pierce.

Her oldest son, Taylor, is now 16. She has twin daughters, Macy and Mallory – who were preemies weighing 2 pounds each at birth – are 13. Her youngest son, Tatym, is 4. Taylor and Macy have been diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), something they inherited from their father, says Rowley. It makes for a busy household and Rowley says driving them more than two hours away to the doctor in Omaha can be trying. While OCD can be controlled with medicine, Rowley says she still gets great pleasure from raising her kids and designed a nice “bonus room” in her new house where her daughter can “rock her head,” her way of making sense of the day. The oldest can drive the younger ones to summer sports activities now and Rowley’s sister often helps out.

She says she feels more stable without her ex-husband, who she said liked to spend money a bit too much. “He basically remarried soon after our divorce was final,” she says. She learned his “mood swings” were OCD after the kids were diagnosed. He was a pilot by hobby and the plane she bought him went with him when he faded from town.

She says she’s the talk of the town, but not because people are peeking over the fence at her private life. In the time she’s been an affiliate marketer, she designed from scratch and built a brand new 4,000-square-foot house on what the neighbors call “snob hill.” She drew out the design on graph paper and turned it over to contractors to come up with a budget and then construct the home. She says she wants to do it again because there were so many things she wants to improve on already. While she designed an office for herself, she realizes now that it isn’t big enough because that’s where everyone tends to congregate.

A DIY Attitude

This speaks to her do-it-yourself attitude in nearly everything she does. In the beginning of her affiliate career she knew nothing of online marketing. One night in one of her first experiences with the Internet she typed “html” into Yahoo and, bam, a whole new world opened up. She taught herself HTML when she was a physician’s assistant in the local doctor’s office. She chased a college degree in business administration at night and completed it after nine years. Her first site was on Tripod.

PreemieTwins.com was her first affiliate site. As an avid coupon clipper, she started with coupons on her own sites and then realized she could actually get paid for doing it. At first, she says, it was still a hobby while working at the doctor’s office. Then in 1999 she started getting checks. Since 2001, she has supported herself solely off her affiliate sites. One of her first programs was with Staples, who at the time was with Be-Free. She thought it was win-win because customers get the savings and she gets the commissions. From there she signed up for a whole bunch – Amazon.com, LinkShare’s More.com drugstore and others. Now-defunct e-currency site Flooz.com once named her “best affiliate.”

Now some of her sites include AllBabyDeals.com, CoffeeAffiliate-Blog.com, EnterOnlineSweeps.com, FreeCameraPrints.com, Florist-Village.com, FreePregnancyCalculator.com, OneDayOnlyDeals.com, RxSaver.net, TopLineWatches.com and WorkInMyPajamas.com. She founded Shoeaholics Anonymous and launched a deal site at House- ForKim.com when she was building her new house.

Most of her sites are blogs, with frequent updates written by Rowley and her two aunts. Her older son chips in by swapping coupon codes and adding links to her ShoppingBookmarks.com. She’s trying to get him to learn to code in PHP so he can teach it to her. She says he is more technically inclined and wants to design computer games eventually. She’d like to get her boyfriend to work for her as well. She says she always has fresh ideas for new things and keeps a pen and paper by her bed to jot down brainstorms in the middle of the night, like an idea for a blog or a new domain name.

Blogging and the Personal Touch

If you go to any of her sites, the blogs are breezy and conversational. There is certainly no hard-sell here and that’s probably why she sees the traffic she does. A typical ShoppingBookmarks.com blog entry goes something like: “On Sunday, I wanted to go to Sam’s Club in Sioux City to stock up on some staple items (you know, lasagna, pizza pockets, crab rangoons), so asked my sister if she wanted to ride along. Sure, as she wanted to go shopping at the mall for some clothes.

My oh my, did she dink around at every store. I did buy a few tops at Deb’s to wear to Miami next month, but I mostly sat around and waited for her.”

Her personal touch includes posting a photo of herself every Friday wearing a different T-shirt she got for free. She’s just as likely to detail the pregnancy progress of her cousin’s twins or tell you what she found when she Googled one of her favorite authors. Blogs on Eva Longoria’s flip-flops come to her as easily as the need to quote the words to Reba McEntire songs on her PreemieTwins.com blog. She’ll chronicle exactly what novels she reads, having recently discovered the joy of reading. “I was not a reader at all. I never even made it to the end of a newspaper article.” Now she reads what she calls “chick flick” books – Match Me If You Can; 4 Blondes; Mine Are Spectacular and Be Honest – You’re Not That Into Him Either, among other titles.

A year and half ago she met a guy who grew up nine miles away but now lives in Denver. They didn’t know each other growing up but met when he was back in town for a visit. Now they have a nearly virtual relationship – they IM most of the day, talk on the phone at night and every other weekend she meets him halfway to Denver. Sometimes she’ll drive three hours, and then take a one-hour flight to Denver. Long term, she says, the goal is to move perhaps to Denver. Or maybe he moves back here, she says. Her son has been looking at colleges in Denver, so you never know, she says.

A Daily Dose of Reality

Rowley says that even though she thinks she clocks in about 12 hours in front of her computer, the day is broken up by daily life with four kids. The day starts at about 6:30 in the morning. The kids get lunch money (unless they want to make their own lunch). In her small town there is one elementary school and one high school. When the kids are off to school, she checks email and stats and sometimes forgets to eat. If her stats reveal more visitors around a particular keyword, she’ll build a page around that keyword. She really likes naps, so there might be a short snooze in the middle of the day.

