Pass The Affiliate Oxygen!

Affiliate Annoyances 8 Comments »

Whenever I’m talking about affiliate marketing I always tell people I “eat sleep and breathe” my work and am totally passionate about it.  I genuinely didn’t realise how much this was the case until these past few weeks.  I’ve been living on a building site since the start of February and all the noise, mess, dust and general intrusion into my work and personal space has had a huge impact upon my effectiveness and concentration.

Concentration? Sorry?  Eh?  Now, What Was I Saying…..

When I work it’s like I’m immersed in a rather fabulous underwater world.  I spend my workday submerged in a sea of information, ideas, and concepts which captivate me utterly.  Once I’m “under” the day vanishes in what seems like seconds and I’m left at close of play feeling content and empowered.

I’ve always suffered from dreadful concentration so I’ve just spent 10 excruciating weeks floating at the surface amongst all the chaos and noise of our building project watching the faint and indistinct lines of all the things that usually fill my working day whizzing past without so much as stopping to say “G’day” before vanishing into the distance in a blur. As I watch all the things I should be involved in slipping away I feel vague, hopeless and cut off – yet helpless to do anything about it.

Get Out Of My House!

I’m now at the stage where I’ve decided enough is enough. I’m suffering from terrible insomnia, I’m very stressed out, and I don’t feel like I’m in control of what’s going on with my business any more. Affiliate marketing is like oxygen for me, and without it I feel completely suffocated.  So I’ve called a halt to the building  job for now (which was mostly finished inside the house anyhow) and am really looking forward to things getting back to normal.  I’ll be letting the builder return in a few weeks to do some finishing off on the house exterior once I’ve had some time to myself. We will have a plasterer in next week, but he’s a very quiet worker so I’ve decided to let him finish his work :D

It’s About More Than The Money

As I was lying wide awake last night (yet again) I started wondering if the way I’m feeling, although perhaps extreme, is an indicator of why very few people who do well at affiliate marketing are in it purely because they saw a way to make money and set out to exploit it in a formulaic way.

I love the creative processes involved in identifying new things to market, trying to get inside the minds of the people likely to buy them, designing landing pages that will appeal to them, and working out ways to scale and increase traffic and conversions.  I’m not ashamed to admit that I still get a little excited every time I wake up in the morning and realise it’s time to go back to work.  I arrive at my desk within minutes of waking, clutching that first cuppa of the day and keen to hook up to the oxygen supply to breathe in more of what the affiliate world has on offer.

Does this border on the obsessive? Probably.  Do I care? Not a damned jot!

See You All Back In The Water Next Week…

Now that those noisy buggers are about to be evicted from my space I’ll see y’all back in the deep end on Monday ;)

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Ask Kirsty – What Would You Do if You Were Starting Out Again?

Ask Kirsty 9 Comments »

*shudder* well this is a question that gives me the total willies and no mistake about it!  Ben wants to know how I’d approach things if I were just starting out…

I wondered if I could ask two questions, as I like your philosophy of no-nonsense building content sites, accepting that their is no shortcut or get rich quick.

1 – If you were to start again with no affiliate sites or domains, how would you go about building up an online business?  Would you still do content sites,or maybe look at something else considering the web landscape of 2010?  Would you, for instance, write hundreds of articles before going live?  Would you concentrate on one site or several?   Just any comments on strategy.

2 – If someone got down to building content affiliate sites with SEO, full time, and followed your philosophy of no substitute for hard work, do you think it’s feasible to make a living of AM within a year?

For background, I’m a good writer and know my stuff re building websites.  I also know the theory of SEO and Internet Marketing, though have only ever really made pocket money in return for my very part time efforts so far.

Any comments really appreciated!


Really good questions Ben!

1. I would definately still go down the content route although without any existing sites to run I might well experiment with marketing via things that interest me at the moment such as Twitter and Facebook groups. I haven’t really yet found the time to really play around with those, but I still feel that the majority of my online strategy would be around the creation of quality content.

I would take a micro approach to building and developing any sites. Rather than trying to create a whole big site and everything that went with it offline I’d sort of section it off into managable chunks. You can create a site that for all intents and purposes functions well using just 10 to 15 pages and add on more as you go. This means you can get search engine traffic trickling through the site quicker and use what you learn from it to shape future efforts.

