When I became really active in the performance marketing industry about six years ago I heard stories of affiliates MURDERING tax related offers during March and April. Obviously it made sense, because every U.S. citizen HAS to file a tax return. I’ve always been told there are two things that are guaranteed in life and that’s taxes and death. Now the concept sounds good, but how do I get my piece of that money pie? With it almost mid-February the time is now to make sure you have your campaigns ready to go and can capture the cheap traffic from this trend and hit some record-breaking numbers.
Believe it or not six years ago I was fairly lazy. My performance marketing company was just one of my online ventures and I didn’t like to spend too much time on any certain campaign (since I didn’t own the back end). If I could simply direct link and make $1,000+ profit a day for six months or so, I’d do so, then move on to the next one. Back then the majority of my day was spent monetizing and building content based websites where I could sell advertising impressions to large corporations for the purpose of branding. Performance marketing was just something I did in the evenings (it was lucrative but lacked longevity). Anyways, long story short, after a couple of my affiliate managers hounded me I decided to setup some tax based campaigns that were “killing it.” Here’s what I did:
Pay Per View:
What I did:
Working with a well branded offer I cranked out about 10 different CPV optimized landing pages that direct linked to the offer. I used a scraper to pull URLs and Keywords related to the tax niche. My offer was geared around filing your taxes online for cheap. The lander is offline but I do have this screenshot from Dreamweaver which should give you an idea:
After I blew through a quick $100 I realized that not only was the offer not converting my CTR was absolutely terrible. What people FAIL to realize is that pay per view traffic is EXPENSIVE. If you pay the $0.01 MINIMUM per view that equals out to $10 CPM. Comparing this to a display buy, how high does your CTR have to be to make it work? It’s going to have to be ASTRONOMICAL. I decided that method wasn’t going to work at all.
What I did:
I noticed a lot of the big branded companies were doing display buys. I decided I would leverage their buy by picking up the remnant inventory behind their impressions and monetize it on an acquisition basis. I assumed that with the low CPM I would be able to garner a high enough click through rate due to the demand of tax offers. I split tested between my own pre-sell pages and direct linking.
The CTR on my creatives were not terrible however the conversions just didn’t yield a strong enough ROI to optimize towards. With my creative CTR > offer CR > I was going to need to promote offers that paid a lot more than $10+ a lead. I was going to need some offer that pays in the $35-40 range which I could not find.
Promoting tax related offers can yield you one of the highest profit quarters of the year. By no means do you want to have all your eggs in one basket and this is something you should be working on far in advance. The goal here is to have a tax-based website that you can use year-after-year and monetize traffic organically, paid, and from other affiliate networks. What many fail to realize is this is relatively simple to setup it just takes a bit of planning.
1) Do your keyword research
Back at Grind Session East in August, Ruck displayed his exclusive “catch phrasing” method that helps generate large, high volume, low competition keyword lists on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other search engines. If you’re going for “do taxes online” you’re going to be bombarded with competition. You need to think of WHAT ELSE people looking for tax relief options are searching. Build you out about 50 phrases… Sort them with the highest volume first then lower towards the bottom.
2) Register a domain
You want to take the keyword with the lowest about of competition (ie: number of search results) and highest number of monthly searches (use the Google Keyword Tool) and register a domain around your keywords.
3) Setup Web Hosting
You’re going to want to do this the right way. This is a long term site remember. Sign up for a VPS, cloud, or dedicated hosting solution. You want to make sure you have a redundant host and one that is going to provide you with a dedicated IP address for your domain name. This not only helps protect your privacy but is also looked positively amongst search engine spiders. You also want to make sure your web host has cPanel with Fantastico. This is going to be the QUICKEST and most EFFICIENT way to get up and running. Remember time is money.
4) Install WordPress
Once you setup your domain with web hosting go ahead and login to your cPanel and click the Fantastico icon. From here you’re able to select WordPress on the left hand navigation bar and install it with one click. Simply specify a few credentials such as your admin username and password, the directory you want to install it on, and proceed. Painless and takes less than five minutes.
5) Format Your Site
Wordpress is super freaking easy to customize. Even if you have ZERO HTML experience you can have your WordPress site looking professional in just a couple of hours. First, select one of their themes. I recommend leaving room above the fold where you can include an optin box that will allow the visitor to interact and engage them in your upcoming conversion funnel. A cool page setup may look like this:
Notice how user friendly this beast is? The user engagement box is where you’re going to get your users to interact with your website where you can take them down your conversion funnel. First, you have to decide what problem your conversion funnel is going to solve. A visitor obviously came to your site with a tax-related problem now you have to provide them with a solution. Let’s do a sample funnel:
File Your Taxes Online – Please Select Your State:
This would be a drop-down menu above all of your content. It’s not asking the user to enter any personal information it is simply engaging them to make them feel unique and begin the lead pre-qualification process. Your next step would initiate a screen to further qualify the user. This can easily be done with a brief questionnaire:
* Do you currently have all your previous year bank statements?