In the meantime, there is also her son’s football practice; soccer and volleyball for her daughters; and dance classes. Her regular commitments include the PTA Booster Club, volunteering at SCORE to give advice to small business owners in the next town over and this year she’s president of the Kiwanis Club.

As involved as she is in the community, Rowley says the majority of people in town still have a hard time grasping what she does. “Nobody really knows what I do,” she says. “Rumors include that I was doing porn in my basement.” Once or twice a week people will come up to her and say they want to do what she does. And then they interrogate her with a million questions. So she set up WorkInMyPajamas.com to tell people about affiliate marketing – such as where to post a press release, good hosting firms, how to use templates and other observations of the affiliate world. She also runs ShoppingKim.com to introduce readers to couponing. If that weren’t enough, she set up her boyfriend, Patrick, with a blog and is helping roll out Foster57.com, a blog network named after the town he grew up in with a population of 57.

Staying on top of it all is now second nature. “I do what I can to read up and I go to forums,” she says. Her favorites are ABestWeb and WebmasterWorld.com. And if she can give a little back from what she learns, all the better for the affiliate community at large. She loves to go to the Affiliate Summit conference and has been to every one, she says. “The networking is great there.” In fact, she’d like to do more traveling and dreams of having homes all over the world. “I’d like to see every country.” But she’s not necessarily dreaming of living the high life, sipping champagne by the shore. She says she’d like to do missionary work in a third-world country. When she worked in the doctor’s office, they would donate surplus medicines to the nuns and saw what a little help can do for the greater good.

She readily admits that she is not the best housekeeper in the world and says pretty plainly that she doesn’t really cook or clean, but is still dedicated to running a happy house through her hard work and making sure her kids get what they need. “I can’t see myself retiring,” she says, and really has a very long time before that would ever be an issue. She has way too many blogs to update – and that PHP won’t learn itself.

Home Office Advantage

Many online marketers started out working from home as a way to escape the Dilbert-like cubicle farms of corporate life in favor of a flexible schedule. And while these home-based workers may have managed to avoid rush-hour traffic, endless meetings and the watchful eye of superiors, their work life is hardly about hanging out in pajamas.

According to 2000 U.S. Census data, more than 4.2 million people choose to work at home on a daily basis. And while the solitary work life can pose unique challenges for the self-employed, there are even more distinct technical, organizational and social skills needed to be successful (and remain sane) while working from home when you are part of a larger entity.

Online commerce has multiplied the opportunities for working as part of a virtual organization. Since technology (in the form of fast Internet access, file sharing and Web-based applications) has made it relatively easy to earn a living online, virtual office managers should focus on implementing strategies that often differ from what occurs in corporate America. You need to concentrate on sharing documents online, streamlining communications and organizing your time.

Put Your Work Online

In the corporate world of days gone by, workers kept their files on their PCs or on password-only accessible servers, protecting their documents as if they were the launch sequence for nuclear weapons. Now personal lives – through blogs, photo sharing and MySpace – are rapidly moving online, and work life should not be any different.

Making your relevant business documents and files available to peers will increase creativity and enhance productivity. From business strategy papers to spreadsheets to brainstorming notes, sharing documents online is essential to getting input from co-workers who aren’t in the same ZIP code.

Sharing your documents also eliminates the clutter of emailing documents back and forth and the frustration of sorting through folders to find out where you previously saved attachments. Maintaining a shared calendar through Google Calendar or Apple’s iCal can eliminate email strings that attempt to nail down an open time for a conference call.

Virtual office workers don’t usually have an IT department or top-heavy applications such as Lotus Notes to store and share their files, which many workers will consider a blessing. By organizing a common set of online folders, co-workers can quickly survey all aspects of a project and stay on top of progress.

Several secure online services simplify making files accessible to co-workers. Free services Google Docs and Spreadsheets and Microsoft’s Live Folders allow you to store up to 500 megabytes of content, while Apple’s iDrive permits 1 gigabyte of storage. The services enable you to specify the people (via their email addresses and passwords) with access. Subscription services such as Box.net offer additional security, storage capacity (up to 15 gigabytes) and workgroup features for around $20 per month.

“I feel like I know what my team is doing much more than I did when I was in an office,” says Sam Harrelson, general manager for the U.S. for search marketing firm Clicks2Customers. “I can access [what I need] at any time instead of having to go down the hall to ask someone for a document.” Getting into the habit of storing files online and using a Web-based email service also provides access to files when you are away from your virtual office.

Harrelson, who works from his home in Asheville, North Carolina, manages staff in other states and reports to management in South Africa. He recommends putting documents online through social network sites to save time. He and his peers use a private Facebook group to share files and store contact information, thus creating a public Rolodex. Clicks2Customers uses a private wiki to trade ideas, and it also enables individual contributions to be identified. Harrelson also recommends setting up an RSS feed to track a project’s evolution.

Basecamp, an online service developed by 37 Signals, provides extensive workgroup functionality including project management, file sharing and messaging, but at a much lower price than the corporate applications that often require IT interventions.

Bambi Francisco, the founder of Web startup Vator.tv, says her company uses filesharing service Basecamp to manage its software development effort, which is primarily done in Pakistan. The site includes to-do lists, milestone tracking and messaging/ comment threads that can automatically generate emails or RSS feeds. Centralizing all of the files and messages related to a project in a single location will keep everyone on task and makes the necessary information always available.