The question of concentrating on one site or several is a difficult one. From a resources point of view, only doing one as a newbie makes a lot of sense. However, from a “progressing your business and testing lots of niches” point of view it makes less sense. One of the things I think I’d find difficult if I had to start out as a newbie in 2010 would be niche identification. With 90% of content sites I’ve created I’ve already known I was going to make money with them, what some of the bestselling products were to get me kicked off, and which merchants I should concentrate my efforts upon. This is a huge benefit, and means I’ve only really put effort into writing content I already knew would yield profit. Huge advantage for my business.

Before you get all excited and ask me for my big secret method, I’ve got this advantage because in the past I’ve been able to promote merchants via direct PPC. None of the merchants I currently promote allow this any longer (or if they do I’m not in their closed group!). Having been around affiliate marketing for a few years has definately given me an advantage as the barriers to entry have risen behind me with various new rules from both search engines and merchants about how we can promote our affiliate wares.

I think if I were starting out now and having to deal with not being able to use my old testing methods I’d probably do bags of research and start up 4 or 5 sites using the micro approach above staggering launch for each (say one every 4 to 6 weeks), sending PPC to test the products, and then giving priority for further development to whichever one showed most promise whilst also still moving forward with the others. In all good conscience though, I’m not at all sure I can advise anyone to jump right in and do that. I’d do it, but should you? It could just be a recipe for a lot of time wasted if the effort is not correctly applied. So if we want to talk about what YOU should do rather than me, I’d say… do one site first and see what you learn from that.

2. Shorter answer here – YES. But (and you had to know that was coming) that really does depend on your abilities as a marketer. Your skills in writing and site building mean you’re off to a good start. However there are so many variables that come down to your own mindset that it’s difficult for me to give and answer you can rely upon. Some people make a good living within a few weeks, others take a few years. Where you fall is entirely down to your own levels of effort and intuition about what people might buy and how you can effectively target them when they’re doing it.

One thing that is guaranteed: – People who work hard at anything rarely walk away empty handed. Keep focused, keep trying, and do not give up when you have your first disaster!

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Affiliate Quick Tips – Stopping WordPress Removing Line Breaks

Quick Tips, Wordpress 11 Comments »

“Arrggh!!!  F***ing WordPress!!!  Why won’t it just leave my damned formatting be????”

Sound familiar? Then you may be suffering from a well known affiliate affliction known as “WordPress Formatting Rage”.  Commonly experienced right after you’ve spent an age carefully positioning text or images to create a landing page that is the very epitome of perfection – right up until you hit the save button.  At this point WordPress’ WYSIWYG editor code cleanup thingamyjig springs into action like a lithe gazelle and proclaims “Oh ho!! Look at all those line breaks. We don’t want those cluttering up the place do we?”

The result is often less than pleasing and results in a frustrating few minutes spent laboriously re-entering those line breaks (It just must have been a mistake after all. What system would be silly enough to remove them?).  This then brings us back to the first line of the post with a few extra profanities added to reflect the increase in general frustration levels.

Fortunately There is a Fix

Tiny MCE Advanced (download & more info here)

Simply install this wonderous little plugin, and select the “Stop removing my damned well line breaks” option which is located in the big red box on the plugin admin page.

You can then enjoy the bliss that is being able to add line breaks wherever you please as well as having access to some other cool additions such as emoticons, search and replace functionality whilst editing,  support for tables, and heaps more.

“Ahhhh…. that’s better!!”

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Paid On Results Reveal the Effectiveness of Cookieless Tracking

Affiliate Networks 5 Comments »

Ever wondered just how effective cookieless tracking technology really is? Wonder no longer!  I do love a good metric and got a lovely end of month surprise when I logged into my POR account this morning.  For the first time ever you can now see just how much of the revenue in your affiliate account would have been lost to deleted cookies if it weren’t for the alternate tracking methods deployed by the network.

I Have To Say I’m Seriously Impressed…

Upon checking out my revenue report I was presented with a very swish pie chart showing me what percentage of my sales was tracked by one of the secondary methods.  It looked like this: -

A whopping 23.04% of all the commissions I earned with Paid on Results in March were credited to my account using this technology. I put a reasonable amount traffic through this network and the amount of revenue I would have lost is very significant. Certainly enough to give me a bit of a light headed moment when I saw it in black and white!

