All the planning in the world won’t make up for a lack of interest.
My financial services affiliate site has hit the skids. Let’s take stock and I’ll show you how it ended up in the poorhouse.
Before I launched the site, I did my research. I discovered that the highestpaying merchants in Commission Junction’s Financial Services category rose to the top when results were sorted by sale. In early February of this year, for example, E-Loan paid a hefty $150 commission per funded motorcycle loan and $60 to $90 per funded auto purchase loan. Commissions for a qualified mortgage refinance application were between $50 and $75.
E-Loan defines a “qualified application” as one with “all necessary fields filled in, including a valid name and social security number for a loan product that can be offered by E-Loan or one of its partner lenders.”
Talk about easy money! Referred visitors to the E-Loan site don’t have to buy a thing. As long as they can type their information correctly into the application form blanks, you could be raking in the big bucks.
In addition, I found that Google AdSensor did especially well with financial sites. When Google AdWords recommends that advertisers place a minimum bid of $5 for keywords like “credit card” and “loans” just to get their ads displayed, AdSense revenues on the same terms are rich and rewarding.
And goodness knows there was no shortage of credit demand. According to Overture’s Keyword Selector Tool, almost 900,000 surfers searched for terms including the phrase “credit card” in December 2005. About the same number searched for “loan,” while the keyword “mortgage” topped the charts with 1,317,728 queries in the same month. One might conclude that the number of credit seekers is inflated during the Christmas spending frenzy. But how many more people need credit solutions when the bills arrive in January?
Furthermore, the market for credit certainly showed no sign of decline. According to an ACNielsen survey released on Jan. 24, Americans are among the world’s most cash-strapped people. After basic living expenses are paid and discretionary items bought, nearly a quarter of Americans (22 percent) have no money left at the end of the month. At 19 percent, Canadians came in a close third behind Portugal, which tied the U.S. for first place.
Let’s review: high commissions and a huge, hungry market – that should have been a one-way ticket to Easy Street. Maybe the site was the problem.
The Right Stuff
When you visit the site, you see a nice design that includes the requisite number of pictures of people jumping for joy.
Site navigation is consistent throughout and the categorical structure is simple, limiting a visitor’s choice to credit cards, credit repair, credit reports, debt consolidation and loans on the first tier. Specific credit card and loan types are made available on the second tier.
Because we didn’t want to overwhelm visitors with too many complicated options, an Editor’s Top Pick is included at the top of every product page, and the number of choices per category is limited.
Last but not least, there is an opt-in form on every page that offers a chance to sign up for my newsletter, “FREE Money-Saving Tips & Credit Advice.” Subscribers receive an eight-part e-course delivered over a period of three weeks. The e-course covers topics such as applying for credit, mortgage lending and debt consolidation. It also goes into moneysaving hints and tips, how to repair bad credit, and saving for retirement.
So far, so good. The site is rich in information and other incentives to keep visitors interested. After receiving the last installment of the e-course, however, subscribers never hear from me again.
What a mistake! Especially since building relationships by regularly communicating with my subscribers has always been the lifeblood of my affiliate marketing business. Even my merchant partners confirm that my lists are some of the most productive they’ve ever seen.
Readers of my affiliate marketing newsletter or book will attest to the fact that I harp constantly about the need to establish a trust relationship with their audiences. During site reviews, I tell webmasters who haven’t placed a lead-capture form on their site to either build a list or go out of business. Those who act on the warning see their conversion rates soar. For example, one webmaster whom I convinced to install a lead-capture form later remarked, “Holy cow dung! I’ve already got 1,000 subscribers and make $2,500 whenever I send a broadcast. Thank you, Ros!”
OK, he didn’t say “cow dung,” but the rest of the message is verbatim.
The Root of the Problem
So, why didn’t I follow my own advice and write a regular newsletter for my credit and loan site?
Well, I discovered that chasing the almighty dollar doesn’t work. When I ignored my first rule of business, “follow your passion,” the second rule, “build relationships,” was impossible to follow without unacceptable compromise.
Although I am passionate about helping people improve their financial situation and can write all day long about wealth-building strategies and techniques, the dry-as-toast subject of credit and loans doesn’t exactly fuel my fire. Call me Pollyanna, but the thought of encouraging debt just feels wrong.
While I could hire a ghostwriter to write a year-long broadcast series, proofreading the material would be a huge yawn, and this Pollyanna would balk at the sham. Worse, I’d live in perpetual dread of having to research and answer subscribers’ questions.
Boredom, drudge work and dread. My goodness, but doesn’t that sound exactly like a J-O-B? What a foolish choice to make when I already had a proven formula for highly profitable affiliate sites.
Learn from my mistake. Pick a topic you love, chat with newsletter subscribers who share your interests, and then say, “Goodbye debt, hello AAA credit ratings!”
By the way, if you are passionate about the credit and loan niche, I know of a slightly-used website in which you might be interested.
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.