Controlling Communications

Francisco says written documents and messaging can simplify communications between people with accents and for whom English is not their primary language. Her peers were all born outside of the U.S., and reading an email or online status report can be easier than phone conversations. “Email has never been more important [for her business communications],” she says.

The isolation of the virtual office requires the most dramatic change in work routine and psychological adjustment. For a “people person,” having only the office furniture (and perhaps a pet) for company can create a yearning for the digital approximation of human contact. Virtual office workers need to become comfortable with cyber relationships and appropriately using instant messaging and telephone/videoconferencing.

In many cases, instant messaging is the most efficient method of getting questions answered or discussing a pressing matter. Making a phone call is a commitment – social convention dictates the exchange of salutations, and ending a conversation after just a few minutes can feel awkward. IM doesn’t have these limitations, and keeping an IM window to a peer open enables both parties to continue working in between messages.

Because of the usually immediate feedback, IM is replacing email as the most effective communications tool for virtual office dwellers. Email has become “more of a social application,” according to Harrelson, who uses it as a last resort if a peer isn’t online.

Shawn Collins, co-founder of the Affiliate Summit, who runs his company with partner Missy Ward, from New Jersey while she’s in Florida, also has another employee in Virginia, and some event staff in Colorado. He agrees that his biggest challenge is not having face-to-face interaction with his team. However, he estimates that he only speaks with Ward a few times a week, but emails her at least a dozen times per day. He also says they IM constantly and if one of them is on the road, the text messages are flying fast and furiously.

IM applications such as Skype, AOL’s AIM, and Yahoo or Windows Live Messenger can also be used for internal voice and videoconferencing, but the free services don’t take the place of an in-person client meeting. Vator.tv’s Francisco relies on Skype as her primary instant messaging and voice connection in her home office in San Francisco. Since her co-workers in Denver and Austria also use Skype, there is no need to pay for conference-calling features and the $35 annual fee for a business line enables her to call anyone.

A landline may not be necessary for virtual offices looking to keep costs down. Between Skype and a cell phone, Francisco is able to sufficiently stay in touch with peers and clients. However, virtual office workers cannot fully rely on instant messaging and voice communications. Meeting people in person or at least seeing their faces provides important but unspoken information about co-workers and business associates.

Videoconferencing, which can be done through inexpensive webcams, can provide a greater comfort level with peers whom you rarely or never meet in person. “It’s a visual world, and you want to see images of people,” says Francisco, whose company introduces entrepreneurs to venture capitalists through videos. She uses her webcam in conjunction with instant messaging chats and voice calls during many of her online discussions.

While videoconferencing suffices for many co-worker conversations, meeting in person is preferred when starting new business relationships, although she has signed one business deal without ever meeting someone from the company in person. “For partnerships I like to meet with people,” she says.

A New Approach

Communicating with affiliates who are accustomed to an independent work life can require a different approach. “Affiliates are not required to be good communicators; they just need to build a legitimate site or service that makes money, and they’re in,” says Mike Kansa, an affiliate from Arcata, Calif. Kansa is part of the FlamingoWorld.com team, which started as a one-woman affiliate venture. Connie Berg, the founder, has become a super-affiliate and her business has grown to such successful proportions that she now employs seven workers scattered all over the U.S.

Kansa, who has also worked as an outsourced program manager, says being effective can be more important than personal communication skills. “Today someone could probably grow to super-affiliate status and not talk with a single person along the way.”

Some affiliates who have never experienced cubicle life “may lack the organizational skills of working in a fast-paced, deadline-oriented office,” so the importance of deadlines must be reinforced, Kansa says. But he believes “individuals working from different environments help to add diversity to our industry.”

Organize the Day

Keeping focused on work despite the temptation of a sunny day or laundry that needs to be washed can be too great a challenge. “Some people have been a disaster; they can’t do what needs to be done because of distractions,” says Anne Fognano, the “Momma in Charge” at CleverMoms.com, who left the corporate world in 1999 to spend more time around her children. She finds it is easier to get work done outside of the corporate environment. “I used to have a lot of distractions … people would hang out in the cubicle to chat,” she says.

One of the biggest advantages of maintaining a virtual office from home is the convenience of being able to work at any time. That can also be a downside. The convenience of working at any hour can also be ruinous, and your co-workers may not share the same schedule.

Virtual office workers tend to work more of their hours outside of nine to five than the corporate set. This can be an advantage if you use technical people who live in different time zones, especially the growing number of qualified programmers and designers in Asia. Late night (U.S. time) can be prime time overseas, and planning ahead to work late and give yourself a break during the day will reduce the likelihood of burnout.

Recruiting technical help when you don’t have an office near an urban center can be a time drain, and since so much work is done remotely, there is no need to limit the geography of contract workers. Vator.tv’s Francisco posts available positions on her websites and asks candidates to submit video applications.

oDesk, a website for finding global technical talent, has an extensive database of local and international contractors. The site assigns “virtual team rooms” to coordinate project activities and takes care of international currency exchanges, according to CEO Gary Swart. The company manages the hourly billing, and oDesk customers provide ratings of the contractors. oDesk charges a 10 percent premium on top of the fees earned by the tech workers.