My New Best Mates…

For me this metric being made visible really reinforces my trust in the Paid on Results network.  I’ve now been shown the cold hard facts of how they help me to make bigger profits, and I’m REALLY liking what I see. I was already a big fan of the more personal service I enjoy with them.  As a case in point they told me to look out for a new feature coming in a few hours whilst answering a support ticket at some ungodly hour of the night, and asked for feedback on their new affiliate interface generally.

Not every affiliate network has implemented cookieless tracking just yet. If you’ve ever thought to yourself “gosh, it’s funny that my traffic with Network X does much better than what I send to Network Y”, maybe it’s time to consider it might be more than just a coincidence.  This new report has reinforced to me the importance of weighing up more than just the merchants I want to promote – it’s clearly important to also look at how robust the tracking platform appears to be.

A+ to Paid on Results for transparency. Anyone else going to step up to the plate?

Read more here.

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Ask Kirsty – Pinging Services & Affiliate Performance Evaluation

Ask Kirsty 2 Comments »

Fellow Australian affiliate Zane McIntyre has a couple of questions about making sure he’s doing the most he can to maximise his opportunities for exposure and revenue maximisation:-

Dear Kirsty,

I have a few things that I wanted to clarify. Generally information where I cannot seem to find a definitive answer on the www and would love to have your thoughts.

Question 1: To Ping or Not to Ping?

I have read alot about WordPress guru’s using a wordpress approved ping list. By default pingomatic is used by wordpress, is this sufficient or should we expand our ping lists to ensure all the blog catalogs and news sites out there are being notified of updates to our sites? I attempt at all times to stay within the realms of legitimacy for my sites and my only concern is if I am pinging a plethora of sites out there will I be classified as ping spamming?

When it comes to promoting your site and increasing your visits there is no golden button that says “Click this to increase your traffic” but I have heard that traffic can be increased by pinging a wider variety of sites.

Below is a list I found and was contemplating using.

Question 2: Sitting back and evaluating the true performance of your site.

Recently I have had a slump in sales to my sites and believe this is only a sign of the times as my hits have not decreased and my content is increasing every day. So I am using this time to sit back and evaluate all of my sites and have them well positioned for when the economy picks up again.

I am evaluating my sites with the use of pretty excel spreadsheets to get a very clear overview of my monthly profits. I start by noting the site, monthly visits, monthly profit and dividing the profit by the visits to get an idea of how much each visitor as an average is spending. This gives me an idea each month to see if I have performed better than the last and use the hits divided by profit to see where I stand. If nothing changes or the profit per visitor is not increasing even though my hits are increasing I know I need to see where my performance is lacking. I do this by checking Google Analytics to see my top 25-50 pages or posts and go through them to see why they may not be converting. With this information I can then edit those pages to have more calls to action or clearly define what I want the visitor to do next.

Am I doing this correctly or do you have any suggestions to how I can better evaluate my sites performance? All of my traffic is purely organic and I do not run any PPC campaigns at this time, this is simply because of the uncertainty of PPC as of late with Google getting sand in their cracks and banning accounts etc so I don’t want PPC to be my be all and end all.

Can’t wait to hear from you.


Zane McIntyre

Good questions Zane, and thanks for the list of pinging services too!

Question 1. I must confess that with my own sites I simply let pingomatic do it’s stuff. I therefore have absolutely no idea how much traffic value one might expect to get from pinging such services.  However I have no doubt that there will be absolutely no issue with you using as many of those services as you desire as using them seems to be included in just about every “increasing your blog traffic 101″ type post out there.

Speaking of distributing content, if you are investing a lot in adding lovely unique content to your site don’t forget to set your feed settings to “summary” under your reading settings in the WordPress control panel.  This will help prevent nasty old spammy content robbers from purloining your content for evil purposes. Not that Google is usually fooled by this sort of carry on, but its blasted well irritating.  I can also heartily recommend using the RSS Footer Plugin which will mean any posts reproduced from your feed will include a link back to your site.

Question 2.

