Becoming a successful Affiliate is like eating an Elephant

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Approximately 17.4 times per day, the following question is asked on an affiliate forum somewhere in the world: “How do I become a super-affiliate?”

First of all, I’m going to change the question – Most people asking this question do not really want to become a mythical “super-affiliate”, donning their pants on the outside and getting changed in phone boxes.

What they really want to know is “How do I become a successful affiliate?” How do you define success? Any way you want – Success is personal to you: Many would be happy earning an extra £300-500 a month from Affiliate Marketing, others strive for tens of thousands every month.

Whatever success means for you, you need to know how to get there, and what happens when you do. So, how do you become a successful affiliate? Exactly the same way you’d eat an elephant – one bite at a time.

Take a minute now to think very hard about where you want to be, either in terms of traffic levels, revenue, membership levels, etc, etc. Now try and think how hard you’re going to have to work to get there.

How many inbound links are you going to have to obtain? How much content are you going to have to write? How many emails are you going to have to send? How many PPC campaigns are you going to have to put up?

If you’ve not given up at this point at the prospect of all that work, then congratulations (either that, or you’ve grossly under-estimated the work you need to do) – Now you need to plan how you’re going to do all that work. Most people would rush in, trying to do as much of it as possible, and a week or two later when they’re not rolling in money, they give up.

It’s far better to take the “Eat an Elephant” approach – In much the same way as Pound Cost Averaging makes investing in the stock market a more smooth ride, doing very little, every day, on a regular basis will, over a long period of time result in greater success than rushing in all guns blazing.

I’ve been following a simple formula every day since April: A little PPC, a little SEO, and a little networking every day. Nearly six months later, and I’m only just really starting to see the results of swapping from my previous regime of just trying to get everything done as quickly as possible.

The difference is astonishing – Whereas I’d previously had trouble getting motivated in the mornings (mainly due to not knowing where to start), I’m now straight into the swing of things, and whereas I’d be burned out by Wednesday every week, and still working through every weekend, I’m now finding that my much smaller to-do list is getting cleared by mid-afternoon most days, leaving me free to go out walking with the dogs, ride my bike, or just play some Wii or PS2.

Even more astonishing – Doing less every day has resulted in my affiliate earnings going up – we’re now making £9,000 a month more profit than in April – and it’s not really that surprising when you think why that is – Every single day for the last six months, I’ve done something towards the important stuff: Google loves regularly updated sites – most of ours have been updated every day pretty much without fail, we’ve got hundreds more inbound links, we’ve managed to put up around 400 PPC campaigns, and we’ve made loads of great contacts and new partnerships.

Of course, life will throw things at you to put you off course – you’ll have emergencies to deal with, priorities will change, and you’ll have days where you just can’t get motivated. In which case, give yourself the day off – or the week if you like. Then get back in the regular habit of a bit of PPC, a bit of SEO and a bit of Networking.

Don’t set your targets too high: I work full time at AM, and aim to do 3 PPC campaigns a day, an hour of content, and around an hour networking (which normally means playing on facebook, posting on affiliates4u or chatting to people on msn or email). It gives me enough “spare time” to ensure that I can deal with anything else that might need doing, or just head off to the driving range at 2pm knowing I’ve already done a full days work. and I’m still raring to go come Friday afternoon (although the pub is still calling by then!)

What if you’re still working the day-job, or at Uni etc? Well, you should be able to spare an hour a day (I used to work AM 9am to 12pm, then my FT job from 1pm to 9pm, and still do a few hours in the evening on AM), so aim to do 1 PPC campaign a day, 20 minutes SEO work and 10 minutes networking. Might not sound like a lot, but give it six months, and you’ll have done approx 130 PPC campaigns, 43 hours of SEO work and 21 hours of networking. That should put you well on the way to giving up the day job if you wish to.

You will need a degree of patience, as this approach brings steady results rather than instant ones – Most people would give up if they don’t see big bucks within a month or two – you should be prepared to give it at least 4 months before seeing any impact on your cashflow (as I’ve said, I’m only just starting to see a major impact after 6 months). Just don’t give up – you’ve only got to do a little bit each day – that’s not so hard is it?

There’s no doubt at all that I’m going to continue with this “Eat an Elephant” approach to my business, and there’s no reason why it can’t transfer into any part of your life – Want to lose weight? Don’t bother joining a gym, working yourself into the ground for 2 weeks then giving up like most people do – just do a little more exercise every day (walk to the shops and get a paper?) and eat a little less crap.

Speaking of eating, I’d better sign off – My elephant’s going cold.

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  1. avatar 5 Star Affiliate Marketing Blogs Says:

    Becoming a Successful Affiliate is like Eating an Elephant…

    How do you become successful in this business? The same way you eat an elephant… one step (bite) at a time. Here is one affiliate’s journey, with a few good lessons thrown in.


  2. avatar Kaybard Blog » Blog Archive » Slight Backtrack Says:

    [...] to just one blog – my student money saving tips blog and see how it goes and take some advice from John’s blog and only work on it for small chunks of time – bitesize [...]

  3. avatar Stephen Pratley Says:

    Hi John,

    Interested that you say you manage to get 3 PPC campaigns done in half a day!