Scheduling regular videoconference or phone calls with team members will encourage people to meet their deadlines since no one likes to be caught unprepared at a meeting. Scheduling phone calls can reduce the number of spontaneous conversations that were meant to answer a single issue, but often turn into productivity-chewing marathons.

The biggest challenge for virtual workers is fighting the urge to check email or do “just a few things” during what is supposed to be leisure or family time. “I try not to be in my office unless I’m working,” says affiliate Kansa. “If I want to do personal stuff on my computer, I take it outside of my office.”

Collins says he’s very flexible about his schedule, but attempts to adhere to 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. “office hours.” He will only take calls during those hours and stops working at 6 o’clock to spend time with his family, which includes four young children. However, by 10:00 p.m., when the rest of the family is in bed, he starts his “second shift,” which typically lasts until 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. It’s at that time that he answers emails and gets a lot of his busy work accomplished.

Collins says that time zones aren’t an issue for him, since he’s flexible and works with like-minded people. “Both Missy and I keep somewhat unconventional hours,” he says. “So if we need to have a call with someone in Australia at midnight our time, that’s fine.”

He also notes that for the Affiliate Summit in the U.K., he and Ward are partnering with Jess Luthi, who lives in the U.K., but that the five-hour time difference has yet to be a problem. “She’s in London, but she keeps odd hours. We see her online at all hours of the day and night, so there hasn’t been an issue with communicating.”

Clicks2Customers’ Harrelson says relying on a cell phone as your business line lets you answer questions as they arise, but makes getting away from work a challenge. “It’s all about balance,” he says. “Overdoing it doesn’t help. But then I find myself working some days until 2:00 a.m., and starting again at 6:00 a.m.”

The Trust Issue

Working in a virtual office involves a greater level of trust since you rarely, if ever, get together with co-workers. Home workers don’t have the hearty handshake or leisurely lunch to bond with peers or clients, so they must have faith that their digital communications provide an adequate representation of the people with whom they interact. Being skeptical when a person is out of touch is natural, and virtual workers have to fight the urge to assume the worst if an assignment is missed or someone goes missing for a few hours.

“When I first started my business, I was more trusting about whom I hired. Now I get non-compete and confidentiality agreements,” says CleverMom’s Fognano. Fognano has never met a woman she manages who lives hundreds of miles away but, “As long as she does her job, it works out well.” Fognano makes a point of attending several industry events each year to get the necessary face time with partners and peers.

Those who have successfully worked from home are attractive candidates for employers, should they choose to reenter the corporate life, according to Harrelson. Virtual office workers who perform can be trusted to work independently, a desirable trait, he says, “… If you are producing results in a remote environment, [that means] you are a flexible person who can get something done.”

John Gartner is a Portland, Ore.-based freelance writer who contributes to Wired News, Inc., MarketingShift and is the editor of Matter-mag.com

The Wealth in Health

A work-at-home marketer complained that he gained 30 pounds in the last few years when his home-run online marketing business became successful. In fact, his wife stopped working, he was doing so well. He published an e-book on how he made it and he moved his family to a bigger house. He loves riding bikes with his kids and happily juggles his work hours and a new 11-month-old baby. A great success story, except that he just can’t lose that 30 pounds.

He does have a small office out of the house for the crunch times but also relishes the weekends when he can be with his family full time. He employs little tricks to keep his mind on his work, even getting up and dressing for work just to go downstairs and fire up his computer.

The trouble with being an affiliate marketer or any telecommuter is that working from a home office can be a strain on your health, family life and pocketbook if you don’t know the strategies and tricks to keep everything in order.

Setting Priorities

The last U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report stated that more than 25 million people now work from home. That’s about 15 percent of nonagricultural workers. It further breaks down to as many as 30 percent of management and professional workers (work-from-home employees were defined as those working at least one day per week from their home). That number is sure to grow by the end of 2007 and is the norm for affiliate marketers.

Many affiliates will say that business comes first, but keeping yourself and your family sane and healthy seems to fall by the wayside unless you have a set plan. It’s not just about getting to the gym. Affiliates have said it’s more a way of life – when you have a successful business, it gets harder and harder to balance work and sanity. There seem to be no clear strategies.

“My office was set up by trial and error,” says Wendy Piersall of eMoms. com. “It took months and even years to get it right. I tell people up front: Get your own office space.” Piersall is on her third home business, has kids and a husband with a full-time job outside the home. “The only way to figure how to balance things,” she says, “is when you are out of balance.”

Jeremy Palmer of QuitYourDayJob.com rents a small office but tries to use it only if he needs to have phone meetings. The rest of the time – if he has lots of computer work – he will stay at the home office, which is centrally located in his house. “We considered an office detached from the house,” Palmer says. “I was in a basement before with one little window, but then an office with no window killed my productivity. Having a window is important.”

Productivity as a Priority

Issues of productivity are not to be discounted. A BurstMedia.com survey indicates that employees are doing more of their personal business on work time. The survey said that 25.5 percent of workers said work hours were the “best time to conduct their personal online activities” and that 23.2 percent said faster connections to the Internet than at home were why they use the office connection for personal tasks while at work.

