When I first got into affiliate marketing in 2009, I had no clue about how to get traffic online, let alone affiliate marketing traffic. All I wanted was to become a super affiliate.
It’s a term used to describe affiliate marketers who make $10,000 per month.
$10,000 per month is a magic number. It’s like the smell of mama’s pie cooling on the window sill. You can smell it from miles away. It reminds you how hungry you are. It consumes your attention until nothing matters more than getting a piece of the pie. But you can’t have it. It needs to cool. And besides, you haven’t had dinner yet.
I envied marketers whose names glittered on the product launch leaderboards. They were making more money, had more freedom and lived life with gusto.
Incidentally, the leaderboard didn’t change from launch to launch. It seemed like there were couple dozen super affiliates who always outsold the rest of us.
What was their secret?
They had lots of affiliate marketing traffic.
And they could pipeline it to any affiliate link they wanted. Anytime.
I became obsessed with finding out how they were doing it.
Apparently, they knew something the rest of us didn’t. A traffic secret that separates super affiliates from loser affiliates.
I was willing to bet all the tea in china that if I worked hard enough to find out what their secret traffic strategy was, it’d be just a matter of time before I too will become a super affiliate.
I spent the next 18 months researching, studying and testing traffic sources. I even got scammed in the process.
Sadly, I haven’t found what I was looking for. What I have discovered felt more like a step back than success.
I have discovered there was no affiliate marketing traffic source these super affiliates committed to religiously.
Each seemed to subscribe to his or her own unique traffic strategy. There was one super affiliate who specialized in search engine optimization. Another one swore he owed his fortunes to AdWords. A duo of super affiliate brothers put their faith in banner ads. Some were dabbling in all of the above.
It made me certain of one thing – the traffic source they were using wasn’t what shaped their income.
What was it then?
How did they make hundreds of affiliate sales on launch day? And then again the next launch which sometimes happened as soon as the day after next?
If traffic wasn’t their secret weapon – what was?
When I excluded traffic (or more precisely, targeted affiliate marketing traffic) as the common denominator, I began observing how they market.
I finally spotted the pattern I was looking for.
The process went something like this:
They drove affiliate marketing traffic to a landing page that collected the visitor’s email address in exchange for an ethical bribe.
Eben Pagan, one of the most respected super affiliates, would refer to this strategy later as “Moving The Free Line” in one of his most famous talks.
Why hunt email addresses?
Why not sell straight away?
What’s the point of building an email list?
It’s simple, really. The difference between a super affiliate and a loser affiliate is their attitude. The super affiliate plays a long term game. She builds an audience (email list). Come launch day, the super affiliate sets of a sequence of strategic emails selling the product. The emails create social proof, desire and scarcity.
That’s how she gets hundreds of affiliate sales with a push of a button.
Email traffic is highly responsive. According to a recent study by mail munch, email is one of the top 3 most responsive forms of advertising. It’s more profitable than social media, display and referrals.
Perry Marshall, the author of 80/20 Sales And Marketing and The Ultimate Guide To Google Adwords, calls email the “center of marketing universe:”
An email list, not some gimmick, fad or software, is the secret to making $10,000 per with affiliate marketing.
For that, you don’t need a huge list. But a responsive one.
Experts like to generalize by saying each subscriber on your list is worth a dollar. But that’s not true. Most lists never pull a dollar per subscriber. They’re lucky if they squeeze ten cents per email.
The first 1,000-person email list I built with blogging, SEO and social media was worthless. I pulled 3 clicks per mailing. It hasn’t produced a single sale in months. The mistake I made was to build my list with the wrong traffic source. I later discovered it to be far more effective to market to people who were already subscribing and buying from other email lists than to convince a “virgin optin” to buy through my affiliate link.
It’s been almost a decade since I made that discovery but not much has changed. Affiliate marketing community is still driven primarily by email endorsements. Reciprocal mailings are expected.
No one treats you seriously unless you can show a decent list.
Which begs the question:
What’s the fastest and easiest way to build a responsive list?
