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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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.


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 and

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.


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.


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.


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.

Learning Outside the Box

Many of today’s online marketers have unrelated backgrounds and have learned their profession through on-the-job training and supplemental offerings.

The situation is similar to the first iteration of marketing on the Web in the 1990s. But unlike 10 years ago, there are more ways to learn and get information such as webinars and online courses; enrichment classes such as weekend training, conferences and boot camps; countless websites; and dozens of books and videos.

Because online marketing has become a bona fide career path, it seems reasonable to expect that university business schools would be offering undergraduate and graduate students a specific online marketing course or devoting a lot of time to its importance. But that’s not necessarily the case.

Over the last several years Choots Humphries, co-president of LinkConnector, an affiliate marketing network, has been a guest speaker at an M.B.A. program at a university on the East Coast where he addresses the incoming first-year grad students regarding online marketing. He has been “dumbfounded” at the lack of understanding of basic concepts. “They don’t know what AdWords is or what a merchant is,” Humphries says.

And he’s surprised that these new business school students know so little about such an important part of the economy. After all, according to Forrester Research, online retail commerce represents about 10 percent of total U.S. retail sales, and it is expected to grow to 13 percent by 2010. That begs the question: Are universities teaching the basics about such a vital aspect of commerce, or is online marketing still the domain of specialized education?

1. College 101

At the University of San Francisco’s Masagung Graduate School of Management, courses in finance, management and accounting all include readings and case studies that describe the impact of technology and online marketing in that discipline, according to Associate Dean Eugene Muscat. He believes the concepts of online marketing have achieved the same academic critical mass as the study of globalization and ethics and says that these three subjects should be included in each course of study as essential business literacy skills.

Muscat says USF does not teach a separate online marketing course because “to have a separate course in online marketing would run the risk of implying that the topic is only relevant to students majoring in marketing.”

Heidi Perry, vice president of marketing at gaming publisher PlayFirst, who graduated with an M.B.A. from Oxford University in 2004, says she took a marketing elective that had a section on online marketing. Perry thinks that certain graduate schools will eventually offer an online marketing course as an elective, but most schools will try to combine online marketing with other topics to give a candidate a more holistic view.

Although the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business does not offer a specific online marketing course, Andrew Whinston, director of UT’s Center for Research in Electronics, says it makes more sense to teach entrepreneurship because the Web moves extremely fast.

“Think about how much the social networks have impacted online marketing just in the past year ” and if you look at some case studies of Internet companies from three years ago, it is like teaching history,” Whinston says.

However, there are many non-degree programs for learning about online marketing that are geared for people who want to enter the profession. Recruiters, such as The Creative Group, are encouraging traditional marketers who are trying to get into online marketing to take such courses to round out their skills and increase their marketability, according to Smith McClure, division director of the Minneapolis branch of the company.

NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) offers dozens of non-degree marketing courses that can be applied toward a certificate in digital marketing. In the fall of 2006, consultant Shawn Collins was brought in to guest lecture at SCPS’s eight-week Strategic Search Engine Marketing class and gave a top-level overview of how affiliate managers should run programs. Ben Kirshner, founder of New York-based Elite SEM, taught the course and says that the students were extremely enthusiastic because they could apply the tactics they learned in an evening’s class to their jobs the next day.

Because Google sponsored the class, students were given a $50 credit to set up an AdWords account to learn how it worked, and were given the opportunity to take the Google AdWords professional exam for free, which is normally $50. Some of the students were able to put on their resumes that they passed the exam, a leg up for those who are applying for jobs at Google or Yahoo or an interactive agency. Kirshner says the class encompassed a mix of people – some were employees of companies who sent them there so they could better understand how to manage their online campaigns.

2. On the Company’s Dime

Many companies offer their employees online marketing training – through classes and in-house sessions – because of the shortage of qualified online marketers and because the industry changes so fast. Michael Taylor, founder of, says companies hire people with existing account management skills and then train them for the online marketing techniques pertinent to their company.

So how do companies teach online marketing skills to their employees? PlayFirst’s Perry says that her company balances formal with informal training, and it does a lot of its training through group collaboration and brainstorming. The company also tries to send each marketing employee to the conference of their choice every year.

Dean DeBiase, CEO of Fathom Online, a search marketing and Web analytics company, says they are obsessed with training and view it as a strategic weapon to keep up with the constant changes made by Google, MSN, Yahoo, and MIVA. Fathom Online offers two types of training – a 60-day, in-person training program for new recruits and ongoing training through modules to train employees on the latest topics such as analytics, in-game advertising and mobile search. This training is deployed through voice conferencing, video conferencing and WebEx.

Bob Chatham, senior vice president of education at WebSideStory, a provider of on-demand digital marketing applications, says that its employee and customer training program, Digital Marketing University, is a three-day course that teaches WebSideStory’s HBX analytics and Visual Site applications, which help marketers to optimize their search campaign by seeing how their paid and organic search terms are converting.

Chatham says he has seen courses relevant to digital marketing offered through e-commerce programs at schools including Babson College and Northeastern University – both in the Boston area – but has not seen any semester-long Web analytics courses. He notes that there are strong professional training programs on the subject such as one at the University of British Columbia.