    Do you mean a complete campaign for a new merchant, or adding a little extra in to an existing site?

  4. avatar Ambski Says:


    Firstly Happy Birthday for yesterday. I say yesterday as you surely are not working on your birthday!

    Secondly, I have recently ‘given up the day job’. Ok…so the day job was webmastering which meant working my own terms anyway but Iwas still ‘working for the man’ when the man needed some work done! Now though, AM pays the bills…or at least my roof-tax!

    Thirdly, I have a problem with “…walking with the dogs, ride my bike, or just play some Wii or PS2?”
    I don’t seem to be able to shake the ‘I should be doing some work’ feeling. Even when I have completely whatever that days mission is.
    Having come from a pressured job, how do you overcome this feeling?

    All the best,
    Anthony (Ambski)

  5. avatar John Says:


    We’re talking 3 complete new campaigns for a merchant. However, I do tend to have done most of the keyword research the previous day, and we’re not talking massive campaigns – maybe 20 or so keywords and a couple of ads. If I’m doing a bigger campaign, I’ll do less per day.


    Many thanks for the birthday greetings – I had a very relaxing day playing in the woods with the dogs, followed by pizza and cinema with friends and family. No work done whatsoever. Which means i’m nice and fresh today!

    Congrats on the jump into full time Affiliate Marketing – I’m sure you won’t regret it for a minute – Just make sure your new boss isn’t a slavedriver!

    I know what you mean with the “I should be working” guilt. But I’ll bet you anything I can achieve more in 2 three-hour stints, with a 2 hour “me-break” than by working 8 hours straight.

    As the boss of your new company, it’s your responsibility to keep your staff motivated – and that includes yourself! The key is to have a “to-do” list every single day, and include your me-time on there as a task. My task list for Thursday for example (as I’m giving myself the day off tomorrow to go to see Argyle get trounced at West Ham) currently reads:

    PPC – Merchant Name x 3
    Blog – Post name
    Content – Short article for one of my sites
    Me Time – Walk with dogs

    All I have to do now is ensure that everything on that list is ticked off, and write a new list for Friday (which I’ll bet you £10 has the word “pub” on it somewhere lol)

  6. avatar Ambski Says:

    Hi John,
    Thanks for the reply.

    He is (I am) a slavedriver! Comes from being ‘old school’, yes, older than you unfortunately! :)

    Great points regarding motivating & refreshing myself. I shall put the plan, including some ‘me time’, into action.

    Have a good one tomorrow.
    Anthony (Ambski)

  7. avatar Vijay Teach Me $$ Says:

    Gave me a new prospective on AM, from now on I am keeping on Keeping on.


  8. avatar Joe Says:

    Nice post. I’m a newbie starting out and am doing my AM in the evenings after work (and a few hours during the day at my desk when I should be working – don’t tell the boss!) and am finding it hard to focus on one area of AM as I feel I am letting another part of AM slip but its getting me nowhere fast.

    When you say “20 minutes SEO work” what kind of things do you mean?

  9. avatar Lammo Says:

    Hi Joe,

    There’s really only 2 factors to SEO – on site (content + site structure) and off-site (links), so spend your 20 mins (or whatever you can afford) writing some content, tweaking page titles, link building, or asking questions from those who know what they’re talking about.

    The important thing is that you keep at it, even if at first it doen’t seem to be working – one day the Google gods will shine on you, and you’ll realise that was the plan all along!

  10. avatar Joe Says:

    Thanks Lammo. I’ve read that thread in a4u and found it very inspiring. I’ve got my first few domains registered and am working on my first site. Definately will stick with it as I’m assuming AM is a long game.

  11. avatar Netting87 Says:

    Nice write up Lammo.

    It’s so strange to have read this today. I work shift work so knowing I have Monday-Thursday this week to do AM I was just going to muck in and start doing jobs as they popped into my head, but I sat at my desk and thought no! So I printed Kirty M’s task manager off and spread my jobs out over the week, and by 2pm this afternoon I found myself playing Dirt 2 as I’d finished my tasks for today.

    Very happy to hear someone say it’s ok though. I too suffer with the guilt and I think to myself ‘well if I can’t get on a do the work, I’m never going to make it’. I’m sure with time as I see the results, those thoughts will turn to ‘I’m getting paid to play Xbox, woo hoo!’

    Thanks Lammers

  12. avatar Lammo Says:

    Nice one!

    IMO the only feeling better than seeing the very first natural sale coming in from a new site/idea is returning home/to your desk after some “me-time” to see you’ve earned more money than you would working the day job..

    I remember once sending out an email for a campaign that worked really, really well.. and then going out for a cigarette, refreshing the stats and seeing that in the 5-10 mins I’d been out, the mailing had earnt another £30 – Earning £30 whilst having a smoke break was brilliant (but I still gave up smoking.. 3 and a half years now – woo hoo!)

    It’s not just about taking loads of breaks though – It’s about the breaks refreshing and motivating you enough to do the business when it’s work time!

    Right, best crack on so I can take the dog out for a trek later this afternoon!