Some affiliates set down hard and fast rules to get them to be productive. Linda Buquet of 5StarAffiliatePrograms.com keeps a list of “reminders” of things to do to remain successful. She bought a watch that would remind her to say “thanks” to someone every time she looked at it. She believes in the “pay it forward” form of karma, where she will help out fellow affiliates just to help – without fee or commission. She keeps a “to do” list on paper and actually checks it off when things are completed. And she tries to blog about only the things she thinks will be helpful for readers in the industry and not just because the blog needs an update.

Shawn Collins of Shawn Collins Consulting also has a list of “daily habits” that keep him on track. He’s big on structure and relies on his Microsoft Outlook to prompt him about things he needs to do. He works only from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and stops immediately at the assigned hour to be with his family. He answers the phone right away and answers email as soon as he gets one to avoid falling behind. He portions his day so that he does email and research in the morning, meetings in the afternoon and uses the last hour of his day for tying up loose communication ends. He tries to keep a clean desk and clean email inbox.

For QuitYourDayJob’s Palmer, part of working healthy means streamlining your work processes. He has all the same equipment in his home office and his small satellite office so that he can just get in the car and go if the home walls are closing in on him. He uses GoToMyPC.com for remote access to his primary computer from any Internet-connected PC. He uses primarily Web-based applications – such as Gmail and Google Docs and Spreadsheets – so that everything he needs is virtual.

A Healthy Outlook

Apart from making lists, staying healthy doesn’t begin at the gym but at your desk. Having the right equipment to work healthy means being aware of what is right ergonomically. eMoms’ Piersall admits her ergonomics are not perfect. She says she began to have “major back problems.” She says, “For some reason working from home makes it hard to get away from the computer.” She went to the local store and tried every chair in the place until she found one that suited her. She says she may have read an article about choosing the right ergonomic chair but relied on intuition instead. The result was an “instantaneous difference.”

In addition, she tries to exercise because she says, “The healthier I feel, the more productive I feel.”

Palmer says part of his health regime – when he can’t get to the gym – is to ride a bike when he can, take the stairs whenever possible and to park in the farthest end of the lot and walk to his destination. His gym is very close to his satellite office and he sets a goal to go there at least twice a week.

But the gym isn’t for everyone.

Scott Hazard, founder and president of Cooperative Affiliates, says, “I really would rather go to the dentist than to the gym. I’m just not a gym person.” So instead, Hazard finds lots of small ways to incorporate exercise into his day.

“I make excuses to get out and do stuff,” he says. “Like right now, it’s the middle of the day and it’s hot as blazes but I’m going out to mow the lawn. I’m forcing myself to do stuff that takes me away from the computer.”

Hazard was doing a lot of walking, but recently moved and started to do a lot more yard work to get him out of his chair and moving. “I’m looking at a pile of dirt, a wheelbarrow, a shovel and yard full of holes. I could hire someone to take care of this in one day, but instead I’m doing it myself,” he says. “You really get a workout moving, loading and smoothing out 15 or more large wheelbarrows full of dirt.”

A Family Affair

Mostly unspoken but equally important is the way working at home affects a marriage or relationship. Oftentimes work-at-home online marketers end up doing so well they bring in their significant others to help share the load and profits. That means being together 24/7 and that can inevitably lead to some tension.

QuitYourDayJob’s Palmer also employs his wife in his business but says they are not working side by side most of the time. “She’s more of a passive employee for the business,” he says, “and more of a quality assurance person for my sites.”

Experts say it’s important to have a clear division of duties and respect each other’s jobs.

Then there’s the issue of young children at home during the workday that often crops up with families. Palmer says that he and his wife huddle in the morning to work out their schedules so they know who will take care of the kids. The two older kids are easier to handle, but they also have an infant, which means someone has to be with the baby all the time. He says, at first, the newborn was hospitalized for a week – something that Palmer says had an impact on his productivity. But where family is concerned, that takes priority over work, especially in emergency situations. “It was worth the hit.”

eMoms’ Piersall says that even though she’s lately been clocking in 50-hour weeks, she keeps evening time for family and clears her weekends. “Marriage issues,” she says, “are also a trial-and-error endeavor. Like all marriages, there were rough spots” and at seven years of being an affiliate, her husband, she says, is really good about it. “We find a good balance.”

For Miami-based consultant Andy Rodriguez, his business is a family affair. Rodriguez runs his affiliate consulting business out of his converted two-car garage and employs his 21-year-old son, Andy Jr.; his cousin’s husband Emilio Yepez (operations manager); and Emilio’s brother is now doing an internship with the company.

“There are challenges to working with family, but it’s really about trust,” Rodriguez says. “They have access to the books and know everything about the business. But I trust them completely and that is the benefit of working with family. There is a level of trust already built in.”

Andy Jr. admits that having your boss also be your dad has its moments. However, he says that since they both “know how to negotiate with each other” that’s not a big problem. And usually, any issues between father and son revolve around “differences of opinion,” which are typically quickly resolved.

“The Web doesn’t sleep, so this job permeates into our personal lives, but there are times when we just stop talking shop,” Rodriguez says. “We had a family gathering over the weekend and we didn’t talk about work. Emilio said, ‘I just don’t want to talk business,’ so we didn’t that day.”

Cooperative Affiliates’ Hazard finds that having a work routine helps keep things on track in balancing work and personal life. He wakes, takes the dogs out for a walk, has some coffee, hangs out and talks with his significant other, then goes off to his home office.

“She understands that when I’m in my office I’m working. I don’t even have to close the door. I have a work session in the morning and another in the afternoon and that’s my work time,” says Hazard. “Of course, she knows that if she needs me or needs to ask me an important question that I’m available to her.”