3. Learn From the Masters

Chatham stresses that a lot of the good practical expertise lives with the consultants, such as Jeff Eisenberg and Bryan Eisenberg from Future Now; Gary Angel from SEMphonic; and Jim Sterne, who created the Emetrics Summit. Chatham notes that these same experts who speak at the University of British Columbia’s programs also speak at WebSideStory’s Digital Marketing University and other industry conferences. “I think the best way to get up-to-date information and the best training is through industry expert workshops,” Chatham says.

Attempting to fill a knowledge gap, Aaron Kahlow, managing partner of Business OnLine, created the Online Marketing Summit, which was held in San Diego in February. “I have spoken at many conferences including Ad:Tech and the DMA Conference and I am always surprised at how little industry folks know.”

He says that other industry conferences do not offer training or improve attendees’ understanding. He says they are all “either too technical or all about the future and predictions. This is great for investors but how does that help a tactical day-to-day marketer?”

Kahlow says that the industry needs to focus on education. “We are just getting to a point where best practices are established and the amount of change is slowing,” he says, adding that the most popular sessions at his show include workshops on search engine marketing and performance metrics.

However, if you want to be an affiliate marketer, formalized educational avenues are very limited. Stephanie Schwab, vice president of marketing at Converseon, thinks professors are in their ivory towers and are not aware of affiliate marketing. Consultant Andy Rodriguez says that he is surprised to not find any colleges teaching affiliate marketing in southern Florida. Consultant Colin McDougall has had similar findings in his area of British Columbia. But Rosalind Gardner says she is aware of a professor who was using her book, The Super Affiliate Handbook, to teach affiliate marketing in his university class.

The most convenient and least expensive way for newcomers to get their feet wet is to read the many websites, blogs and forums (message boards) related to affiliate marketing. “The best place that I have learned about affiliate marketing is from the community at,” says Kristin Collier, founder of MadHatter Consulting.

Consultant and author James Martell cautions that those looking for information must rely on credible sources such as the websites of Commission Junction and LinkShare, along with forums including http://affiliate- and Martell warns that forums can be good and bad because “they can take you down the wrong path” and says it is important to follow a person who is an affiliate and not just a writer.

McDougall says that there is a ton of “how-to” books on the market for teaching affiliates how to earn a living but warns that many of the “silver bullet” books sold teach how to manipulate holes in the Google algorithm, which can quickly become out of date. For this reason, Gardner says that her book is updated almost monthly and “every so often I offer previous purchasers a totally updated version of the book at a steep discount.”

4. Mentoring

McDougall recommends that affiliates find a mentor; a practice that he believes will become more popular in the near future. He says there a re some Internet and phone-based seminars today, but very few provide individual attention, and explains that assisting an affiliate in devising an individual plan of attack is very helpful – “some people struggle with time management while others struggle with technical issues.” McDougall says that he provides some complimentary mentoring but mainly it’s a paid relationship. Gardner says she has never participated in a mentoring program although she has done telephone consultations, which she calls short-term coaching.

5. Podcasts, Training & DVDs, Oh My!

Podcasts are a good way for people who haven’t quit their day job yet to learn about affiliate marketing. And there are plenty to select from. On WebmasterRadio, there is Good Karma by Greg Niland; Affiliate Marketing Today by Jeremy Palmer and Robin Walsh; and Net Income by Jeremy Shoemaker. Affiliate Thing features Revenue’s Lisa Picarille and consultant Collins on

For those who want more interaction, Martell recommends videos. He has an eight-video program that corresponds with the eight steps outlined in his book, Affiliate Marketers Handbook. Anik Singal’s The Affiliate Classroom is a Web-based step-by-step training program to help people launch and grow their own affiliate Internet business. It reaches over 35,000 active affiliate marketers through its magazine and newsletter and is in the business incubator program at the University of Maryland. Another popular training program, Stomper Net, is offered by Brad Fallon and Andy Jenkins, and comprises DVD training and an online forum.

Nearly all industry experts recommend attending as many conferences as possible such as the twice-yearly Affiliate Summit, WebMasterWorld and e-Tail; along with the invite-only network events such as CJU and the LinkShare Summit.

“Affiliate marketing is an extremely social industry and we learn from each other. It is good to sit down and have face-to-face conversations with affiliates, managers and merchants. The sessions can be valuable as well,” MadHatter Consulting’s Collier says.

6. Experience vs. Classroom

Affiliate manager jobs are in high demand – so how can they obtain the training they need to do the multifaceted duties required – everything from HTML to creative to sales? Most think it is a learn-by-doing job. For one reason, managers need to have established relationships. “It is not about an M.B.A., but a person who can pick up the phone and leverage their contacts,” says Shawn Collins. Also affiliate managers need to understand “in the trenches” challenges like how they stack up again their competitors in terms of metrics like conversion rates, average order sizes and earnings per click. And most employers want to hire managers with specialized skills – and techniques learned in formal training can be too broad. Moreover, Converseon’s Schwab says that many classes only teach strategy and not tactics and “we need to hire people who can do the job.”

However, a background in marketing is helpful and there are aspects that can be taught in a course such as how the networks operate and the fundamentals of how to recruit, how to activate and how to retain affiliates. Still, PartnerCentric’s Linda Woods says that there is no way she would hire an inexperienced affiliate manager: “I wouldn’t hire anyone just because they took a couple of courses on Internet marketing.” She believes managers need on-the-job training and the training that is offered through seminars.