Imagine you could rent another person’s email list, which just so happens to be full of people who fit your ideal customer description, for a one-time fee. No strings attached. No dotted lines to sign. A handshake advertising deal, of sorts. One that could easily add 100-1,000 new potential customers to your email list.
That’s what a solo ad is. It’s been my go-to traffic strategy for the last 7 years. With it, I’ve made millions of dollars. And I hope to make more millions, because email is my #1 affiliate marketing traffic strategy for the next 10 years.
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon says:
“I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next 10 years?’ And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next 10 years?’ And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.”
I don’t know everything, but I know email isn’t going to disappear in the next 10 years.
Email is used for anything personal and important.
We email documents to each other, we don’t post them on Facebook.
We email receipts, we don’t tweet them.
And we even email contracts for signature, we don’t publish them on Instagram.
As much as Mark Zuckerberg wants email gone, it’s a lost cause to fight it. Email’s most profitable way to build your business.
A customer list is the foundation to any healthy business that generates its own customers and pays its own bills. It creates a frenzy with a button push. It combines the two most desirable marketing attributes – speed and buyer power.
But list building is a s-l-o-w process. Especially if you’re building a list with the kind of affiliate marketing traffic that’s not receptive to email marketing.
The only way to speed it up is to advertise to prospects who are already conditioned to open and read marketing emails. You’ll make more money this way too, because these prospects are more likely to buy faster.
That’s why I am advocating solo ads for anyone who wants to become a super affiliate in volatile niches. Especially the markets with lots of hungry buyers and lots of money-making opportunities.
I’ve decided to put this guide together because solo ads are still a subject of much confusion.
In spite of being the McDonalds Burger of online advertising – fast, cheap and widely-accessible – most marketers, even veterans, are still unlucky with solo ads.
Why? largely, the reason for this is crushing amounts of misleading advice about solo ads as an affiliate marketing traffic source.
If you Google solo ads, you’ll struggle to find anything other than 500-700 word articles giving a brief overview of the method. And when you dig deeper, all hell breaks loose. You’re suddenly flooded with contradicting advice that leaves you more confused than when you started your search.
If you’re a solo ads beginner, you’re going to have a hard time answering the following questions:
• What are solo ads and are they profitable?
• Who should use solo ads?
• How solo ads are different from Facebook ads, Google AdWords and SEO?
• What you need to know to successfully run solo ads?
• What’s the best way to promote affiliate offers with solo ads?
• How and where to buy solo ads?
• What’s the difference between a solo ad broker and solo ad seller and who should you trust?
• How to write the perfect solo ad swipe?
• What if your solo ads aren’t converting?
• What’s the ways you can get scammed buying solo ads? And how to prevent being scammed by solo ads vendors?
• How to scale solo ads to $10,000 per month?
Since there’s no clear answer to any of these questions, I decided to take the time to create this Ultimate Guide To Buying Solo Ads.
The goal of this guide is to help you see and understand how you can profitably build your list with solo ads no matter what you’re marketing.
It’ll help you avoid common (read: expensive) mistakes solo ad beginners make.
The advice I share within the pages of this guide are based on my 10-year experience in Internet marketing and 7-year experience with solo ads.
This is the most comprehensive and accurate solo ads guide to date guaranteed. Dig in!
What is a “Solo Ad”?
Solo ad is a one-time email drop to another person’s email list for a fee.
Why would anyone email their list with your affiliate link?
For the same reason bloggers offer advertisers spots on their websites and YouTube channels. Email list is just another form of an engaged audience. A list to internet marketer is what TV audience is to Oprah and Dr Phil.
If you’re familiar with email drops, an affiliate marketing traffic strategy that’s been popular in the early 2000s, you’ll have an easy time grasping what solo ads are.
Unlike traditional email drops (aka email ezine ads), however, where you rent a spot on top, in the middle or at the bottom of an email, a solo ad is an entire email that’s an ad.
The reason solo ads are so profitable is because they’re an endorsement.
It’s referral traffic with a price tag.