That said, Hazard loves that being an affiliate means being able to break your routine and live a very flexible lifestyle. “If I don’t have any calls to make or anything pressing to do, then we may go out shopping or for a drive. I have my routine when I’m working but it can be broken fairly easily when there isn’t a whole lot to be done.”

Harrison Gevirtz: The Yearling

This sounds like any hard worker in the performance marketing space, you think. The only difference is that Gevirtz is a freshman. No, he is not a freshman in college, not the next Shawn Fanning (of Napster fame) working out of a dorm room. Gevirtz is a freshman in high school – a 15- year-old wunderkind.

Gevirtz first got exposed to the world of online commerce by selling diamonds and stamps through eBay auctions and Overstock Auctions when he was 12 years old. Mostly he sold items in the hundred-dollar range but once he sold a $4,000 diamond. The experiences were exhilarating but he was not so thrilled with the shipping process – packing material filled his bedroom and the every-other-day trips to the post office were a drag.

Next, Gevirtz built a MySpace help site through a turnkey solution that cost him $12 on the Digital Points forum. He promoted the site through “basic marketing initiatives like directory submissions” and uploaded ads and also created ads that were his own but looked like AdSense ones.

He says it was his “first gallop into affiliate marketing” and he began to bring in some bucks. But because Gevirtz was on a “crummy ad network” he was getting 1/10 of a click and giving them thousands of clicks for $50-60 a day. “It was terrible but I did not know any better.”

His interest now piqued, Gevirtz started another resource site that provides code generators like profile tracker and layout generators for users to put graphics on their MySpace pages. He moved to Yahoo Publisher Networks and the ValueClick Networks and started to make a lot more money.

By July and August of 2006, Gevirtz was looking into ways that he could make money off of CPA instead of CPC because he prefers the feeling of fulfilling an acquisition – he doesn’t like taking money for a click. Gevirtz says that he once was accused of clicking on his own ads and notes that “you can’t be held liable for click fraud if you are doing CPA stuff.”

Although he does not want to reveal the specifics, Gevirtz says that nowadays he runs a few interactive websites, including graphic sites, which have thousands of pages of content, and says he specializes in things that target a younger audience. Because he is a teen, he knows what teens find appealing, such as ringtones and clothes.

He makes most of his income from CPA nowadays and he focuses on landing pages, noting that in a few years, “landing pages might be on phones.” He says he makes money with paid search and would like to leverage mailing lists to promote offers but acknowledges, “There are so many people like that already.”

Last summer, Gevirtz hired developers to work on his next big project, the details of which he is keeping under wraps. He says the site is based on the idea that “content is king” and it will be focused on getting users to create the content. He hopes to have the main version of the site done by this summer. He has a company with 38 employees in India working on it – a company he found “after hours and hours of Googling.”

Gevirtz’s experience with outsourcing work to a company in India has been very positive – he describes these Indian workers as the most trustworthy people that he has ever worked with – he continually is impressed by their eagerness and how hard they labor to get a job done correctly. He feels good about working with them – not just because they are “respectful and honorable” – but because he literally is “helping them eat.” No doubt there have been “minor problems with the language barrier” but they work through it – by communicating both on the phone and through instant messenger.

Gevirtz blogs at his site, CPAShare.com, which he started this past January, but acknowledges that he struggles to come up with topics. He says that one of his goals is to get a user base going and to get a site where other people are blogging so that he can have mixed opinions – “it would be a portal for e-marketers.” He would like to drive more traffic to his site and in fact, entitles one of his blog entries “Nobody Reads This F—ing Thing.”

A Day in the Life

Not surprisingly, Gevirtz lives at home with his family, in Santa Barbara. He has an older sister, Eloise, who is 22; a little brother, Harland, who’s 10; and a 3-year-old sister name Madeline. His California-born father is in finance and his French-born mother is a part-time yoga teacher and full-time mom.

A typical day starts with Gevirtz “waking up 20 minutes later than he should” – he has to get to school by 8:00 a.m. and his mom takes him on the 20-minute drive. His first class is science, followed by a class entitled “careers,” then a graphic design class, followed by English. He breaks for lunch, and then it’s on to math and the last class of the day, which is “stagecraft.” School ends at 2:49 p.m. – “not that [he is] watching the clock,” he jokes.

He says he does “pretty well” in school, noting that he doesn’t skip class. He says he can’t help but feel like he is rotting away and wasting time during the school day because he would rather be uploading his sites, emailing with affiliate managers or working on some aspect of his business. He says he has a pretty good relationship with most of his teachers, although his math teacher does not like the fact that he text-messages in class.

At school, Gevirtz tries to keep his business endeavors on the down-low – he believes his teachers would get irritated and suspicious if they found out about his online dealings. He recalls a time when teachers were annoyed that a student was selling shirts online and attributes their irritation to two reasons: 1) teachers think there could be a shady aspect to it, like drugs, and 2) the kid was making approximately $50,000 a year and Gevirtz thinks that’s possibly more than the teachers were making and that could rub them the wrong way.

Gevirtz jokes that his favorite class “aside from lunch,” is graphic design, which allows him to get a little bit of work done because he can check email. Recently his parents “flipped a lid” when he told them he was getting a ‘B’ in his graphic design class. They thought he should get an ‘A’ because that’s what he does for a living. He says the class doesn’t really help him because they teach Dreamweaver and he doesn’t use an application to build his sites – he writes code by hand.