7. Affiliate Management Seminars

Industry experts like Rosalind Gardner recommend attending conferences such as Andy Rodriguez’s Affiliate Manager Certification Seminar and Anik Singal’s Affiliate Manager Boot Camp to learn affiliate management skills.

Rodriguez’s program is a three-day course and attendees are certified upon completion. Rodriguez and guest speakers teach attendees about formulas that work and promotional ideas as well as warn them about potential pitfalls such as identifying spyware that could affect program performance.

In 2006, Singal had a four-hour, in-person boot camp the day after the Affiliate Summit and he plans more for the future. Like Rodriguez’s program, it was created in response to demand by merchants who needed managers for their programs. Singal says that the attendees include new merchants who are trying to get in the game, merchants who are trying to fix their programs, affiliates who want to be managers and managers who want to improve their abilities.

8. Looking Ahead

Currently there are many options to learn about online marketing that fit into everyone’s schedule: You could attend a weekend boot camp, listen to a podcast on the way home from work, pop in a video on Saturday morning, watch a webinar during your lunch break or find a mentor to walk you through a challenging process.

Most university programs only touch on online marketing as part of entrepreneurship but do not teach it as a separate course for several reasons. One is that the industry’s fast pace has challenged the development of an up-to-date curriculum, which is needed to add a course to a degree program.

Another is that the real industry knowledge lies with the experts, who are busy leading companies and are limited to speaking and teaching at conferences and workshops. Some think that college professors would have trouble keeping abreast of this constantly evolving industry; although if the changes slow down and best practices are established, this may change.

Perhaps most importantly, it is all about up-to-date training: Employers desire employees with tactical online marketing skills from real-world experience, and they would rather hire someone who was trained through last month’s professional training program than someone who studied affiliate management as part of an undergraduate degree in marketing three years ago.

It’s all about training and educating the future generation of online marketers so the space can continue to grow and flourish.

How Do Companies Train Affiliate Managers?

Converseon starts by having new employees review hundreds and sometimes thousands of affiliate sites for approvals because Converseon does not do auto-approvals. The new employees examine sites to determine if they are good – how they are designed, to whom they link and how they are promoting their competitors. Vice President Stephanie Schwab says they encourage their employees to read industry blogs as much as possible, like Scott Jangro’s, Shawn Collins’ and ABestWeb. She likes to send employees to conferences like the Affiliate Summit, so affiliate managers can understand the business from a macroview, and to webinars like eComXpo because of its convenience.

PartnerCentric’s Linda Woods says that they train their employees for PartnerCentric processes, reporting and practices through weekly telephone conference calls among the account managers and staff of approximately 25 people. “Once a month, we have a training call where they are learning something like a new way of reporting to a client, a new activation campaign idea or a new technical tool that we will be using.”

Kristin Collier, former director of marketing at, credits consultant Andy Rodriguez with helping her become a successful affiliate manager. She is now the owner of MadHatter Consulting.

Q: How did you meet your mentor, Andy Rodriguez?

A: I actually met Andy virtually at first on had recently opened a program on ShareASale due to LMI (link management initiative) and I noticed a thread on ABW about newsletters on ShareASale. Andy was hinting at a hidden secret about how to make these newsletters powerful so I sent him an email and he passed me a little information.

This was shortly before the Orlando Affiliate Summit in 2006, which is where I met him in person for the first time. I spent some time with him and many others, and asked as many questions as I could and then he offered to mentor me. I learned a lot from him in a very short amount of time and we still trade emails.

Do you think mentoring is important to this industry and do you think it is common?

A: I think mentoring is somewhat common. I know a few affiliates that mentor other affiliates if they see the passion, drive and thirst for knowledge in them. Andy is not my only mentor – other affiliates mentor me so I can learn more about PPC or about being a manager. I also help other affiliates and merchants learn the skills of good affiliate marketing and online marketing.

Do you think mentoring is mostly unpaid or paid?

A: When I think of mentoring, paid is not something that comes to mind. I do teach my clients about affiliate marketing but I am not mentoring them, I am consulting with them. Mentoring to me is taking the time out of your day to help someone else who truly wants to learn something that you know well, just to help them succeed.

Colin McDougall: The Timekeeper

This past summer, super-affiliate Colin McDougall traveled around British Columbia with his family in his newly purchased travel trailer. From mid-July through Labor Day weekend McDougall worked a grand total of about 10 hours from the road. The rest of the time he spent paddling his kids around in an inflatable kayak, feeding the ducks, building sandcastles on the beach and simply enjoying his free time.

Filling up his free time by enjoying hiking and camping is something that McDougall does a lot of these days. Recently he moved with his wife and two young daughters, ages 3 and 6, to a house on a mountain in Chilliwack, British Columbia, where their backyard is literally the vast expanse of Western Canada about 80 miles outside Vancouver.

McDougall loves the natural beauty of British Columbia’s mountains, rivers and lakes. He moved there to attend college after growing up more than 3,000 miles away on the St. Lawrence River in Brockville, Ontario, which is dubbed the City of the 1000 Islands.