* Do you have all the necessary documents from your employer?
* Are you over the age of 18?
* Are you a legal US resident?
These questions simply get into the visitors head and subconsciously begins solving their tax problem. This is your overall goal of your website. To solve the problem they came for. We’re going to finish the conversion funnel, but lets get back to your long term website.
WordPress allows you to setup users to post content. Depending on your start-up budget you can outsource this content and have them post 2 – 3 new articles day. If you’re on a tight budget you should produce this content yourself. Throughout the IMGrind Community and at numerous seminars Ruck and I have covered MULTIPLE ways to find content fast, cheap, and unique.
As you’re planning your content strategy and waiting to hear back from writers, now is a good time to install some necessary WordPress plugins. Here’s what I recommend:
StatPress – Instantly see information about the visitors hitting your website. While I also like to use Google Analytics their reporting isn’t in real-time so I don’t know until the next day important traffic data such as unique visitors, page views, search engine queries, referring URLs, browser agents, operating systems, and spiders. The install process is painless and literally takes less than five minutes.
cForms – Easily insert a customized feedback form into your pages and have the data sent directly to your email. I remember back in the 90?s having to install Matt Wright’s formmail script, customize my code by hand, CHMOD, etc. It wasn’t a lot of fun. This takes all the grunt work out for you and provides several professional pre-designed templates.
Akismet – Comment SPAM is just plain out annoying. Shame on you blackhat SEOs that try to link build with this type of crap. Akismet is a simple solution that checks your comments against the Akismet web service to see if they look like spam or not and lets you review the spam it catches under your blog’s “Comments” admin screen. Time-and-time again it’s saved me countless hours of having to go in a filter out what’s real and what’s not.
All in One SEO Pack – Instantly place all the necessary SEO elements on your pages to begin ranking high in Google and other search engines. The plug-in allows even beginners to have a fully SEO’d website within minutes of installation.
Redirection – As you develop your site you’re going to eventually rename a page or two. Without proper redirection you risk losing your search engine rankings, so this takes the effort out of hunting for the 301 redirect code. Simply install, type in the new page location, and go about your day.
ShareThis – Every webmaster out there wants more traffic. With ShareThis you’re easily able to integrate social media into your website regardless of experience level. A couple of clicks and your visitors can instantly begin sharing your content expanding your organic reach.
You want to spend some time and go through and configure each one. With the All In One SEO pack refer back to your keyword lists and optimize accordingly.
Register With Google
You gotta let the big G know you’re the new king on the block. Verify your site in Google.com/webmastertools and install Google.com/analytics. Now remember you’re going to want to use a fresh Gmail account as you don’t want any of those tools using your analytic ID to reveal your pages to your competition. Make sure you also add your XML feed to Google’s webmaster tools. This helps their bot realize when you’ve made an update (which will hopefully be 3 times+) a day.
Add Social Elements
The web is growing more social at an alarming rate. On EVERYONE of your pages you should contain some sort of social element. Visitors should be able to “LIKE” your fan page and they should be able to SHARE or LIKE your content at the click of a button. Make it very easy on the eye and encourage their participation.
Include Important Pages
Back To The Conversion Funnel
By now you should have your website generating content and looking professional. Right now your conversion funnel is stopping after it asks the brief questionnaire to begin the engagement process. Once the user selects their answers you should then redirect them to a web form for data collection. I recommend registering an account over at AWeber and using their web-based form editor to format the data collection fields to match your website. Your funnel now looks like this:
Initial User Engagement (State Select) > User Questionnaire (Are You 18) > Data Collection (Enter Your Name And Email)
Following the initial data collection you immediately want to begin monetizing (the fun part – yay). Basically you have two options. Based on what the exact solution you’re offering the person you can promote one offer on your offer wall or multiple offers. If you’re promoting an online tax filing solution you may want to include the benefits and then encourage them to check their email for your complimentary “2012 Filing Reminders” which will confirm their identity and double optin them to your list. If you’re promoting multiple offers you may also want to remind them to get that “free email” as a benefit for them signing up today. By confirming the leads your able to further monetize the leads.
