Monday, 26 February 2018

Traffic Exchanges and Downline Builders: Getting Started with Free Traffic

"Free traffic" are the two most seductive words to newbie online marketers.
In the olden days (like in the early-to-mid-1990s) banner exchanges were all the rage: for every time someone saw a banner on your site, you got to show your own banner on someone else's web site. These morphed into services like StumbleUpon, which allowed better control of the targeting, as well as feedback on the quality of the sites being promoted.
Banner exchanges were, however, passive. Stumble Upon was the first example of a more active approach, and this turned quickly into a system of trading surfing for page views. Surfers could now earn credits by visiting sites, and use those credits to have their site suggested to fellow surfers.
However, this gave rise to some level of abuse as people turned to bots.

The Rise of the Traffic Exchange Bot

Clicking is tedious, and so some clever programmer created the traffic exchange bot to do all the work for them.
Of course, this devalued the whole concept: rather than earning credits by actually looking at the content, bots were just clicking 'Next' every time.
These were just an extension of the old 'banner bots' that would click banners to earn impressions, but applied to the new paradigm of traffic exchanges.
To get around this, two things happened:

  • Clever developers created a timed-click based on matching shapes or pictures to fox the bots;
  • Networks grew up around similar offerings, and the ecosystem became one of sharing sites amongst entrepreneurs.

Making it harder for bots to automate clicking, and making it self-defeating by establishing a network of users was a smart move, but had some obvious drawbacks.

Traffic Exchange Networks

The problem with many traffic exchange networks is that since traffic exchange scripts are easy to create and sell, so many have sprung up that they just cannibalise each other.
In other words, most of the networks tend to have roughly the same membership profiles. In fact, a lot of them have the same participants.
Like banks just exist to swap money, traffic exchange networks just exist to trade clicks. Like banks, this is not necessarily a bad thing, but one has to realise that this is what they are for.
The thing is, all participants are at the same level, and all are looking for the same thing: business opportunities.
It works, but it tends to build temporary relationships. Only the owner of the exchange has immediate access to all the participants -- and can charge a premium to advertisers -- and so beyond the "opportunity swapping" that goes on the value stays at the top.
What was needed was a mix of an affiliate network and traffic exchange platform: the downline builder.

The Advent of the Downline Builder System

This is something I came across whilst looking at the SFI business model.
In essence, it's something like a traffic exchange network in that the 'heads' of each downline participate in an exchange where they cross promote with the express intention to build each other's downlines.
New sign-ups go either under the person who referred them, or, when the places that they are allowed to allot are filled up, the next person in the network.
Those that participate fully get more slots allocated, and therefore can build a deeper network, faster. The more they refer, the more spaces they get.
At the same time, those that put in just a small amountof effort will get some return: a smaller downline, but a downline nonetheless.
Where this differs from a classic traffic exchange is that the downline is available to the referrer, who has unique access rights to promote to her own downline.
Each member of the downline also has the ability to build their own downline, resulting in something called a 'matrix'.
However, a person can only participate in a singe downline 'downstream', so the network cannot cannibalise itself.
To entice fresh participants, and grow the network, as well as offer new opportunities to the downline, some form of automated advertising support is needed - an "ad rotator".

Yet Another Splashscreen Rotator

Ad rotators have been around for a while, but the rise of traffic exchange programmes and downline builders means that a new tool is needed. Known as the splashscreen rotator, it is a simple piece of software that displays a random splash screen each time it is requested to.
The benefit of this is that you can spread your traffic exchange credits across multiple projects, with a single URL. Most rotators are pretty basic, but YASR is different:

  • Full click-through stats;
  • Organise adverts into groups;
  • Automatic balancing & split-testing (coming soon);
  • ...FREE!
Check it out, and sign up here: YetAnotherSplashscreenRotator.

Monday, 28 August 2017

SFI Affiliate Scheme: Business Opportunity, Network Marketing, or Just Cheap Goods?

The AFI Affiliate Scheme has been around for almost as long as I can remember being interested in online business.