It already sounds like you are doing a pretty good job of analysing your traffic and ensuring that you are keeping an eye firmly on the bottom line. It’s also a good idea to constantly look at your top pages.

I’m not clear from your question how much you are focusing upon which of those top 25 to 50 pages are actually creating your profit? It sounds as if you may just be focusing on the pages generating the most traffic. If your merchant or network doesn’t have a service in place where you can put a unique identifier into your URLs so you can see which links are bringing in the bacon, this may be the only avenue open to you.

However, if you are able to identify which pages are generating lots of conversions this will be incredibly valuable information to pass back into your campaigns.  Things are rarely spread evenly over every page on your site. Usually the 80:2o rule or something close to that will be at play. Therefore it’s immensely beneficial to be able to look at those pages and the products on them and have a think about why they are converting. Then you can see if you’re able increase what you are doing by creating more pages for similar products or items with similar selling points.

Another thing I tend to do is make sure I’m aware of how different blocks of traffic are performing as well as taking a view of site performance as a whole.  Often a particular type of traffic may not perform as well with a merchant whilst other traffic is a-ok. It is important for me to be able to switch the traffic elsewhere to see if I can better the EPC and conversion rate. I’ve recently done this for some of my underwear related traffic and increased profits by £300. Pretty good for an hours work updating my link file and a few minutes with a calculator!

I hope this has helped, and if anyone knows more about traffic from pinging services please do post in the comments section – I’d value the additional input!

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Recognising When Your Work System Is No Longer Efficient

General 5 Comments »

Today I realised it has been just over a year since I cut my working hours and implemented a new work structure.  It has been a pleasing success and it has been a massive help in me pushing on my business to new heights and really forging ahead with a series of new sites which I’ve launched over the last 12 months.  Taking a structured approach has really been hugely beneficial for me. Until Now.

Scale and Replicate? Well, Up To A Point…

The issue I’m currently having is that a formulaic approach lacks imagination.  I have my daily set tasks but I’m starting to lose faith at the moment that they are actually the right ones, or even a good use of time relative to the results that they are producing now I’m entering a “maintenance phase”. By that I mean I’ve set up lots of sites and am now concentrating upon building up the income I get from them.

The truth is, my scheduled 2 hours per day of content writing has started to bore me dreadfully.  And so dreadfully that once I’ve done my allocated slog I’ve lost the passion and imagination to do very much else. I think it was workable before because I could focus on the end result – a series of sites to diversify my income. However, now I think I need to step back and take a look at the bigger picture.

Much Like Breaking Up… Letting Go is Never Easy

It’s a bit like splitting up with someone. You get that uneasy feeling that being with them just isn’t working out as well any more. Writing all those blog posts myself enabled me to really boost up the content and traffic on my sites as well as keeping an eye on longtail traffic opportunities.  However I’m increasingly not getting all the content I have scheduled for myself done. Because I simply don’t want to write it.  Even worse, my avoidance strategy (busying myself with some largely irrelevant bit of analysis or research) then extends beyond the blogging and starts to drag the rest of the day down.

It’s Not You, It’s Me

The thing is I’ve increasingly been realising recently that I need to take a dose of my own advice. Is that two hours every day being spent “working smarter” or am I just doing it because it’s permanently written into my daily action sheets? In the last couple of weeks I’ve realised the following: -

  • My many daily blog posts contribute to site traffic, but are less likely to generate sales than other more highly targeted pages.
  • It probably doesn’t matter any more whether its me writing the posts or someone else. Despite knowing hee haw about affiliate marketing my mother is managing to do a beautiful job of writing content for my sites. She’s even posting it up into HTML templates with extreme ease despite having no web design skills whatsoever. It takes me about 30 mins a week to create a work list for her detailing which articles I want done.
  • Continuing to write my own content of this nature is probably not the most efficient application of my skills.
  • If I outsource some or all of my daily blogging I will instantly have 2 hours free each day to use in other ways.

In Other Words… It’s Just Not Worth Me Doing It Any More!

I’ve already got some fledgling ideas about how I’m going to free myself from this task. Getting bestseller lists from merchants to create the areas to write posts about, creating structured spreadsheets for content writers to work from. However I shall consider them more carefully and perhaps do another post when I have it all worked out.

