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Apr 16, 2014

Badges? We don't need no stinkin' badges!

By Nana Gilbert-Baffoe, View comments

In my last email I closed off with this quote from Jeff Bezos. "Your margin is my opportunity." I like to think of it in this modified and generalized form of "Your weakness is my opportunity".

Amazon Logo

 

Let's play a game of chess. Actually nevermind, I'm not that good at chess so I'll have chess grandmaster Magnus Carlsen by my side and have him tell me what moves to make instead.

 

See what I did there? I changed the rules and completely disrupted any chance you may have had in winning. The funny thing about rules and restrictions is that most of them only exist in your head or in the heads of others. Let me show you a simple 3 step framework you can use to identify and break out of your own self imposed rules and limitations.

 

Step 1.

First write down all the rules you think apply to your life or business.

 

Step 2.

Go down the list, and for each item ask yourself these 2 whys?

Why do I have to do it this way?

Why is everyone doing things this way?

 

If the first things that come to mind sound like the following, "This is how it's always been done", "That's what everyone does", "It can't be done any other way" or even "It's too difficult to do it differently" it's a sign that you and others are stuck running your business or life under arbitrary limitations that do nothing but hold you back.

 

Step 3.

Finally ask yourself. How?

How can I break free of this mindset? How can I leverage this limiting rule to disrupt my competition?

 

Amazon"s Bezos disrupted the physical and online bookstore market by changing and ignoring the rules of the game being played by the then big booksellers. Today many of them are out of business and as of this writing, Amazon's market cap hovers around $140 billion give or take.

 

Ok enough about Amazon, let"s look at how you can apply this to affiliate marketing. Let"s work with just one example for now.

 

Step 1. Here"s one rule you probably have: "Never hire or work with anyone because, they will jack my campaigns and run off with everything I"ve worked so hard for"

 

Step 2. Why do you think the above is true? Well, everyone knows someone who"s had a campaign stolen. It"s hard to find someone you can trust to work with, especially when you are only interacting via chat or email..

 

Step 3. How can you use these limiting rules and fears to your advantage? Get out and network more, attend local events such as Meetup202. It"s much easier to evaluate and vet someone you"ve met and interacted with in real life. I met Wes, the original founder and developer of Tracking202 and Prosper202, at the very first Meetup202 in San Francisco. Every single Tracking202 employee was a friend made from the SF Meetup202 group or from conferences such as Affiliate Summit. Next work on minor projects with your new found friend(s) and keep expanding to bigger projects as you grow to trust them more. With your combined efforts you will be able to move faster and come up with numerous great ideas and angles. Once you are in your groove, you"ll generally outdo someone stuck in the old way of thinking that working solo is the way to go. I haven't met anyone making 6 figures plus a month as a 100% solo affiliate. But if that's you, drop me a line, I'd love to talk to you.

 

The affiliate team has redefined the rules of affiliate marketing, a 3 person team, marketer, designer and developer working in sync is like a pitting an elite Navy SEAL team against cave men.

 

The days of the unsophisticated performance marketer is over. The industry has matured, and to compete effectively, you must shed the old ways of thinking. Because there"s always a hungry affiliate out there who is ready to take your lunch and eat it while you helplessly watch.

 

In my next email, I"ll share some more simple but highly effective things you can do right now that will allow you to place the game under different rules and put you at multiple levels above the average affiliate.

 

I"ll leave you with a Game of Thrones Quote. It"s not much of a spoiler, but out of respect, highlight the text to read it.

 

"Harren the Black thought this castle would be his legacy. Greatest fortress ever built. Tallest towers, the strongest walls. The Great Hall had thirty-five hearths. Thirty-five, can you imagine? Look at it now. A blasted ruin. Do you know what happened? ... Dragons happened. Harrenhal was built to withstand an attack from the land. A million men could have marched on these walls and a million men would've been repelled. But an attack from the air, with dragonfire... Harren and all his sons roasted alive within these walls. Aegon Targaryen changed the rules. That's why every child alive still knows his name, three hundred years after his death."  - Tywin Lannister

Apr 14, 2014

Defend your affiliate castle, then conquer and take theirs

By Nana Gilbert-Baffoe, View comments
Age of EmpiresIn my teens my brother and I spent countless hours battling each other in multiplayer Age of Empires I, II & III (AoE).