I seem to link it in my mind to a programme called Six Figure Income, something that I dismissed in the early 2000s as being plainly impossible to achieve. SFI, I reasoned, would be gone in a few short years, probably a victim of its own over-promising rhetoric.

I'm pleased to say, that, 17 years later, I was wrong. SFI seems as strong as it promised it would be. If I'd have stuck with it, who knows where I'd be today?

However, I'm back with SFI, as I see there's still room for expansion. For a start, there's a whole load of people in Europe who've never even heard of SFI...

How SFI Works

The guiding principle behind SFI, as I remember it from the past, has always been about two things:

  • Transfer purchasing of everyday goods (& online services);
  • Building a team.
The two are, and always have been, linked.

The idea behind Transfer Buying is that you buy everyday items from SFI's store (called TripleClicks) which are available at a discount simply because of the number of people buying them. It works really well in the US, but has yet to catch on in Europe. One reason might be because there aren't that many sellers, and paying the shipping makes them as expensive as locally bought products!

Before you write it off as a bad deal, remember two things: as there are more sign-ups, there will be more opportunity to buy locally, through TC. And, not everything that is worth buying from TC needs to be physically shipped.

eBooks, for example. Valuable eBooks about business, the internet, and internet business abound on TC, and many are keenly priced (think $2.99 to 9.99) and reviewed by an honest bunch of like-minded individuals. I won't say it's better than a certain big online retailer, but I've found it to be higher value!

So, where's the business building income opportunity? In helping to spread the word, of course, and help to bring in new suppliers (called ECAs) of goods for your local market. Think Global, act Local!

What Does SFI Sell?

The TripleClicks store sells new and used goods. SFI members can sell the contents of their garage online, and they can buy everything from Toilet Bowl Cleaner to eBooks about SEO.

There are sellers from all over the world and a powerful search system that helps match buyers with local sellers. It also lets you filter by price, too, as well as bestselling and most popular. All that you'd expect from an online store.

The heart of many online stores is, of course, the affiliate scheme. SFI is essentially TripleClicks' own team-oriented affiliate scheme. Team members are encouraged to transfer purchasing of items for the home and office into TripleClicks, and if they promote TripleClicks items themselves, they also earn a commission.

Does SFI Work?

As a business platform, SFI undoubtedly works.

Of course, you should expect to put in some effort; any affiliate knows that the only way to make commissions is to find the best products, and then promote them.

The added bonus that SFI comes with, however, is a plan, a framework, and a lot of resources that will help you to build a healthy team dynamic that centres around helping others rather than hard selling.

Your SFI business can have many different facets: building a solid team of recruiters, helping friends and family save money, becoming an info-product seller on TripleClicks, or helping local suppliers leverage the marketplace, plus any mix of the above. You get the tools, support, and leverage you need to succeed!

(Plus, don't tell anyone, but the skills you'll learn are transferable, so you've really got nothing to lose!)

Just click the banner below to find out all about SFI, and join my team!

Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Don't Ignore What Everyone Else Tells You To Do!

I'm reading a book at the moment that has the potential to change my life. I'm also participating in a Mastermind Group for pro-bloggers and entrepreneurs. At the same time, I'm following a course on ways to make money from a blog business (or should that be "business blog"?)

They're all telling me the same thing; but being a stubborn, creative person, I've been ignoring them and doing my own thing, revelling a bit in the failure and passing it off as a "learning experience".

It turns out there's only so much "learning" I'm willing to put up with, and today the penny dropped.

Stop Procrastinating Now!

Here's an odd statement - all my failures to date have been a result of procrastination. In thinking that I've been incredibly productive and pro-active, all I've been doing is setting balls in motion with no follow-up when they fail to produce immediate results.

What I should have done is thought them through, properly, and only executed the ones with a decent chance of success. But, I've been putting that off in favour of direct action, rather than doing what David Risley (of the Blog Marketing Academy) and the Mastermind Group were saying was the best way forward - planning.

So, action is good, but make it the correct kind of action, and start with your business model.