Instead of begging a JV partner to mail or slowly build your own list through organic methods, you quickly leverage other people’s lists. Whatever you supposedly lose on ad costs, you quickly gain with speed.
The best part about solo ad leads is that they’re already subscribing to email lists. They’re already opening and clicking. It’s the perfect prospect for anyone who’s looking to make money promoting products to their list.
There are thousands of list owners out there who are happy to pimp their list to you in any niche.
In fact, there’s some people whose entire business is to offer solo mailings to people like you and me.
What’s the best way to profit with solo ads?
Solo ads are great for building your own email list.
You can send solo ad traffic directly to a VSL or a webinar, but I advise against it.
You’ll make more money directing it to a squeeze page first, collecting the prospect’s email address and then redirecting them to your VSL or optin bribe.
Solo ads are fast. It’s not unrealistic to get 300, 500, 1000 or even 2,000 subscribers on your list within 48 hours of running an ad. It is one of the reasons why I prefer solo ads to other affiliate marketing traffic strategies such as Facebook where scaling is difficult and unpredictable.
Here’s what I’m talking about.
Facebook spreads traffic evenly across the entire span of a campaign. You can go as low as $10 a day and get a steady exposure over time. To scale, you increase your daily budget. But when you do, Facebook just spends your money faster without maintaining efficiency.
Solo ads are so much easier to scale. You can start as low as $50-$100 to test a list. And if you like the results, just buy a larger solo. No algorithms to worry about. It’s like turning on the tap.
The downside to solo ads is fraud.
Solo ad directories are scam-galore. Same is true about the so-called “secret solo ad Facebook groups.” Those are even worse!
The fact no agency or entity regulates the solo ad community is a double edged sword.
On one hand, not having third party regulators means you won’t have to deal with red tape or regulations like you have to deal with on Facebook or Gogole AdWords.
There’s no such thing as being “solo slapped.”
On the other hand, it’s the wild-wild west. You have to do your own due diligence. If you’re not careful, you can lose thousands of dollars on bad solo ads in your first week.
This guide shows you how to make solo ads profitable. It’s not an exact science, but over the years I discovered a set of specific rules you need to stick by to profitably run solo ads.
What offers work best with solo ads?
Anytime I create a new funnel for solo ads, this is where I spend most of time. I don’t dwell on my squeeze page, upsells or even my thank you pages as much as I do on The Offer.
This is the only part of the entire funnel I must get absolutely right. Otherwise each solo ad I run is a lost cause.
In order to show you how to get your sales funnel dialed in, I am going to get specific.
Since online business opportunity niche is my specialty, that’s where most of my examples and case studies will be from.
But don’t let this fool you – there’s solo ads for almost any market from survival to personal development to real estate. You just have to know where to look. And I’ll tell you exactly where to go and what to do.
First, let’s talk about the perfect solo ad sales funnel.
Affiliate offer vs. Your own product
If you’re still trying to make sense of internet marketing, you should promote other people’s products (e.g. become an affiliate marketer).
Because you won’t have to learn how to create sales funnels, put products together and write sales copy.
Affiliate marketing is a great business model. Some people make a comfortable multiple six figure income promoting affiliate products. They stay out of the spotlight, quietly raking it in.
There’s also people like John Chow and Jeremy Shoemaker who made a name for being super-affiliates. So whether you’re the kind of person who craves the spotlight or runs away from it – affiliate marketing can be a great fit for you.
There is one major downside to affiliate marketing though.
As an affiliate you control nothing.
You don’t control the buyer.
You don’t control the offer.
And you don’t control the upsell process.
Hey, you may be making money today, but it may be gone tomorrow.
I’ve seen super affiliates lose their entire income overnight because the company froze six figures in earnings for policy violation.
Another client of mine waited 6 months to get $4,000 in affiliate commissions due to the affiliate program owner having issues with his merchant account.
My point: affiliate marketing is great money, but you can lose it as quickly as you make it.
Which is why as you grow, consider expanding into a product line of your own, because you’ll make 3X-10X more money while still being able to promote affiliate offers to your list.
This way you get best of both worlds.