In many ways, McDougall lives up to some Canadian stereotypes – he is remarkably polite and friendly. He’s a skier, climber and fisherman. He loves to drink Sleeman beer with friends and is a huge fan of the Canadian rock band Rush; such a fan that in 2004 he bought expensive second-row tickets on eBay to Rush’s 30th anniversary tour concert in Toronto, Ontario, and treated the friend who first turned him on to the band.

And McDougall has been engaging in his country’s national sports pastime – hockey – since he was 7 years old and still plays in a weekly league so he can get together with his pals.

For someone who is so affable, it’s surprising that McDougall doesn’t mind the often-solitary life of an affiliate marketer, which usually means working all day alone at the computer. He claims that when he needs to focus, he takes the new trailer that is typically parked in his yard, tows it to a nearby recreation area and spends hours working alone with no distractions.

McDougall admits being an affiliate can be a bit lonely, and combats this by getting together for coffee with other self-employed workers, primarily affiliate managers from the Vancouver area that he’s met at industry shows, which he enjoys attending.

Now that his business is going well, he works when he wants to and when he is most effective. For many years, however, McDougall did not have the freedom of working when and where he wanted and it was his frustrations about lack of free time and working at inconvenient times that motivated him into the affiliate game back in 2001.

Previously for 10 years, McDougall worked as a systems administrator – first for seven years at Nortel Networks, and then for three years at BC Hydro. Although he liked his job, he didn’t like the time that he was expected to work. As the computer guy, he was expected to be first guy in the office and last guy out. Often he would be paged at 2 a.m. and would then have to go into work. The grueling hours, in addition to more than two hours of commuting time from the suburbs of Vancouver into the city each day, put an incredible strain on him.

In March 2001, McDougall was playing hockey with a friend, Chuck Anderson, who is the ex-business partner of James Martell, author of the Affiliate Marketers Handbook. Anderson offered McDougall work writing code and building tools to manage the publishing of content for a handful of websites within Martell’s business in return for some “measly checks.”

One day Anderson approached McDougall with an idea: instead of receiving a check for his coding work, Anderson would teach him the business of affiliate marketing as payment. Because McDougall had an idea about how much money Anderson was making through his website, he agreed immediately to the deal.

Just months later, when the time came for McDougall to put his knowledge into practice and build his own affiliate site, he wasn’t sure how to determine which industry would be profitable, so he opted for credit cards because that was what Anderson was doing.

By late August 2001, McDougall was hard at work building a website for credit card merchants such as American Express and Chase. He was garnering high rankings on Google with all kinds of credit card-related terms, and his business was based entirely upon natural search. He was making lots of money, and by November 2001, just nine months after he started learning the affiliate marketing ropes, his affiliate income was about 2.5 times more than his full-time job at BC Hydro.

In February 2003, he took the nine-month parental job leave allowed to men in Canada and tacked on an extra six weeks of vacation from BC Hydro. He used that time to focus completely on his affiliate business. However, due to ranking fluctuations in Google, McDougall experienced some setbacks. His training with Martell and Anderson had focused primarily on how to make money directly from affiliate commissions by ranking high in Google. McDougall was quickly finding out – the hard way – that producing sites that were built solely to rank in the search engines with little thought to visitor experience was not a long-term business strategy.

Then a major shift occurred at Google’s that caused every one of McDougall’s sites to lose their ranking. The search giant began basing its coveted rankings on visitor experience factors such as visitor duration, quality of the site and depth of the site as opposed to easily manipulated factors such as inbound links from highly page-ranked sites. McDougall realized he was headed for trouble.

He experienced a severe drop in income over the span of a few months. For August of 2003 he earned $60,000. In September 2003 his commissions were down to $20,000. By October 2003 he’d dropped to $12,000 and when November rolled around, McDougall’s income from commissions had plummeted to around $6,000.

This substantial decrease was particularly alarming because McDougall had bought lots of expensive items based on his higher income, such as vehicles, a new house and lots of toys.

Decision Time

The diminishing income forced him to make a tough decision – either return from his extended parental leave at BC Hydro or quit and revamp his affiliate business. McDougall and his wife had started a family during his full-time transition to affiliate marketing and he was feeling the pressure of additional responsibility as well as hearing doubting comments from his friends. Still, he says it was an easy decision for him to leave his job because he felt it was no longer an option. Although his wife was worried about him leaving a position with excellent benefits and vacation time, she supported his decision.

But McDougall knew that in order to make this business really work he needed to turn to others for some new direction and decided to go directly to the horse’s mouth – Google.

So, in January 2004, he flew to the Search Engine Strategies conference in New York City.

While at the event he timed it so that he would “accidentally bump into” a high-profile senior Google engineer who was presenting (Matt Cutts).

During the encounter McDougall went through every step of the process that he was using to rank high in Google, and with every point, Cutts indicated when McDougall was on the right or wrong track and he took copious notes.

Right then McDougall decided that relying on Google as a primary source of income was a fool’s game. So he came up with a new business plan to focus only on a smaller number of sites and build multiple streams of traffic to them and work hard to establish their brand. His goal: a long-term sustainable business.

