The term "Super Affiliate" can sometimes get thrown around loosely, but Richard Bonner is a true super affiliate in every sense of the word.
He originally started as a copywriter back in 2006, writing 500-word articles for $5 a pop. This eventually lead him closer to the path of affiliate marketing, and soon Richard had his own pre-made and custom landing page design service. In fact, he actually ordered a paid review from me back in the summer of 2008.
Shortly after, Richard became an affiliate marketer himself, and was making $35 profit a day.
Just a few months later, in December 2008, Richard had already hit his first 4-digit day. The following month, he participated in my "Affiliate Marketing Challenge 7" competition, and placed 4th. Please note how I predicted that he had huge potential in the post when I wrote: "Richard is one of these new affiliates you’ll want to keep an eye on due to their tremendous growth in a short amount of time." 🙂
By June 2009, Richard had hit his first $10,000 day. He was flying high, and growing at an enormous pace. Life was good.
In fact, life was perhaps a bit too good. With money pouring in seemingly endlessly, Richard started to spend his newfound cash by buying expensive cars and going out drinking nearly every single night and picking up the tab for everyone.
And so when his campaigns finally hit a road bump, Richard was given a reality check in just how volatile the affiliate marketing industry can be.
It took a little while for Richard to grow his campaigns again, but he did so at a feverish pace just as when he was first starting out.
Today, Richard is making more money in a week than most people make in a year, and is continuing to climb upwards.
Although I talk to him everyday on AIM these days, I conducted this interview with him via e-mail in order to provide you readers with more thorough and verbose responses.
At one point several years ago, when you were generating around $50,000 a month, you started to spend a lot of your cash on personal items such as a luxury car and on footing the bill at the pub.
Not long afterwards, your campaigns took a turn for the worst and you essentially had to start back from scratch. How has this experience affected the way you currently handle your money, both personally and business-wise?
I got stuck into the trap of thinking it will last forever, the more money I made the less I worked and the more I spent. When things did take a turn for the worse I was pretty much screwed as I admit I got lucky on my very first campaign so I didn’t really learn anything so it was like starting from scratch again.
I do blame my actions due to being young, although it was a big mistake I don’t regret it and it has definitely made me smarter with my money and I’m kind of glad I got it out of my system.
I have a set cash figure I would like in my bank account (after all taxes etc.) so I know that is my money for emergencies/the future so I save every penny I can now to hit that ASAP so I can start enjoying the money a little bit more.
I learnt the hard way how volatile this industry is so never take anything for granted.
Everyone will inevitably ask these questions in the comments if I don’t ask them here, so let’s get them over with right off the bat.
I know you won’t reveal everything, but I know people will have wanted me to ask
a. What traffic source(s) do you use?
b. Do you direct link or use a landing page?
c. What affiliate networks do you use?
d. What type of offers do you promote?
e. What are your keywords, landing page URLs, campaign targets, etc.? Please send an export of all your campaign data, images, etc.
Ah the classic interview question 🙂 I’ll try to reveal as much as possible but just to
make a note that just because something works for me, doesn’t mean it will work for
a. At the moment primarily Facebook and media buys. I’m spending more time to try and get into mobile as that’s the next big thing.
b. Landing pages every time for my social/media buys, it does depend on the offer but I have found more times than not that even the lower paying offers can be improved with a landing page by utilizing different angles.
c. I’ve built up a number of direct relationships but when I’m looking for offers I hit up the usual suspects such as Ads4Dough and C2M.
d. Anything and everything. I do have my strong verticals but I’m not afraid to move out of my comfort zone. I’ve pushed anything from submits and downloads to rebills and cost per sales. It’s not so much the offer I look at but more of ‘how can I promote that’ to whether I’ll give it ago. I do try to stick to niches that will be around for the long-haul for my main campaigns. So anything in health, wealth, relationships as they say is definitely here to stay – which is a sign it works.
e. Sure thing, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ve set up an auto response detailing everything – and I even mail out some starting capital for all you guys.
You have only attended 1 or 2 affiliate marketing conferences so far. Is this because you live out in the United Kingdom?
Yeah I’m sorry to say I’ve only been to 1 conference, it was ad:tech London in 08/09 (I think). I don’t think living in the United Kingdom is the sole reason why I don’t travel out. The one I did attend was whilst I was going through my ‘stupid’ phase so it wasn’t really work related, I just took advantage of the free bar and probably revealed much more than I wanted.
I have made it a goal to make it out to a US one pretty soon, maybe Vegas in January or the next one in New York.
What are your thoughts on the recent struggles affiliate networks have been having (Azoogle, Copeac, Neverblue, etc.)?
It’s sad to see some of them go because Copeac and Azoogle were the first 2 networks I worked with when I became successful, then on the other hand as I grew my business I did begin to move away from them to other networks I had great relationships with and haven’t been affected in terms of losing out on money.
I don’t really know the exact details on what happened so I can’t comment too much on the issue. I would advise to not have all your eggs in 1 basket though, they were all big networks when I started out and I would have never expected this outcome.