Find Your Business Model

Some of the questions that you should ask yourself involve imagining that this will be the only thing you'll be doing fro around 20 hours per week, solidly.

You need to find a business model that matches your skills - if you can write, then produce written digital products, if you're skilled at doing deals, then make the emphasis on JVs - and that can pay you enough to make it worthwhile.

Should the business model be a membership site? One on one consultancy? An eBook? Some form of Software as a Service (SaaS) offering a clear solution to an existing problem?

It's up to you. But to get the juices flowing...

Kickstart the Creative Process

I recommend reading the book. Heartily. I'm planning to go through it once at speed, and then again, picking out the stuff I can use immediately. At the same time, the author has put together some truly outstanding resources for anyone to deploy.

Fair warning - to get the most out of them, you do need to buy the book. Fair disclosure : the link is an affiliate link, and I'll earn some pennies towards the next book on my entrepreneurial book wishlist which looks like being the highly acclaimed Re:Work.

But, the templates alone will get you thinking, and launching your $100 start-up business.

In case you hadn't guessed, the book is The $100 Start-Up by Chris Guillemeau. The resources I mentioned can be found on the companion site.

Go get 'em. Both.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Standing on the Shoulders of the Four Hour Work Week

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn /
There seems to be a trend in entrepreneurial books to reduce the working week to ever smaller figures, but are these sound-bites or realistic strategies? If they're realistic, how do we go about earning a seven figure sum from a single figure visit to the coal-face?

Let's start by re-visiting the key popular literature on the topic of doing more with less.

At one end of the scale, there is "The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape the 9-5, Live Anywhere and Join the New Rich", by Tim Ferris. In a nutshell, Tim built a business around health supplements that enabled him to abandon a traditional 9-5, 5 day working week in favour of working whenever, and wherever he chooses, with enough income to do pretty much whatever he chooses.

Some people seem to think he's just a glorified self-publicist, using his story to sell books, while others have successfully replicated his strategies and now lead lifestyles that most would be envious of. Whether you buy into the whole kitsch or not, there are some useful nuggets in the book and it's worth reading, or skimming the sample pages available on Amazon, including the Table of Contents.

Of note as far as the lean start-up is concerned:

- delegate out as far as possible;
- remove yourself from the machine as early as possible;
- validate ideas as cheaply as possible.

At the other end of the scale, there's "The 3 Day Entrepreneur: How to Build a 6 or 7 Figure Business Working Less Than 3 Days a Week", by William U. Pena, MBA. The tag-line, helpfully, is "Build a Business, Not a Job", which immediately sets the scene in our favour.

After all, we don't want a job, we just want to have a business that earns money. It turns out that the book is a lifestyle guide, as well as a lean management bible. In fact, like the 4HWW, if you already have a job, you'll be able to use the techniques to streamline that, leaving you time to build a separate business.

Again, the key points are as follows:

- use leverage to reduce resource requirements;
- automate wherever possible (just another kind of leverage);
- create systems, and be prepared to optimize everything by testing;
- schedule tasks according to their value, importance, and contribution to the business.

Oh, and we're not just concerned with time, we also want to be able to do it with less money, as well. Enter "The $100 Startup: Fire Your Boss, Do What You Love and Work Better to Live More" by Chris Guillebeau; on the face of it a way to turn a measly amount of cash into a business empire that's fun to run, but in reality more like a cottage industry start-up manual than anything else.

Modern management writers are at it too, by the way. This isn't the place for a full-on review of modern management texts, but a quick Amazon search for lean strategic management yields a good list of starting points. The gist is that using lean techniques, with some of the 4HWW and Three Day Entrepreneur style time and resource management thrown in, even top companies can benefit from this idea that we can achieve our goals by putting in ever decreasing measures of actual effort.

So, where does that leave the start-up entrepreneur?

The opening paragraph posed two questions - is there any substance to the idea that we can do more with less, and if so, how? - and the answers are, yes, and by not actually doing anything yourself that can be done by someone else.