Part of his current business is The Visitor Enhanced Optimization Report, or the VEO Report. It’s an e-book McDougall sells through his website that began as pages and pages of a Word document that explained how to achieve rankings in Google. He sent these notes to a few friends who were also affiliates in an effort to save them from having to go back to real jobs. One friend suggested that these notes could be turned into an e-book and McDougall started writing the book when he wasn’t working on his affiliate sites. By late 2005 he sent it off to editors and currently it’s in its third revision.

To date, McDougall has done no traditional marketing for his e-book; its sales have largely been the result of word of mouth and mentions from influencers. He was eventually asked to write a blog for, do an SEO radio show and speak at some conferences.

At the July 2006 Affiliate Summit in Orlando, several people asked McDougall if they could pay him $3,000 a month to mentor them, which would entail his talking on the phone with them for two hours each week. He claims he could only ignore these types of requests for advice and information for so long. That’s when he decided to create some training programs such as the VEO Mentorship Program, which he plans to launch by January 2007.

It’s not only the lucrative benefits that drive McDougall to create training programs. He wants to share his knowledge with others. By training affiliates on how to effectively promote products, how to get traffic and how to build a business, he’s teaching them how to “build on rock rather than quicksand.”

He greatly benefited from receiving advice from top people in the field, such as Williams and Campbell, along with Rosalind Gardner (a fellow Canadian superaffiliate and author) and he wants to return the favor. “I didn’t learn this business all by myself. My philosophy is that 1+1=11.”

McDougall says that people often tell him that being an affiliate sounds like hard work. “There have been too many quick solutions where affiliates think they could make potentially thousands a month by slamming up some content with auto-generation site tools, then just sit back and push buttons, scrape content and provide results.”

Quality Time

McDougall claims if you care about your brand, you’re not going to risk that by spamming Google. He believes that behavior is giving affiliates a bad name. He warns there’s a real problem for affiliates who aren’t willing to provide quality content, which adds value for the visitors to the sites.

Quality content that serves McDougall’s visitors well in turn does well in Google. “I think the future of affiliate marketing is affiliates who provide quality content and work on branding themselves. If you’re not focusing on doing those types of activities, it’s going to be tougher to make a run at affiliate marketing.”

McDougall admits to having a lofty goal of creating some kind of advisory committee that puts together a code of ethics to which affiliates must adhere – similar to the licensing system for realtors because, “quite frankly, marketing is sales, and sales is cutthroat.”

That sort of regulation is just a dream, but McDougall says that following his dreams and keeping a positive attitude have enabled him to reach his goals. “When I saw that my friend Chuck was making three times as much as me and working a third as hard, I became very motivated to change my life.”

But the biggest motivator for McDougall has been the freedom that being your own boss provides; something he has wanted to do since he was 10 years old. When he was in his late teens, he tried to start a window-washing business because he wanted to be able to set his own hours. These entrepreneurial feelings never left him during jobs at Burger King, Godfather’s Pizza and Save-on- Foods grocery store in his school days. He also credits his college karate teacher, who inspired him to follow his dream.

He feels so strongly about working for yourself that in 2005 he wrote another e-book on the topic called The Positive Mind, which outlines everything a person needs to know to become their own boss.

Today McDougall has five sites, with 90 percent of his efforts going into two of them – and He’d prefer not to reveal the other three sites because they are very niche and he does not want to create competition.

Based on his hard-won experience, McDougall has managed to carve out a very full life comprised of success and lots of free time. In early November, McDougall was in the process of buying another house so he could relocate his family to Langley, BC, to be closer to friends and relatives. The town of Chilliwack is so wary of outsiders that they are often unfriendly to newcomers and that included McDougall’s family. But thanks to affiliate marketing and some good timing, he can prioritize his family’s happiness over concerns about carrying two mortgages. That, for him, is the best example of money offering the kind of freedom that he cherishes.

Summer Reading Extravaganza

Forget about what Oprah’s recommending. Put away the latest from Philip Roth and that potboiler from James Patterson. It’s summertime and what’s really sizzling is online marketing. So, now’s the time to catch up on your reading about a variety of hot topics including affiliate marketing, performance marketing, online advertising, search optimization and more. And there’s no shortage of choices. Heck, there are currently more than 200 books for sale on Amazon with the word Google in the title. Here are some books that sound like great reading for the beach, the vacation home or the patio. Don’t forget the sunblock.

Buzz Marketing with Blogs for Dummies

Susannah Gardner (For Dummies) | 360 pages | $24.99

Another entry in the popular and wildly useful “for dummies” series, this one’s specifically on how to get blogs to do the buzz marketing for you. As we all know by now blogs have become an essential part of selling on the Web and this volume helps you get your head around the blog space – such as what a blog is going to do for your product, how it can change the way people think of your product and how the exchange of ideas that is essential to blogging can help you sell.

Newbies also get a pretty good tutorial on blogs – how to set them up, maintain them and what you should say on them. The book also covers, to a lesser degree, the legal issues, design for a better- looking blog and how to get your blog noticed.

Farce to Force:
Building Pro E-Commerce Strategies

Sarah McCue (South-Western Educational Pub) | 240 pages | $27.95

Need an e-commerce strategy? McCue walks you through the best ways to formulate a strategy and even gives you some useful templates to overlay your business model on. She outlines marketing techniques that work well and how to build programs from the ground up. Although the title is a little jokey, the author is well-versed in online marketing.