Over the years, we devised and tested many different strategies. All of the in our attempt to find the edge that would enable us to beat the other person as quickly and easily as possible.

Two key things I quickly learned to do were to build defenses and efficiently acquire resources in mass quantities.  With those two things addressed, I could execute my other strategies knowing that I was "safe" and I had the resources needed to build a horde to relentlessly attack and destroy my brother's castles and cities.

Moat and Castle
Your affiliate marketing empire, large or small, needs defenses to protect it and resources to fuel it's growth.

Your landing pages, banners, ad copy and more are being copied left and right. Every day, new competitors enter your niche fighting you for the same finite number of targeted clicks. Offers go down, networks disappear, advertisers vanish, it's a crazy war zone out there!

That's why you need moats, guard towers and other defenses to protect what you already have. But spending all your time and effort protecting what you have is only half of the battle.


While busy protecting what you already have, you also have to acquire the resources needed to expand and compete for more slices of the cake. Ignore this, and you are automatically on the path to obsolescence. I'll explain this further in a moment.

Additionally, you will need some or all of the following: Money, cutting edge technology and tools, ideas, exclusive partnerships with advertisers, networks and traffic sources, a team to support you and more. The correct mix will be unique to you. But remember that without the life giving and sustaining essentials, it's difficult or even impossible to survive.

In AoE one of my secrets was to quickly explore the map, identify the best resources and lock them up with guard towers and troops, ideally I would do this as close to my brother's base as possible. He always hated it when he discovered my villages had already chopped down all his trees, mined his gold & stone, fished his rivers, hunted his deer and moved on leaving him with nothing. After every battle I had enough resources to generate more troops, but he didn't. Eventually the game would end in my favor. When he caught on to this strategy, the game got a bit harder for me :D


When you lock up all the best resources such as traffic sources, placements, offers, tools and more, the competitive advantage is yours. 

In addition to more and more aggressive competition, another reason affiliate marketing has gotten harder is because the smart affiliates that participated in the land grab of the early days have locked up the best resources continue to scout for and lock up any new resources that come up before anyone does. The scraps are left for the masses of affiliates to fight over.

You can choose to keep playing the game but to truly escape there only one thing you must do. This strategy is used by of the biggest multibillion dollar corporations like Apple, Google and Amazon to dominant and destroy competitors.

Tomorrow I'll reveal this simple yet powerful strategy and show you how you can use it in your business immediately.

Until then, ponder this powerful quote and idea:

"Your margin is my opportunity." - Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos

Mar 14, 2014

About The New Prosper202

By Nana Gilbert-Baffoe, View comments
You may not heard this story, but there was a time when there were 12+ very cool people working on Prosper202 and Tracking202. We sold the company and eventually bought it back (It's a long story, so today I'll tell you the short version).

Most of the team have gone on to build some very cool stuff. Today, the team that builds Tracking202 and Prosper202 is made up of just two people. Me (Nana) and Oskars the awesome new developer I brought on board late last year. He's responsible for much of the new code in 1.8.x.

We are both believers in open source, and continue to build out software without encrypting a single line of code. We do this because we believe an open, extensible and flexible tracking platform is the most powerful way to empower you to fully customize and integrate Prosper202 into your business and workflow.

Our vision is to create the largest open platform and allow everyone in the Affiliate and Performance Marketing Industry to build upon and integrate with other platforms. We are already on the right track, because we have almost 100,000 Prosper202 users and an estimated 30,000+ of you are actively using Prosper202 every month! We are not yet at Wordpress numbers, but we're working on it :)

Our next few steps involve opening up the platform for developers, Affiliate Networks, Ad Networks and other 3rd parties to easily build extensions, add-ons and integrations into Prosper202. Partners will be able to tap into the large installed user base for instant distribution. Contact me if you'd like to be on the early notification list for our API, we already working with a partner to build out an integration with the Reporting API we just completed and we'd like to have more partners on board for our launch.