For example, both Ferris and Pena advocate removing yourself from the actual mechanics of the business. Ferris suggests that you do this by hiring a PA from India to cover your tasks (but then, of course, you have to have the $400 or so per month required to pay them) and Pena has a novel idea that you can just choose a day when you do no work at all, and see how the business gets on without you.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici /

In the real world, this translates into something akin to putting together a kind of jigsaw puzzle. Only when all the pieces fit together will the business function as a whole; if one thing breaks then the whole house of cards (to swap metaphors for a moment) comes crashing down.

That's the downside of using leverage; if you farm out responsibility and the mechanics of the business, you'd better prepare for what happens when it falls apart behind your back. Luckily, if you follow Ferris', Guillemeau's or Pena's advice, the effects will be minimal.

Not every business model works with these strategies either, of course. Typically, those that work well provide recurring income (like subscription services such as Unexpected Teas or Sumo Jerky) or those that have fully outsourced production of products to be sold through an online retailer like Amazon.

The various jigsaw pieces might include:

- a payment gateway (PayPal, or similar)
- an outsourced manufacturer or content producer
- a PA to manage QA
- someone to oversee issues (usually yourself)
- an online manager (web design, software updates, etc.)
- various bloggers, researchers, paid Twitterers, etc.

While you can make it work whilst doing much of the grind yourself, that pretty much predicates quitting any day job you might have had, and part of the beauty of the three day (or even the four hour) week is that you can start your business at the same time as having the security of being a cubicle worker.

Based on what I've read, it's certainly possible to match your current income, as long as you're not already raking in millions, whilst only 'working' for a few days per week. The trouble is, it's addictive, and before long you might well find that you've swapped one kind of lucrative prison for another as you thrill in the start-up cycle for the third or fourth time.

Whether that works for you or not is another question, and one that only you can answer.

Monday, 3 February 2014

The Day the (SEO) Content Penny Dropped

The Day The (SEO) Content Penny Dropped!

Psst. Want to hear something funny? I don't care if anyone ever reads this. Because today, the SEO penny dropped.

I was reading a post on SearchEngineWatch's blog called 'Building a CRAP SEO Content Strategy' and was just thinking how on-message it was for 21st century SEO, when it happened.

There's little point diluting their message, but CRAP is an acronym that pulls together a lot of different, but great, ideas, about SEO and content.

If you're at all interested, I suggest you read it yourself when you've finished here.

Nobody Cares About Your Logo

The last time I set up a blog ( I held off launching because I didn't have a logo I was happy with.

Then I hated the layout, so didn't launch.

Then it was the lack of paid member content.

But then it occurred to me that nobody cares about the logo. Visitors don't click through to the site because of the logo. Except under rare circumstances, they'll not see it until they visit the site.

When they get there, they're not going to leave because I don't have a logo. They won't stay because the logo looks pretty.

They're too busy reading the content and deciding if it's crap or CRAP.

So Why Don't I Care?

Okay, I was exaggerating for effect. Of course I care

However, if nobody ever reads this, it's because they're not interested enough in the content. Or that I haven't provided enough content, or that it doesn't engage them. If they don't share it, it's because it is without value.

Search engines can't really rate value. They can infer from Tweets, re-Tweets, social bookmarking and sharing that visitors value it enough to share it, but they can only guess at why.

For those who think that they can tell an image from a textual message; think of an info-graphic. They often have more information than a 600 word blog, so are probably as valuable, if not more. But if search engines apply a strict image/text rule, they'll be classified as 'less' valuable than the text.

Even if they're not.

Is a post with a mix of images and text more 'valuable'? Maybe. Maybe not. Only a human can really answer that question.

How Does This Rant Relate to Start-Up?

I'm glad you asked.

When you start up a business, be it a blog or a lemonade stand, if your product is good, it will succeed despite not having a logo.

Don't let the unimportant details slow you down. Learn what is important, and concentrate on that, and get to launch as fast as is reasonable.

Create value, and you'll be successful. Create a pretty logo, and all you've got is a pretty logo.