He likes math, because he does well in it, and likes the writing and the vocabulary part (it’s easy to memorize) of English class, but he does not like all of the required reading. Even the class’ current read, Lord of the Flies, doesn’t appeal to him. He “hates” science, dismisses stagecraft as “a joke” and does not have a very high opinion of his career class, which is designed to expose students to a variety of future occupations. This type of class is probably the last thing Gevirtz needs; he seems to have a clear understanding of what he will do next.

When he gets home from school around 3:30, Gevirtz sometimes works until midnight or later and says he gets most of his schoolwork done during classes. Gevirtz doesn’t sound that interested in spending a lot of time at the beach (the Pacific Ocean is cold, he explains) or engaging in sports, although he does like to watch college football and root for his father’s alma mater, the USC Trojans. But he says he is not missing out on his teen years – he goes out with his friends and does all the normal things that high school students do – especially now that he has a Treo that makes him mobile.

Kidding Around

His mother tells him that when he was 3 or 4 years old, he was playing around on his family’s Macintosh and broke it. The repairman told his mother that her son had somehow tried to access the hard drive and did some serious damage to the $2,000 machine. “After that, I was banned from the family computer for awhile,” he laments.

Gevirtz says he always liked computers – he knew how to save something on the hard drive by the time he was in first grade. He says they teach kids how to type in third grade and he was recognized by his eighth grade class to be the fastest typist – approximately 100 words per minute.

Gevirtz seems to be a natural born entrepreneur and exhibited the opportunistic traits at an early age. When he was in sixth grade, he had a teacher whose friend had a supply of plastic wristbands. Gevirtz agreed to buy them from him for 50 cents each and then sold them to “drunken college kids” for $2. He says he made enough of a profit for souvenir money for his trip to France that summer.

Learning the Business

Gevirtz says that he learns the business by communicating with his affiliate managers, emailing and instant messaging with industry folks whom he meets online and keeps in touch with by talking on the phone. He keeps up with the industry from reading other people’s blogs, like Shawn Collins’ and Jeremy Schoemaker’s ShoeMoney and laments that he does not have the time to read “the thousands of blogs on Technorati.” He also learns from listening to the Affiliate Thing and other WebmasterRadio Shows and “pestering people at Ad:Tech.” He plans to go to more shows in the future because he “likes to be connected” and says that he has a mountain of business cards that he goes through when he needs “to meet new advertisers and stuff like that.”

One observation that Gevirtz has about the industry is that there are a lot of click fraud companies out there “which is kind of sad that the world has come to that.” He says that there is an overabundance of affiliate networks and says some of the networks just piggyback off of other ones – which is bad because it makes it difficult to find a direct offer.

Gevirtz says that his parents are OK with his online endeavors despite not really understanding what he was doing until fairly recently. In April, Gevirtz and his father attended Ad:Tech in San Francisco and one of the affiliate managers from NeverblueAds took the time to explain to him how the system worked and how they worked together.

He says that for the most part, being 15 has not been a disadvantage in the industry. He thinks that people have helped him a bit because of his age and that he should use that wisely because he “only has three years left.” He has had a problem with one affiliate network for not being 18 but he would rather not use them than get his parents involved, saying that he wants to keep things separate from his parents because “there are liabilities even if you are not doing anything wrong.”

Setting Goals

Gevirtz has lots of aspirations – one of which is to continue to make money. He enjoys the fruits of his labor; he owns lots of gadgets – including a $3,000 laptop and several servers – is putting his money into a savings account, buys airline tickets (which he says are expensive from Santa Barbara) and treats himself to sushi.

His short-term goal is to buy a BMW m6 10- cylinder vehicle and his longer-term one is to be the next powerhouse. “Google’s becoming a beast; I want to be the beast,” he jokes. He doesn’t feel the need to go to college and would like to continue what he is doing but increase the volume – saying he’d like to “add a couple of zeros” to what he brings in on a monthly basis.

He is ambivalent about wanting to go to college and says he has to be careful about what he says about this issue because his parents are going to read the article and says he likes to tease his parents that he is going to drop out of high school.

Despite his success and business acumen, it’s clear that Gevirtz is not an adult trapped in a teen body – or any of the other Doogie Howser cliches that are used when talking about mature teenagers. Gevirtz is definitely a teenager who complains about having to take the trash out and walking his dog – a task he sometimes outsources to his brother by paying him $10. Given his drive and ingenuity, it will be interesting to see what Gevirtz does next – that is, when he is a high school sophomore.

The Affiliate Lifestyle

For many aspiring affiliates, the phrase Affiliate Lifestyle conjures up visions of big beautiful homes and shiny new sports cars. Graphic images on affiliate training sites encourage visitors to imagine themselves at their desk, dressed in pajamas and smiling the big happy smile as hundred-dollar bills miraculously fly from their computer monitor. Those images often include a picture of the loving spouse standing in admiration somewhere in the near background. Another popular image of the “rich affiliate” shows her relaxing in a lounge chair on a long stretch of almost-deserted white sand beach, a laptop perched atop her knees and some tasty tropical drink at hand.