As you can see in the list below we've added many new features but there's a LOT more work to be done. Between the two of us, we tackling each feature one by one. But to get to where we plan to be, we'll be adding to our development team over the next few months to rapidly pick up the pace of development. If you are a developer looking to to contribute to the core Prosper202 platform, please get in touch.

Here's what we've added to Prosper202 since we launched 1.8.0

  • Completely redesigned beautiful new look and feel
  • Mobile user agent detection
  • GEO IP data
    • You'll now see city and country info in spy view and visitor view.
    • We've added two new GEO specific reports in the Analyze Tab
  • ISP/Carrier Detection
    • ISP and Carrier Info shows in spy and visitor view
    • New ISP/Carrier report in Analyze tab
  • Group overview now has an option to break down traffic by device type (Desktop, mobile and tablet)
  • New report in analyze tab for device break down
  • Eliminated the need to create a Landing page php redirect file, this is now built right into Prosper202
  • Expanded search engine referrer keyword detection
  • Bot and crawler detection. Your stats are gong to be even more accurate with a huge database of bots and crawlers. All bots are automatically filtered out. That pesky bing adbot will no longer throw your stats off
  • Reporting API - You can now pull your reports out of Prosper202 via an API call and do some cool stuff with it. For example, if you've ever wanted to do your own custom analysis on your data, you could pull that data right into a google docs spreadsheet
We still have a super long list of features being added before the final 1.8.2 release, take a look at some of the more interesting ones:
  • Expanded custom variable. Right now there's c1-c4. We are expanding that out to support 10-15 custom variable in total
  • HTML5 charts this will let you view beautifully rendered charts on your mobile device or tablet
  • API Integration with all your favorite networks (Pull offers, reports, place pixels, postbacks and more)
  • Full API to allow you to manage every aspect of Prosper202 without having to ever login
  • Smart Self Optimizing Rotator and Splittester (Split up traffic based on multiple factors, geo, browser time, carrier, time of day, day of week, and more then split test them and have Prosper automatically optimize where traffic is sent based on metrics such as conversion rate or eCPM)
Are we missing something you really need? We probably have it already on our roadmap document, but just in case, post a comment and let me know. I'll be personally reading every reply to make sure we didn't miss an important feature.

When Prosper202 1.8.2 launches we plan to have it available for free with our two hosting partners BeyondHosting and Hostwinds. If you are not already working with them, now's the best time to check them out since you will get Prosper202 1.8.2 first.

There will be a nominal one time fee to download and install on other hosting platforms. This will allow you to install Prosper202 1.8.2 on unlimited servers. There are a few reasons reasons for this.
  • It cuts down support issues for us, as we make Prosper202 better, the installation process has gotten more complex. We'd love to help you, but there are only two if us and over 100k of you :)
  • It will make your life easier, because our hosting partners are experts in installing and optimizing Prosper202 for you. Why deal with any tech issues?
  • If you choose not to work with our partners, your payment will help us cover our costs, grow our team, support you better and create better software for you. Obviously, the better Prosper202 gets, the more your business can grow with less effort. Oh yeah if you are wondering, yes have the ability to lock the software to only work for buyers, but we are not going to do that. We trust you will choose to support our growth by paying

Feb 03, 2014

How to make your landing pages load 3-5x faster

By Nana Gilbert-Baffoe, View comments
One of the major causes of click loss is speed, or rather the lack of it.

I've written many times about some of the ways to speed up your redirects and landing pages, so today I'd like to focus on 3 things I recently implemented on the Prosper202 home page that resulted in a 3-5x speedup in the page load.

I few days ago I was thinking of all the cool things I could do to increase the conversion rate of the Prosper202 page when I realized I hadn't taken my own advise. The Prosper202 home page was taking between 3.8 and 4+ seconds to fully load. Here's exactly what I did to whip the site into shape

But before we begin...