My aim now is to reduce my time spent writing from around 30 hours per month, to just 3 or 4 hours spent managing the writing process whilst I get other people to do it for me.  If I can concentrate for long enough in the building site that is laughingly known as my home at the moment I may just be able to come up with something.

I’m off to the mountains today for 2 nights to celebrate my birthday. Perhaps it’ll all become clear then ;)

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Thanks For The Nomination Everyone

General No Comments »

Just a quickie to say thanks very much to everyone who nominated me for the Best Affiliate Blog category at the A4U Awards.

It’s a real honour and pleasure that my thoughts and general affiliate meanderings are continuing to amuse and inform enough people that I’ve made the shortlist once again.  The entire list of nominees is as follows: - (that’s me – yayy!!)

eBay Partner Network Blog

Good to see so many of my affiliate friends nominated!  You can register your votes for the awards from today on.


Once again I will not be able to attend the awards.  I had to make a choice between the awards and the A4U Expo in October.  I eventually decided that the Expo was probably going to be more beneficial as well as coinciding with an excellent time of year for a holiday in Thailand on the way home. Needless to say I shall be very depressed on the evening of the awards at the thought of missing out on such a great night with all my affiliate friends.

You can book a table here, and book me a business class flight from Australia to London here if you need a date. I can promise witty affiliate conversation at the start of the evening and a load of old nonsense and giggles by about midnight ;)

Enjoy the shindig everyone!

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Quick! Call Norris McWhirter! World Procrastination Record Smashed!

Affiliate Annoyances 2 Comments »

Woohoo!  What a proud day it is for me today guys and gals. I’ve just smashed my own (very impressive) procrastination record by taking a whopping 518 days to take a simple yet effective piece of advice that would take just 10 minutes to implement.  One of the agonising things about being me is that sometimes I’ll just know I should do something, it keeps popping into my mind… and I promptly do nothing about it.

At 518 Days This is a Personal Best

Behold my shiny new RSS subscription button. Revel in its sleek design, prominent position, squeal with unbridled delight as you make use of it, and gasp with joy as you realise I’ve finally made heavy use of the CTRL+C button and provided an e-mail subscription box. (Look, when it takes you this long to do something it needs a bit of fanfare OK?).

Where did I get this advice? Slides 33 &34 of Joost De Valk’s very useful WordPress optimisation session at the 2008 A4U Expo. So I’d like to thank him for the past 518 days of unadulterated procrastination, the odd 3am “oh my god I’ve still not done that” moment, and several brain freeze type episodes. I don’t know why it’s his fault. Maybe his “get a big subscription button” button on slide 33 wasn’t quite big enough ;)

In My Defense Though…

I did take lots of advice from that session and implement it to great effect. Promptly even.  If you have a WordPress blog and are still getting to grips with SEO I’d urge you to visit the above link and take good note of slides 12, 15, 18, 20 & 21. I’ve used all of these in the last 18 months to powerful effect on my WordPress sites.

See you all at the 2010 A4U Expo and I hope to be a little quicker off the mark with taking good advice this time!
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Affiliate Quick Tips – Google Ad Planner For Niche & Competitor Research

Quick Tips 2 Comments »

Google Adplanner has been around for a little while now, but I don’t see it widely spoken about in forums as a niche research tool so I thought it was worth flagging here as a Quick Tip.

If you’re researching a new niche this interesting tool can tell you how much traffic a top ranked site is getting as well as key visitor demographics, other sites visited, and keyword data.  Definately handy if you are interested in ascertaining just how much traffic volume there might be around your chosen niche area and perhaps also a way to ascertain potential earning power if you use it in combination with network EPC data.  Great to have a wee nosey at how your competitors are doing too ;)

As for how accurate the data is?   This blog post by Kevin Hague, who co-owns and gives insight into how he rates it in comparison to the Hitwise data and his thoughts on its accuracy levels (quite good to be succinct!).

Check out the Google Ad Planner here and do post back comments re: what you think of it. Interested to hear other people’s experiences and how the data can be used by affiliates!

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8 Reasons Why Your “Hard Work” Isn’t Paying Off in Affiliate Marketing

General 22 Comments »

Gosh darn it’s frustrating isn’t it?  You’ve been working soooo hard on your affiliate sites, often staying up till 2am on a work night to try and make your big break into affiliate marketing or push your affiliate business on to new heights.