Wil Schroter (Go BIG Media) | 276 pages | $24.95

Serial entrepreneur Schroter takes a look behind the veil at companies such as Google, Skype and PayPal. He examines what these companies are doing right and what they haven’t done. Having launched nine start-ups makes him a kind of perfect spokesperson for entrepreneurship. He is currently CEO of, an auto-leasing marketplace. The companies he started include Blue Diesel, an interactive marketing agency; Kelltech Internet Services, a technology consultancy; and Atomica, a nonprofit arts organization.

Google Advertising Tools:
Cashing in with AdSense, AdWords, and the Google APIs

Harold Davis (O’Reilly Media, Inc.) | 366 Pages | $29.99

Like “Winning Results with Google AdWords” this O’Reilly book takes a stab at making sense (and dollars) from Google’s AdWords. Davis talks about the different associate programs in addition to Google, which provides great context. Topics include how to read AdSense metrics, managing AdWords campaigns, as well as hints on optimization.

Google’s PageRank and Beyond:
The Science of Search Engine Rankings

Amy N. Langville, Carl D. Meyer (Princeton University Press) | 234 pages | $35

This provides a different take on the search dilemma by answering the questions about what goes on behind the Google curtain. This book won’t tell you how to optimize or raise your rankings but will tell you the technical aspects of search. This can be valuable to the geek in us all. The author covers: How do those other Web pages that don’t have your name in them always appear at the top? What creates these powerful rankings?

The reason this book is even on this list is that the early chapters are very accessible and it is only in the later chapters that the hard, mathematical, geeky stuff is discussed. Even so, the authors say there is something for the hardcore audience and the casual one.

Internet Marketing and e-Commerce

Ward Hanson (South-Western College Pub) | 496 pages | $113.95

Even though this is written by an academic, expect ?reworks. “Rigor instead of hype” is how the book wants to be known, illustrating practices that leading companies use, showing how research results can be used to support conclusions and, of course, pointing out the unique qualities of online marketing.

No one is shortchanged here. Hanson looks at Internet marketing from the point of view of large and small business and online startups. It’s a great study in the balance of power that is even now continuing to shift in retail markets as the Web gets more powerful.

The Irresistible Offer:
How to Sell Your Product or Service in 3 Seconds or Less

Mark Joyner (Wiley) | 240 pages | $21.95

Using examples of companies such as FedEx, Columbia House Records and Domino’s Pizza, Joyner explains how to create an “irresistible offer.” As the former CEO of Aesop Marketing Corp., he has seen what kind of marketing works from the trenches. He uses real case studies to make it easy to apply it to your own business. The book is a kind of how-to that shows you how to manipulate your offer so that customers find it more attractive.

Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars: The Top 50 Ways to Grow Your Small Business

Kim T. Gordon (Kaplan Business) | 240 pages | $18.95

While not specifically about Internet marketing, any small-business owner can learn from someone on staff at Entrepreneur magazine. Among Gordon’s advice is how to stay on budget but still use expensive-looking marketing; how to tell which niches are right for you; and how to use technology (email lists, websites, etc.) and traditional marketing venues (trade papers, radio, TV, etc.).

Online Marketing that Works!

Catherine Seda (McGraw-Hill) | 256 pages | $21.95

This book hits the shelves on August 1, 2006 and exuberantly wants to introduce you to “cutting- edge Internet technologies” that mean low-cost, high-performance marketing opportunities for ventures of any size. Seda points out the effective online marketing strategies and shows how to get results for little or no cost. Seda has her own marketing consulting firm and is also the author of Search Engine Advertising

Pay-Per-Click Search Engine Marketing Handbook: Low Cost Strategies to Attracting New Customers
Using Google, Yahoo & Other Search Engines

Boris Mordkovich, Eugene Mordkovich (Lulu Press) | 196 pages | $22.95

The mouthful of a title pretty much says it all. This book attempts to crack open the genie’s bottle on getting new customers through search, and illustrates just how it can be done at a cost of only pennies to you. Along the way the book outlines basic concepts, like how pay-per-click works and why it is effective. It also has some advice on how to design a campaign, how to determine what works and how to maximize your return on investment. It also tells you about must-do’s such as get- ting listed on thousands of websites without paying a penny, targeting a specific local area through search engines and how to prevent click fraud.

The book also offers reviews of over 20 search engines, and includes tips on how to get the most out of each one. Experts in the industry also weigh in with their advice on how you can improve your search engine advertising efforts.

Put Your Business Online: How to create and promote a successful, low-cost Website

Al Kernek (Lulu Press) | 172 pages | $19.95

This book is truly for the newbie who wants to get all the nuts and bolts in one place. What you get is everything you need to know in a step-by-step structure designed to leave you at the end of the day with “a low-cost website and some affordable traffic generators that target your specific audience.” This book is written in very straightforward language and is not overloaded with “tech talk.” The “real world” tips and information can also help those who already have a Web presence.