The security of being in control of your income and the profit-boost from promoting other people’s products to your audience.
Your own product also helps you make a higher ROI on your solo ads.
In fact, the only clients who breakeven the same day they run solo ads with me are clients who run their own offers.
Additional benefit of running your own offers is that you won’t have to deal with a middle man between you and your money. You’ll often get paid the same day and be able to reinvest the earnings into advertising or just buy nice things for your family.
Plus, you’ll have full control of the offer. It allows you to tweak it if it doesn’t convert. Something you can’t do with an affiliate offer you don’t control.
Another reason to eventually develop your own product is expert positioning and higher status. Nothing screams “I’m an expert” to the prospect as your name on a product cover.
Last but not least – you’ll own a buyer list.
The old marketing adage says a buyer is a buyer is a buyer. What this means is that it’s easier to sell to someone who bought from you before than someone who never done business with you.
10X easier to be exact.
When I launched my first successful info product, my affiliate commissions doubled the same month. Next month they quadrupled. I went from making 1-2 affiliates sales a week to closing 2-4 sales per day.
My buyer list made all the difference in the world. It will make a difference for you too.
The next section is all about how to create the perfect offer for solo ads traffic with your own info product. If you decided to stick to affiliate marketing for now, skip to the “How To Promote Affiliate Offers With Solo Ads” section.
The perfect solo ad sales funnel
I’ve tested dozens of sales funnel structures over the years with solo ads. Here’s a blueprint of my most profitable solo ad sales funnel to date.
How to position your offer
If you’re buying solo ads in the Internet Marketing/Make Money Online/Online Business Opportunity/Multi-Level Marketing niche – you’re going after people who would like to save time, avoid mistakes and spend as little money as possible on their way to financial freedom.
They hate guesswork.
They hate having to figure things out on their own. They’re looking for the shortest path to success.
Don’t make them work.
Make it easy for them to say “YES.”
Your offer should be positioned in a form of a system. It’s an overused term, I know. But it’s still the best way to position your product.
“System” is an A-Z walkthrough that leaves no room for error.
It must to seem to them as if you went to hell and back, fought off the cyber tooth tigers and now you’re handing over everything you learned in a form of a detailed map with all the Xs marked for a great price.
How to price your offer
The fact you must offer a great offer, doesn’t mean you must price it cheap.
You must offer great value for their money.
My rule is to offer 10X the value over the price the prospect’s paying.
You’re in business to get rich.
There’s no exception to this rule.
If you’re buying solo ads for any other reason than to make a great living (whatever this means to you in terms of actual dollar amount) – stop immediately.
That’s why I recommend against any sort of trials. Free or paid.
$1 trials generate lots of sign ups. But these sign-ups are of no real use to you as a marketer. They’re not potent buyers. They’re not committed customers.
Free trials are even worse.
Trial buyers don’t stick. They don’t buy upsells. They’re dead weight in your CRM.
The only time I’ll ever offer a trial is when I exhausted all the other options.
We’ve always had better results with an upfront commitment under $30 on the front end. $9-$17 is the sweet spot that got us the most front end sales with the highest upsell conversions.
Payment plans work well too. It may seem ridiculous, but by offering a 2-pay option on a $27 product we were able to increase the average front end transaction size by 70%.
Consider split testing one-time $17 vs 2 payments of $17 two weeks apart. You may discover, just like we did, that people are more likely to buy things they’re allowed to pay off over time.
When using payment plans, the challenge you’ll run into is collecting the money. Credit card payments tend to get declined often. PayPal subscriptions skip and fail.
When that happens – and it will happen – just accept it and move on.
Don’t attempt to chase customers. Encouraging your customers to settle their debt on a product they already own is a waste of time. You may get some people to follow through, but it won’t be worth the time and energy you invest.
Instead, focus on making the most from the first installment. Make it big enough to cover your costs regardless whether the 2nd payment goes through. If they it does, it’s just a nice bonus to an already profitable transaction.
Of course you may wonder – why not give them only a part of the product that gets unlocked when they pay the 2nd installment?