If the user doesn’t convert right off the bat but does confirm their email address you can begin a daily follow-up series for a week. Don’t pitch the lead every time simply explain to them the benefits of your service and HOW you can help solve their problem. They HAVE to file taxes so are you going to be their resource or not? If you get creative you WILL be. Again, through the IMGrind Community you’ll find resources on how to write effective email followup sequences and how to nurture your leads towards successful conversions.
Pumping Up Your Organic Traffic
Once you have the site complete – full of unique content (new added daily) and an active conversion funnel with user engagement it’s time to get some traffic. Before you pick up that credit card and start buying Google a new jet, let’s get started with those organic SERPS. There are a shitload of services such as Addme.com that will submit your new site to various search engines. While these aren’t near as effective as they used to be, they have never hurt me and only takes about five minutes.
Next, consider issuing a press release about your site. Explain to the general public what your website is about and how it can help them fix their tax problem. Highlight your content and some notable articles. Websites such as PRWeb.com offer distribution for fairly reasonable pricing.
OK, Let’s Get To The Paid Traffic
So many people jump to this step WAY to early on creating frustration and hundreds if not thousands of dollars lost in testing. By this point you should have an active site and begin seeing traffic ranking. Using Google Analytics monitor where visitors are going on your site and increase content accordingly. Pay close attention to the phrases they’re searching as its likely you’ll find a couple of golden nuggets in this data. Depending on your budget should determine when you’re ready for paid traffic. If you have some money to start heavy distribution and begin making some on the fly optimizations go right ahead. However if you’re on a very limited budget keep the new content flowing and see what happens with the organic traffic. Once you start reaching 50 – 100 unique visitors a day you should begin to see how the conversion funnel is going to work.
The first place I recommend starting with traffic distribution is Google Adwords. Refer back to the keyword list you build in the beginning and create campaigns that bid on those phrases and include that text in your creatives. Since Google Adwords allows you to customize keyword’s destination URL you can use those to create unique squeeze pages to garner a user’s response. Simply start with search, create you 10 – 20 ad groups full of similar keywords from your initial research. Customize your destination landing pages.
Prior to going live with Google I recommend using a free copy of P202 on your server. I personally recommend using your cPanel to setup a subdomain such as http://tracking.yourcooldomain.com so you keep everything in one centralized location. This keeps spying eyes off your shit. In the IMGrind Community numerous users have written guides on how to track lead generation funnels with not only P202 but also iMobiTrax and others. Don’t forget you have the Stat Press plugin and Google Analytics installed as well!
Examine Your Data
The more keywords and ad groups you have the more budget you’re going to need to test. I personally start around $100 a day with 10 – 20 ad groups but ultimately it depends how much volume my keywords yield. Just keep in mind your budget and don’t keep spending money unless the keywords are converting. There are TONS of other keywords and phrases out there don’t spend all your time and energy on one or two.
Don’t Forget Bing/adCenter
Once you find those winning keywords over at Google, port those directly over to Bing. The volume isn’t going to be near as heavy but based off my experience your ROI will be solid. Every little bit helps, remember you’re looking to leverage this site as one of you big yearly earners.
If you follow everything I said above you should be generating traffic organically through search engines, on social media websites such as Facebook, and purchasing targeted traffic on multiple PPC platforms. As the tax season comes closer you should begin optimizing the traffic even more and split testing the crap out of offers to see which ones yield the best ROI. Remember – double the EPC is double the profit!
If you’re the type of elite Internet Marketer that we like to see in the Community you’ll take everything you’ve done and port it over to Facebook paid advertising and cost per view sources. NUMEROUS how to guides have been produced to help you be able to capture these audiences and return solid ROIs. Since you’ve build a full, content rich, informative site, you’re not going to have to worry about the approval problems many others are going to find themselves in. Those of you that read our Grind Report on CPA Network Arbitraging may want to give your site out to a couple of networks to allow publishers to privately mail or promote on various other channels of traffic. Don’t forget you can apply many of the same mobile lead generation arbitrage techniques taught throughout the IMGrind Community to get creative and obtain volume where competition is very low.
In conclusion this site can and will make you money for years to come. Even in the “off tax season” you can continue to increase your traffic and optimize your conversion paths. This type of site has the potential to make you MILLIONS of dollars in profit in a relatively short period of time. You’re going to get out of it though what you put into it. Who’s going to step up this year and hit a home run with this guide?
Ryan Gray is the founder and CEO of NameHero, one of the fastest growing independent web hosts in the United States. Ryan has been working online since 1998 and has over two-decades experience in Internet Entrepreneurship.