  13. avatar Gareth Says:

    Great advice. I really want to make a go of affiliate marketing. My current business is struggling because its based on advertising and its heartbraking. I know what product I want to dominate its just a real fear factor. Great reading.

  14. avatar sky Says:

    Hi John, I found your blog from google when I search with keyword “affiliate marketer hates adsense” lol …

    Anyway, I was doing ok with adsense but I hate the idea of having to depend my income just from Google alone. Google can kick you anytime for any reason they can come up with, so … I decided I want to learn about affiliate marketing which has a lot of vendors and I can earn much more compare to adsense (that’s what most people say).

    Working with adsense, I use blog style content and daily update, little bit seo, little bit social network. But when it comes to affiliate, I don’t have a clue where to start. I hope you can give me some clue here, if you don’t mind.

    Which do you prefer:
    - Online retail store (
    - Blog style content (but focus on 1 niche, e.g. selling e-book about “how to lose weight”)
    - 1 Affiliate Product Page (such as selling keyword elite software, membership forum, education course, etc)

    Thank you for answering my question, I would love to hearing from you.

  15. avatar Lammo Says:

    Hi Sky,

    Personally I prefer content sites around one particular theme – forget ebooks, weight-loss, software, courses though.. That’s not what Affiliate Marketing is really about – it’s about products.. everyday products that are bought in their thousands.. erm.. every day!

    It always helps if you’re passionate about the subject matter too – as that’s how you stay motivated to keep the site going when Google ignores you or doesn’t give you the coverage you deserve right away.

    Have a look at this post (and the corresponding thread) for everything you need to know about building your first niche site.

  16. avatar sky Says:

    Hi Lammo, thank you for taking the time to answer me. Going with your advice, I’ll build a mini site that sell physical products.

  17. avatar Sky Says:

    Hi again John, sorry follow up question, I noticed you say something like this : “Google loves regularly updated sites – most of ours have been updated every day pretty much without fail”. Do you use blog?

    I’ve heard some affiliate marketers building niche website with online store style, like 10 pages web, building subscriber list, branding themself as an expert in that field. They don’t even have a blog, they gain their customer mostly from community.

    May I ask you if i build a sub-niche website (let’s say using wordpress, do I need to promote myself as digicam review expert? I’m not sure if I can build subscribers too coz english is not my primary language, it will be not easy for me to write/communicate with them.

    I want to do blogging about niche that I’m targetting, maybe like product review with affiliate link if the readers want to buy the product, use article submission, social bookmarking…based on your experience, am I going to the right path or am I going straight to failure?

    Thank you in advance for taking the time to reply me :)

  18. avatar Lammo Says:

    I use WordPress, but more as a CMS system to power the sites than an actual blog, and certainly don’t chase subscribers or promote myself as an expert – just provide good unique content (and lots of it!)

    Product reviews with affiliate links sounds perfect – you’re certainly on the right path!

  19. avatar Sky Says:

    Hi John, back again for some advice. What I’ve done so far from January:

    1. I built a wordpress blog, creating content daily for related pet products
    2. Submitting spun articles to big article directories
    3. Submit my post/article links to social bookmarking sites

    At the first few months, it looks good, I made sales every day, but since physical products are low in commission, I only get around $100/month. Pretty sad heh? :D

    Anyway, it seems that the reason I got sales so fast, maybe because of “new website boost” from google. My website was in the 3rd position for the keyword that I was targetting. In the middle of April, I’m no longer able to see my website in the first page of google using that keyword.

    I don’t buy links or do PPC campaign yet.

    Do you have any suggestion from me what should I do next?

    Thank you.

  20. avatar Lammo Says:

    Hi Sky, sounds like you’ve made some pretty good progress – What’s next?

    Keep adding content, and keep building links. Then add some more content and get some more links. Finally, get even more links and keep on adding content…

    There is no quick and easy route to riches in AM, but consistent hard work will get you there in the end!

  21. avatar Sky Says:

    Hei John, what kind of link building activities that you advice me to do (other than I already mentioned above)?

    It’s not easy to make people linking to my post since it’s a short product review post (I can’t write long enough talking about dog collar).

    Thank you

  22. avatar Lammo Says:

    Yup, building links is hard work – very hard work if your content doesn’t naturally lend itself to being “linkable” – but there’s no substitute for good old fashioned link building – swap links with other sites that are relevant and on-topic.. look at the links your competitors have, and try to get the same ones.. offer to write content for sites/blogs within your sector in exchange for a link.

    I must admit, I hate doing all that, so I outsource my link building, but if you haven’t got the budget to do that, then doing the work yourself really will pay dividends.

  23. avatar Sky Says:

    Hi, may I know where do you outsource your link building?

  24. avatar Lammo Says:

    Hi Sky,

    I currently use these guys for my link building and content writing – I am also currently trying out a new dedicated link-building company, but it’s far too early to know how they’re doing so far – I will of course let you know if they’re any good.

  25. avatar Sky Says:

    Hei John, thank you for giving me a clue. I will try to use your recommended link building service once I have the budget :)

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Written by Lammo · Filed Under Affiliate Marketing, Affiliate Marketing Success Stories, Featured Articles, Learning Affiliate Marketing