High Performance Affiliate Marketing

by Jeremy Palmer | $49.95

This e-book is unique because the author – a 2005 Commission Junction Horizon Award Winner – updates it constantly. He covers how to find profitable products and services to promote; strategies for keywords; rankings secrets; and how to spend less money for the most traffic. In addition to the e-book, you get access to an exclusive members’ area with original content. He says all over the website that he made more than $1 million in commissions last year, so he must be doing something right.

search analytics: A Guide to Analyzing and Optimizing Website Search Engines

Hurol Inan (BookSurge Publishing) | 56 pages | $19.99

For those of you who plan a very short beach vacation, this lean and mean e-book can probably be read in just a couple of hours. It “explains how and why people search, provides detailed guidelines on analyzing the behavior of search users, and offers valuable search-related marketing insights.” The author interviewed many industry experts and website managers and presents detailed metrics and the required tools to get you started.

Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Company’s Web Site

Mike Moran, Bill Hunt (IBM Press) | 592 pages | $49.99

This heavy tome has just about everything to do with search marketing in it. There are chapters on how search engines work, developing your search marketing program, measuring your website’s success, defining your search market strategy, how to get your site indexed, choosing keywords, how to attract links to your site and other must-have/must-know stuff. In addition, the book tells you about what people are looking for when they search, how best to sell to the kinds of visitors you’ll get and what to avoid in the way of questionable methods to get better rankings.

Search Marketing Strategies:
A Marketer’s Guide to Objective-Driven Success from Search Engines

James Colborn (Butterworth-Heinemann) | 208 pages | $37.95

Concentrating on the strategic and not the procedural approach, this book goes through all the search standbys: paid search, site side optimization and analytics. Then it talks about branding, sales and customer acquisition. The focus is on marketing strategy and not just on optimization.

Winning Results with Google AdWords

Andrew Goodman (McGraw-Hill Osborne Media) | 376 pages | $24.99

This is a title that should really get most readers’ hearts pounding. Goodman outlines some great strategies for “writing successful ads, selecting and grouping specific keywords, increasing conversion rates and maximizing online sales.” He goes over advice such as “ways to expand ad distribution, why testing ad effectiveness is crucial and how to effectively track results.” Goodman is founder of Page Zero Media, provider of search engine marketing services and strategic advice to companies seeking an online presence. He also co-founded

Jeremy Palmer: The Million Dollar Man

Jeremy Palmer knew he had the entrepreneurial spirit. He just hadn’t found the right thing to let it soar.

He knew there was more to life than his mid-level job at a small financial services company. As a Web developer, in 2002 he launched website in hopes that it could generate a little extra cash for his wife and two kids in Utah and give him an outlet to pursue his independent business ideas.

He sold things on eBay. He sold some of his possessions just to get his affiliate sites off the ground. He wasn’t exactly sure of what he was doing. That was 2001. Fast forward to his current life as an affiliate marketer and he would say his wings are no longer clipped – in fact, in 2005 he made $1 million in commissions.

He will be the first to say that he had never envisioned this life for he and his family. In the beginning, he worked part time at night and on weekends on a dating site but it wasn’t making much money. He loved building websites but didn’t see a lot of cash in assembling other people’s sites. His original dating site went up in 2002, a time when dating on the Internet was just about to explode and Palmer felt like he had a killer domain name – with “I was naive to think I could compete with Yahoo personals,” he says. “It was a great failure for me.”

Meanwhile, his wife had a good career in the financial services industry – had her own office and at one point was the breadwinner for the family. The company he was doing Web design for had an affiliate program through Commission Junction – but he wasn’t involved in that part of the business. The guy who ran it, though, started to tell him the numbers. Some of these people were making up to six figures a month. “So I threw up some links on my site,” he says, and in six months he was matching his salary in commissions.

He had finally touched that entrepreneurial magic and he dove into it head first. Today Palmer has a network of more than 100 websites (he doesn’t even know the exact number), an e-book on how he made it and is Commission Junction’s 2005 Horizon Award Winner and a Yahoo Search Marketing Ambassador. His domains include,, and, of course, the site for his e-book: (see page 44).

How does he do it with so many sites? The key, he says, is to work with templates that need very little manual tweaking. He has 50 dating sites that are virtually the same – they are just targeted by geography. But, Palmer says, it’s not about how many websites you have or following a more-is-more philosophy. “Each page should do just one thing,” he says. “You don’t want to overwhelm the customer with choices. You know, like when you go to call Dell and the first thing you hear is 30 options to direct your call. It takes you forever or you hang up before you get an answer.”

The other main reason Palmer claims he’s successful is because he goes the extra yard to reach out to the merchants. It satisfies his social nature, he says. He typically spends a few hours a day just talking to the merchant reps.

“I have their cell phone numbers and they have mine.” He says that just talking to people is crucial to getting help and getting what you want from a merchant. Sometimes Palmer will fly out to see the merchant or the company will send someone to meet with him. Of course, Palmer admits merchants don’t do this for everyone, but, then again, he makes six figure commissions – that puts him in the upper stratosphere of earners. It’s no wonder merchants will roll out the red carpet for him, especially when 80 percent of most merchant’s affiliates are not earning enough to register a blip.

He says being a big earner just takes hard work. His day really isn’t much different from most affiliates. Typically, Palmer starts his day by viewing his stats on CJ, LinkShare, etc. Then, he logs into Google AdWords to check on his costs. “I do have some spreadsheet systems that I made up to make it easier on myself and this way I can make bidding decisions based on that and see where my ROI from the previous day was.” All of this, he says, is a way of tailoring your existing sites to make them better. “It is far easier to improve on existing websites than to launch a brand new site.”