Or have you?

Here’s my top 8 reasons why those hours spent industriously in front of your computer screen might not be as industrious as you thought.

1. Twitter and Facebook. Great places to network with other affiliates and get all important industry contacts.  However, Mafia Wars and Farmville do not count as networking, and nor does spending hours pointlessly retweeting articles you’ve never read in the hope of ingratiating yourself to Jeremy Schoemaker and Shawn Collins so they will DM you everything you need to know about dominating the affiliate world in 140 characters or less.

2. Online Forums. Yes,  A4U is spiffing in every way and is jam packed with useful information (alternatively insert forum name of your choice).  However if you’re spending all your time on there starting (or answering) threads about just about every possible problem you might come up against in affiliate marketing over the span of your career you’re going to start to notice that your business has completely failed to grow despite you asking questions about it till you’re blue in the face.

3. Spending Hours Working Out What Other People Are Doing Isn’t Work! Every single day I have searches to all of my sites from people searching on my company name having a good nosey.  Completely understandable of course, everyone has a wee internet nosey every now and again… but looking at what other people do isn’t going to help you work out what you need to do for yourself to make you some cash.  Take a look around, say “my that’s cool”, and then get on with creating some genius ideas to revolutionise your own business.  Oh, and whilst I’m on don’t use the CTRL+C button to do this.  Particularly if you’ve been looking at one of my sites ;)

4. Does This Sound Familiar? “I was up till 5am last night looking at super affiliates.  I reckon that Amit Mehta must be on at least $30,000 per second or part thereof. Did I tell you he has an American Express Black Card?  It’s so cool.  Oh, oh!  and I read on Twitter that John Chow went out for dinner and had made $9,000 by the time he got back.  Oh man!”  If you have found yourself in possession of lots of facts and figures of this nature recently I have some ill tidings about your career.  You’ve been titting about and not working!!!

5. You Have a Portfolio of 743 Red Hot Niche Domains. How Many Websites? If the number is between zero and none, or you have 7 half finished designs lurking around the internet looking sorry for themselves, guess what?  You haven’t been working at all.  If you’ve been an “affiliate marketer” for 6 months or more and think that’s a good achievement I have some bad news.  You’re not an affiliate marketer, you’re Walter Mitty.

6. Similarly, You Have 10 Websites but every time you start one you get bored after two weeks and start another one before you’ve even given it a chance to work.  You’re always seeking the pot of gold at the end of the affiliate rainbow but you’re not looking at your own two feet which is often where the rainbow starts. Dig for the pot of gold in what you’ve already achieved. You might be surprised at what you find there. The money in this game is in consistency and measured application of your skills.  Put that scattergun away!

7. You’re Not Doing Anything At All… Despite knowing that you should be.  Now this may be obvious but it’s more common than you think.   Suddenly your affiliate mojo has deserted you, shot the craw as we say in Scotland.  It often happens to people who have worked long and hard to go full time.  They achieve their goal and suddenly discover that David Dickenson is their idol and they can’t rip eyes off him on his many daytime TV shows. Solution?  Personally, I usually stop staring at the computer screen blankly alternately stressing  and contemplating my navel, step back for a day or three, have a think about it all, and take another run up to see if I can get back on the work train.  Works about 7 times out of 10.

8. The People Around You Don’t Think AM is a “Real” Job (one for the full timers here) You will therefore be more than happy to be volunteered for all duties at your kids’ school.  Furthermore you don’t mind at all when people call round for coffee unannounced or ring you up to help them solve the trivial emergency of the day.  I’m not sure why people do this.  I’m assuming they think that because it involves computers the process of making money is fully automated and requires no human intervention. Solving this requires assertiveness and in some cases downright rudeness.  This can be fun if you’re not particularly fond of the offender.

And Finally…

I’ve devoted lots of words to describing the many ways you can waste your time as an affiliate and I’m sure there are many more I could have used.  However the solution is way more succinct. Honesty.  Be honest with yourself  about what you’re supposed to be doing  and what constitutes a good day of progress – you’ll be amazed how much more productive you can be.

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