Cynical home-based business opportunists and experienced affiliates alike may snort, snicker or even guffaw at the idyllic portrayal; however, with two exceptions, that is an accurate picture of this affiliate’s lifestyle. The “hundred dollar bills” are in fact four- and five-figure checks delivered by snail mail, and I would never bring my laptop to the beach where it might be exposed to the dangers of sand and water. Actually, I’m reluctant to tote my VAIO with me on vacation as I so rarely use it.

Case in point: I spent the month of March touring Vietnam and Malaysia. Although the resort in Sabah on the island of Borneo, and each hotel in Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) provided free or inexpensive access to high-speed Internet, I spent less than three hours at my computer during the entire trip.

I was not working during that time. I spent it uploading vacation pictures to Flickr for my personal travel blog at Roamsters.com and GoogleTalking with family and friends. The few emails and responses I sent to friends in the industry were primarily to feign sympathy for their ugly early-spring weather and to talk about enduring three-and-a-half-hour spa treatments and swims in the 86 degree Fahrenheit (30 C) waters of the South China Sea.

My month-long vacation wasn’t the “once in a lifetime” trip about which many people dream either. It was the trip I take every fall/winter. Moreover, the winter trips represent only a small percentage of my annual vacation time. In 2007, I will spend at least 4 months away from home for pleasure travel and family events – not to confuse the two. Furthermore, to make the best use of our short Canadian summer, I will work only a few hours per week during June, July and August.

Do I tell you this to gloat? Not at all! OK, maybe a little. But what’s really important here is for you to know that, a) the fabulous Affiliate Lifestyle is possible, and b) you need to define your version of the lifestyle and choose to live it before you hamstring yourself with some crazy 24/7 business that won’t allow you the time of day (or night) to enjoy what you achieve.

Take for example my friend Ray (not his real name). Ray earns seven figures a year as a search affiliate. He works with a paid assistant in rented office space where, for eight to 10 hours a day, they scramble to investigate new product offers in a vast array of markets, create static landing pages, write and place ads, and monitor their conversions to sales. His workload doubles during the ramp-up to major holidays. Simply talking to him about his frenzied business at Christmastime left me feeling frazzled and I was in the midst of a three-week break.

Despite all that money, Ray still can’t relax with his family at the cabin for the weekend without working evenings at his laptop. He told me that it was a major effort to ready his business for a week’s absence during a family emergency, and when Ray heard about my latest foray abroad, he replied by saying, “I really wish I had more time to travel.”

Ray would have more time to travel if he made more time to travel, something he could easily do if he adopted a few content publisher strategies. Although I too research new offers, write product endorsements, create landing pages and place PPC ads, I dig much deeper into far fewer markets, which means less email to read and fewer offers to research. Placing 10 to 30 offers that run dynamic ads on one theme site is considerably less time-consuming than placing thousands of individual product ads that must be constantly monitored and revised.

Rather than chasing offers, content affiliates concentrate on building relationships with potential customers through information and entertainment. Delivery is simple and cheap via blogs, email and RSS feeds. Moreover, blogging, podcasting and making videos are way more fun than ad writing. The biggest advantage, however, comes from the ability to plan our publishing schedules well in advance.

So if I suddenly required an uninterrupted month of time to respond to a family emergency or to take advantage of an extraordinary travel opportunity, I would log in to my blog, select four draft articles and queue them up for delivery – one per week. The same articles would be queued in the same order for delivery through my autoresponder. To keep my business humming along for four weeks would take about five minutes per site, or less time than it would take to pack my bags.

Making even a partial switch away from the search affiliate to the content publisher model should be easy for Ray. He could start with an existing niche in which he has had success, preferably one of an evergreen nature such as dating, skin care or weight loss. In as little as a day, he could rework and load seven of his best product reviews into an autoresponder series and put an email capture form on the applicable site. He should also take a minute to install a blog on that site, and spend $20 to $50 to have a designer work his existing template into the blog.

Next, Ray should reallocate just one day per week of his pay-per-click ad writing time and devote that instead to writing articles and product endorsements. By producing just four short articles per week, in three months Ray will have populated his blog and autoresponder with a year’s worth of messages to be published and delivered to his subscribers every week. As the size of his subscriber lists grow, not only will Ray’s income increase, but he will also be able to lower his pay-per-click advertising costs substantially.

And if Ray’s perpetual pay-per-click ad writing has left him short on prose, he could hire a ghostwriter to write those articles. Better yet, he could hire a team of ghostwriters to write articles in a half dozen of his best niche markets and get his affiliate business to the “set it, forget it and go on vacation” stage more quickly.

The last step in the process – taking a vacation – might be the most difficult for workaholic affiliate Ray, as he may be tempted to use his newfound “free” time to build an even bigger empire.

If you’re like Ray, listen up! Whether you are an aspiring affiliate or a seven-figure affiliate, making time to rest and rejuvenate body, mind and soul is the best thing you will ever do for you and your family. When you are refreshed and focused, you become even more efficient and productive in your work. So leave the laptop at home and go have fun. With practice, you’ll soon discover that living the Lifestyle and taking vacations is as easy as FTP.

Oh, and one last thing. When making your travel reservations online, remember to book through your own affiliate link.

Rosalind Gardner is a super-affiliate who’s been in the business since 1998. She’s also the author of The Super Affiliate Handbook: How I Made $436,797 in One Year Selling Other People’s Stuff Online. Her best-selling book is available on Amazon and www.SuperAffiliateHandbook.com.