He’s always looking for ways to improve things. “I probably differ from most in that I will build a website around a merchant’s product and services instead of just throwing a link on my site – then throw a couple of hundred keywords at it.”

Once traffic looks promising, he will expand. It could take few days to a few weeks to see if it is worth it. He claims that he’s got more patience than most affiliates and he believes that’s what helps him to see if ROI kicks in and to wait for the results.

Palmer then spends the rest of his work time building relationships – over chat, email or by phone talking to the merchants. It’s his favorite part of the job.

“You want to know the dirty little secret of affiliate marketing?” he says conspiratorially. “I gained 30 pounds because you don’t get a lot of exercise just sitting, building websites.” He says it took a lot of hard work and sacrifice. He says he sold a favorite – and very expensive – racing bike and some of his personal gadgets – a road bike, Palm Pilot and cell phone – to get the business started.

“People buy into the hype and hope. I want to retire by the time I’m 30. So, in the beginning I was doing 20-hour days and still do some of those sometimes.” The reason so many affiliates don’t turn over the big numbers, according to Palmer, is because they are unwilling to do the tough work. He says you have to put in the labor on optimizing your site and making it eye-catching. He’s constantly experimenting – putting up a site and throwing a few hundred keywords at it to see if it can bring numbers. It’s fun for him.

Palmer proudly states he still has no employees on his payroll. His wife doesn’t receive a paycheck, although he can count on her to give him advice on design and the content. “She’s kind of my quality assurance person and will say she doesn’t like a graphic or will brainstorm on keywords.” Sometimes she even reads his emails before he sends them to make sure he’s being coherent.

He keeps an office about 10 minutes from home but goes in when he needs to concentrate on something or make important calls – otherwise he’s pretty content working from the home office. Plus, they live near a great park and ball field where he loves to take his two kids, who are 5 and 3 years old.

“I can spend all day there.” Currently, he does a kind of week on, week off. Works on the sites for a week and then spends a week riding his bike, going to the park, reading business books and magazines – Forbes or Fortune. “I can read those like some would read Harry Potter.”

It sounds idyllic and it is, but the journey wasn’t without emotional bumps. The hardest decisions he and his wife made about quitting their day jobs was what to do about his wife’s career. She had been a full-time worker since she was 16 years old, Palmer says, and changing to a stay-at home mom was jarring. It was a big step for her to quit her job but the decision was made easier by the fact that the income from the affiliate sites mandated they convert to full-time affiliates.

“The sites were growing so much,” Palmer says, “that the only thing holding them back was our time investment. So, we had to spend more time.”

Quitting their jobs was the no-brainer – it was clear on paper that the commissions were paying way more than their day jobs.

Equally unsettling was what to do with their success.

“Some guys get a little cash and they go out and buy a Mercedes or a new house,” he says. But in the end, quality of life won out. As a born and raised Utahan, Palmer is definitely very family-oriented just as they teach in the Mormon church, even though Palmer says they don’t go to temple as much as he did when he was young. But the luxury of having more free time now allows him to get more involved in the kids’ extracurricular activities like sports and gymnastics.

While Palmer did upgrade his home and put the kids in private school, he and his wife thought pretty rationally about what to do about their new-found wealth. They kind of played a spinning globe game – if we could live anywhere, where would it be? They thought Austin, Texas, looked attractive and the San Francisco Bay Area certainly was a consideration. But in the end they decided to stay right where they were in a suburb of Salt Lake City. They knew it to be family-friendly and the pace of life was perfect for them.

Things have been so idyllic, in fact, that Palmer decided to share his secrets. His recently available e-book, High Performance Affiliate Marketing, pretty much recounts how he did it and with the right elbow grease, anyone can do it.

He says the book is practical and not one of those “get-rich” books. “I basically wrote it because I think there was a need for it,” he says. Most of the books on the market, he adds, seem so dated even when they are only a year or two old. “I wanted to know if my knowledge was transferable. I led this internship with five other affiliates and they are doing Ok. I just sat down with them for five hours and two of them have quit their day jobs.” He says one even worked for NASA, surely a dream job for many, and yet this guy gave it all up to become an affiliate.

One of the unique things about the book – available at – is that when you buy it you get all the updates for free in perpetuity. As Palmer adds revisions to the book as the markets dictate, all buyers get those revisions too.

Why essentially give away his secrets? “I think the Internet is a big place,” he says, “and lots of people wonder why I give the secrets away but I believe in karma. Since if I give something to the community I will benefit from it.” He even offers a free support forum for the book so that if readers have questions, they just email him directly to his personal email account.

“As an affiliate I just build websites and go over numbers,” he says. “But I really enjoy the face-to-face, so that’s why I reach out to the merchants. And as I operate on an island over here, the book feeds my social needs.”

While he said he wants to retire at 30, his version of retirement would be to only work a few hours a day. “I’ve always had the entrepreneurial spirit,” he says proudly. “You know, I had worked at a huge call center here and was answering tech support calls for Microsoft. By the end of my stay there I was overseeing 80 employees but was really turned off by the red tape of big companies. I said I would only work for small companies from then on, where I could make an impact. You see, there is always a ceiling and I figured if I worked for myself, there would be no ceiling.”