The most invaluable tool during this whole process was my Chrome/Safari developer tools view. This showed me exactly how long the page was taking to load and which elements were slowing down my page.

The easiest way to get to this is to right click on your page and click inspect element in the context menu.

Eliminate

The easiest thing to do when speeding up your pages is to remove unnecessary content and elements from your pages. These could be widget, images, text, etc.

For me one of the slower widgets on the page was the Facebook like button. I removed this and immediately saw a boost in load times. 3rd party widgets can often slow down your page if they are not optimized. Also a lot of thine due to the number of people loading up the widgets the performance can be reduced by quite a bit.

Compress

You can reduce css and javascript file sizes by 20-50% or more by compressing them. There are online tools to do this such as http://www.csscompressor.com and http://javascriptcompressor.com they usually work by deleting any unnecessary whitespace and sometimes shortening long description variable names to cryptic single or double digit letters names. Browsers don't need code to be easily readable.

It makes sense that if your files are smaller, they will download faster. I had two css files on the page that I compressed. Another optimization that I could have done was to combine the two css files into one. This would save the browser from having to make two connections to download the css files.

Upload to a CDN

In general files on web servers that a are located closest to you will download faster. That's the general idea behind a Content Delivery Network (CDN). You updated your static files, css, javascript, images, videos etc and they will upload them to multiple servers in multiple geographic locations. So for example users in Europe will have files served to them from European servers while those in the US would get files from US locations.

For my optimization, I uploaded all the newly compressed css files to the CDN. Additionally I also uploaded my images to the CDN. Also remember how I mentioned that 3rd party widgets are sometimes the biggest culprits for slow loading pages? Well one trick I used was to move the contents of some of these 3rd party widgets onto my CDN server. This made it so the even though the original files was slow I wasn't dependent on it any more.

The one thing to be careful of when using this technique is that you will have to keep an eye on the original JS from the provider. If they change the code, it would be up to you to see this and update the files on your CDN.

The final results after doing all these was a huge difference in page load speeds. When everything is cached a the page can load in under 700ms. On average the page will load in 1-1.7 seconds. Sometimes its a little slower due to 3rd party content that I was able to remove or optimize based on how they were implemented.

Recommended CDN Providers

MaxCDN is one of the top CDN providers out there. I know a lot of affiliates use them already and they unders stand the needs of digital marketers. I reached out to them to secure a pretty awesome deal for all Prosper202 and Tracking202 users.

25% off your MaxCDN subscription for life

So when you search the internet you will see there are a lot of 20% off coupons out there. However if you look closely you will notice they are only for 25% off your first month. I've managed to get them to give us a discount for the life of your MAxCDN account. I hope you find this post helpful and if you have any questions or cools suggestions on how to improve some of the tips I covered I'd love to read your comments about it.

Jan 01, 2014

A Simple Productivity Life Hack for 2014

By Nana Gilbert-Baffoe, View comments
2014 is here, and like millions of people you've probably made resolutions and set goals blah blah blah.

I'm willing to bet that there are many of you who didn't accomplish their 2013 goals. Why?

I believe in stacking the odds in your favor of succeeding. I've been using this technique for some time now, but I always have to come back and refresh because old habits die hard.

Today, to make it easier to focus on the important stuff I deleted apps (mainly games) from my phone that I've been using as time wasters. Think if it this way, you can't waste time playing games all day if you don't have any to play.

As of now, there are zero games on my phone, and all apps that are used to waste time are also gone. I've already noticed I'm on my phone less because of this. Giving me time to do the things I really need to work on.

I invite you to take the zero time waster challenge by deleting every single game and time sucking app from your phone. Doing this, doesn't guarantee that you are going to hit your goals, but it's one surefire way to increase your odds.

The ROI you'll gain from being able to test and tweak and extra campaign or two everyday could be life changing. You really owe it to yourself to try this simple life hack.

What are you waiting for? How many apps did you get rid of today? Comment below and I'd also like to hear about other things you've found helpful in the never ending battle to get and stay productive.

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