Your main traffic source is Facebook. What are the 3 most important tips you can share?
I definitely have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, their traffic quality is great and they have the volume. The downside is their approval/relevancy team, you can upload 5 identical ads and 3 might get through fine whereas the other 2 will get disapproved for being against their TOS. You can get hit with retro ad disapprovals or bans overnight for whatever reason – even if you’re running 100% whitehat compliant stuff.
It’s hard to give 3 clear cut tips because there isn’t a secret method other than testing and learning their platform but I would give this advice to anyone starting out:
1. Always test different variations of your images, simply adding a black border can double the CTR fairly easily. Just remember black isn’t the only color to test.
2. Don’t be afraid to overbid in the beginning. Take their suggested bid tool with a pinch of salt. I always start my bids higher with a smaller daily spend cap so I make sure I give myself the best chance of a high CTR.
3. Track everything, create tight campaigns so that you know where exactly your traffic/conversions are coming from. Then you can scale what works and cut the fat on what’s draining your ad spend.
Which affiliate marketing tools and services do you use?
I have access to a number of tools such as CrazyCTR and Facebook ads toolbox but I don’t really use them that much. I’m pretty old school when it comes to things like this, I like to do everything my way – I haven’t even used the new ad manager Facebook yet.
One tool/service I do use which I can’t praise enough is Prosper202, it’s vital you track everything from the beginning.
Other than that it’s just the usual Photoshop and Dreamweaver to design/create my landing pages.
How many hours per day, on average, do you work on your campaigns?
I hate answering this question because I really don’t know. Whenever I’m at home I will always be on the laptop, whether it’s working on campaigns, keeping an eye on things or just chatting to others (usually about work).
If I had to put a number to it I would say about 8/9hours a day at least. Obviously at the
weekend it’s a fair bit lower then. On the other hand if there is something I want done I’ll work on it until it’s complete.
Describe your average day from the time you get up until you go to bed.
Again this is hard to give an exact routine but on average day it’s something like this:
Wake up – Usually around 8:00-8:30am, it does depend on when I go to sleep the night before but I try to stay in a reasonable sleeping pattern.
Check emails/yesterdays stats – I always start off checking any emails I’ve had throughout the night and checking the previous days stats and updating my records.
Plan the day – Usually just take 20-30 minutes to identify things that need accomplishing that day and prioritize them. I love working from lists, it gives me great satisfaction crossing things off – my desk is full of papers. Things I include are split tests, new ideas and new ventures.
Work – Usually the main priorities on my plan is to split test my biggest campaigns, I’m consistently testing landing page elements to squeeze more ROI. It’s crazy how much difference small changes in the conversion rate.
Grab food – Anywhere between 12:00 and 1:00pm I’ll have my dinner and chill out and watch TV for half hour.
Work – Carry on with my to-do list for the day, which usually has grown from the morning
Gym – I’ve found this industry does build up a lot of stress, going to the gym helps reduce that and put it into something positive and gives me an hour or two break.
More food – By this time it’s about 6:00/7:00pm so will grab more food and relax after the gym for an hour.
Work – Back to the list! I hope to have all of the main things complete by this time so I can begin working on new traffic sources and new campaigns. I try to keep a balance of working on my main stuff and creating fresh ideas to diversify my income.
Sleep – I don’t have a set time but it’s usually somewhere between 12:00-2:00am.
That’s a typical example, it does vary depending on the days my girlfriend has off or my plans with friends or something.
You are making an incredible amount of money now. Do you find it difficult to stay motivated? Do you get ever get inspired by even bigger, more successful affiliates anymore?
At times it’s hard to keep on pace and keep pushing myself. I did learn the hard way when I first started not to take things for granted. I have began working with another person on various campaigns which has help keep me going, we do agree on goals for the day/week so I feel if I don’t accomplish them it looks bad on me so I do strive to hit those.
I get inspired by a bunch of people, not only in the online world but just people who have been successful. I only have to watch a couple of Top Gear episodes to get motivated.
Do you ever get funny looks from the bank tellers when you visit your local branch in person?
Not really, it’s rare I go in nowadays because I can do most things online but if I do need to go in to amend/arrange something I never go in a suit or anything – even when I’m buying a new car I just go in something casual. I don’t play myself up thinking I’m the shit 🙂
How much money do you have in your wallet this very instance? Be honest!
Haha you actually caught me at a good time, usually I have nothing in my wallet but I had a takeaway last night so I had to go to the bank to get cash out. I have a balling £10.26 on me which was the change.
How important is having a big budget in affiliate marketing?
Having a big budget will help you get data faster but it can be done on a smaller scale. I still to this day create some campaigns with $100/day budgets and let the data build up and begin optimizing. Just make sure that the decisions you make are backed up by the data, you can’t run 50 clicks over 5 ads and pick a winner.
Just make sure that the money you invest isn’t needed to pay the bills next month, most people are scared to lose money but things aren’t as clear cut as you would like it to be. The money spent isn’t lost but you’re finding out what works and what doesn’t – cut the stuff that doesn’t and scale the stuff that does.