We tried that. We made less money this way. It had a lot to do with the initial excitement wearing off for the buyer. Strike the iron while its hot.
Don’t attempt the subscription model with a personal or a business PayPal account. PayPal allows the customer to cancel the recurring billing without having to go through you.
This keeps you from knowing the customers’ concerns and reasons for cancelling which proves useful in improving your product, improving your copy and increasing retention.
Use a merchant account that offers recurring billing. Get Stripe if it’s available in your country. PayPal Payments Pro – PayPal’s spin on a merchant account – is my 2nd favorite.
Video sales letter (VSL) vs Text sales letter
In the recent years, the make money online niche has been awash with lifestyle video sales letters. This may give you an idea that you need a lifestyle video of your own to convert solo ad traffic.
Good news – no, you do not.
I’m not saying video sales letters don’t convert. They do, of course. But there’s no rule that says you should use a VSL over a text sales letter.
Some of our most successful offers include some videos (mostly to support the claims using testimonials from happy customers), but they’re long form text copy.
We’re not the only ones subscribing to this school of thought.
Digital Marketer is using text sales letters for all their $995 programs. That’s a $20,000,000.00 a year publishing company who was the first to use video sales letters staring their CEO, Ryan Deiss.
My point – video sales letter production is a huge expense, it takes an awfully long time and it limits your ability to split test (we’ll talk about this in a bit).
Avoid it if you’re just starting out with solo ads.
Perfect solo ad sales letter formula
Writing copy is an art form.
It takes years of daily writing to master the skill many refer to as salesmanship in print. It also pays to have some sales experience.
But you probably want fast results, right? That’s cool.
You’re not looking to win an award, I hope. You just need your offer to convert decently.
Use this 12-step formula to write your first sales letter. This formula saved me early on when I didn’t know the first thing about writing sales copy.
I didn’t kill it straight out of the gate or anything. In fact, at first, my copy failed miserably. But this framework got me off to a great start and became the backbone of my first successful sales letter that eventually started bringing in consistent money every day.
This formula helped me structure my pitch, get prospects’ attention, convey the right benefits and push their emotional buttons. It’s a simple formula, yet an effective one.
Remember, Don Draper, you’re not trying to ink out Madison Avenue level copy.
You’re offering a low priced information product that solves a nagging pain your prospect suffers from.
As long as you clearly state your case showing how your product helps make their problem go away, they’ll listen and buy.
Plus, I’m sharing few other tricks to push them off the fence below.
Don’t try to be witty or creative. Just follow the formula.
And when it comes to your upsells, keep things super straight forward.
At this point, after picking up the front end offer, the prospect you’re going to be in front of is like a hedgehog in heat. He’ll buy it if you offer it. So just pitch it straight up, explain what’s in it for them and let their lizard brain do the rest.
Fastest way to build your solo ad funnel
I envy you.
When I started, I had to build my funnels from scratch in HTML or PHP.
It took me 6 months to build my first squeeze page.
It took me 2 years to put together my first decent-looking sales page.
Eventually, I got tired of the technical learning curve and partnered up with a developer. I struggled with tech so bad, I was willing to give up a percentage of my profits just so I never had to deal with code ever again.
Today, you don’t have to sacrifice your profits to build a professional sales funnel.
It doesn’t take years to build a squeeze page. It takes seconds. Minutes at most.
You don’t have to learn how to code HTML or PHP. You don’t have to outsource anything to freelancers.
Because ClickFunnels allows you to build a complete sales funnel using drag-and-drop interface. There’s several similar funnel builders I’ve tested, but ClickFunnels takes the cake.
CF offers the best user experience. And besides being an easy to use funnel builder, ClickFunnels also offers tutorials on how to build high-converting funnels, for both product owners and affiliates.
It’s been created by Russell Brunson, a world-class internet marketer. Russell’s one of us. He understands our needs. He’s done an incredible job with ClickFunnels. I can’t recommend it highly enough.
Plus, it’s really hard to not be a ClickFunnels fanboy, because Russell offers a free 14-day trial for new members.