Say a court order prevented you from making any future money from affiliate marketing. What would you do to make your future income?
I would love to get into property development/becoming a landlord so that would be something I would look into. Buying properties and renting them out would be my first option to build up experience to move onto bigger things in that industry.
One of my long-term goals I’ve had for years was to build out a network of SEO sites but after all of the updates it seems it’s just as unstable so probably wouldn’t go down that route anymore.
I haven’t really put much thought into yet because I’ve spent the last year or so building up solid relationships with advertisers and continue to work with them for the foreseeable future.
You’ve told me numerous times just how important CTR (Click-through-rate) is on Facebook.
What are some tips for improving CTR on Facebook, aside from split-testing? Have you noticed any trends (ex. image borders, image saturation, etc.)?
Hmm, trends and Facebook don’t belong in the same sentence, they have a funny system in the fact that the same ads can perform very differently. I always submit multiple versions of the same ad to try and get a true estimate of its CTR.
In terms of tricks and tips I use to garner high CTR ads on good images is by playing with them in Photoshop. I always test with borders, pick a bunch of colors and go nuts.
Things to play with aside borders are the hue/saturation, levels and sharpness. I don’t have a set preference I use for all images – I just try to make it pop out a little.
Depending on the type of images you’re using you can apply different techniques. For example if you’re using images of people – try to pick out their eye color and make them brighter.
Most importantly, don’t feel disheartened if you test 10 images and they all flop. Don’t copy other peoples images because they have been there for months so must be ‘killing it’. Chances are that it did have a good CTR in the beginning but it will have died down due to banner blindness but still giving a good CPC based on the history. Try and identify key elements of the ad to why it could have done well and bring new fresh ideas to the table – you will have a higher success rate.
What are your hobbies and interests outside of affiliate marketing?
I enjoy playing pool, so try to do that once a week if I can. I’m really getting into going to the gym and try to go out and socialize every weekend to let my hair down and drink my body weight in vodka.
I have recently bought a foosball table for my spare room so I’m getting into that, just need to find someone that can challenge my expert skills.
How often do you check your stats throughout the day, including both income and expense?
I check probably every 2/3 hours, not to count profit but mainly to keep an eye on the offers and make sure things are still running smoothly. It’s a bad spiral to get into because it can really drain your productivity.
Obviously if you launch a new campaign you should keep a closer eye on it because depending on your budget/traffic source you can blow some serious money really quickly.
What is the lowest eCPC rate you were able to achieve on Facebook, with decent volume (200+ clicks per day), on US traffic?
I was running a campaign about a year ago and I hit 0.03-0.04 CPC’s on a US demographic with a big reach (10mil or so), it was a really good campaign having a landing page CTR of 80% and EPC of 0.25. The offer got pulled after a few months but I made a nice chunk of change and if one similar ever comes back out – I’m back on it.
It’s still on my to-do list to create one for it but as ever it got buried within days.
What is the highest CTR you were able to achieve on Facebook, with decent volume (200+ clicks per day), on US traffic?
The same campaign I mentioned above, I hit about 0.60-0.70% CTR on some of the ads with mid x,xxx spend per day. I found a really good sweet spot for the demographic.
I read the other night from another very successful super affiliate that keeping your ad groupings to a small number in Facebook makes a difference, mainly due to keeping the average CTR high and so that traffic is distributed among ads more evenly. What are your thoughts on this?
It does work yeah, as you probably know if you put 20 ads in a campaign and let rip – probably 2-3 will get all of the action. I tend to put mine in groups of 5 and from my experience they all get traction then just begin optimizing.
What are your current affiliate marketing goals? Please try to be specific, if possible.
As mentioned earlier, I do have a set cash figure I’m aiming for in the bank which I don’t feel comfortable disclosing.
I have a new campaign I aim to scale up to mid $xx,xxx/day which is a working progress.
Aside from that I do have goals to branch out into mobile so that I have more diversity in my income and I would like to get my blog back up and running this year.
I don’t set many goals to be honest although I should.
What are some things you have splurged on in the past (Ex. First class seats, house, etc.)?
After the success in my first year I did go on a spending spree which nearly crippled my business when the campaign stopped and I was back to square one.
The worst thing is that I never really got anything to show for it. I bought a Range Rover Sport and the rest was spent on holidays and just going out enjoying myself. I hardly worked either, thinking everyone was so easy and the money was on auto pilot.
That made me more conservative with my money. I have set cash goals to hit in my bank before I splash out – I have recently bought a Nissan 370z (40th Anniversary Edition) after hitting a milestone I set this year. I’m also off to Vegas in August for a break and then Egypt in September.
I’m also moving into a new house next month, based on the end of this year it doesn’t look like I’m being conservative but I’ve had a busy year and been working my ass off so it’s well deserved… honest 🙂
I’d like to thank Richard again for participating in this interview. Richard Bonner runs an affiliate marketing blog at RichardBonner.net.