The following interview with Shawn Collins, a prominent expert in the
affiliate marketing field, should prove instructive to the reader. Shawn
has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the field and now runs his own affiliate
program management and consulting firm. As this interview is inherently
limited in scope, one is encouraged to read more about Shawn’s experiences
in the field and the advice he dispenses through his books, conferences,
blog, articles, reports, and weekly radio show. The reader can also meet
Shawn at the Affiliate Summit, a “can’t miss” conference for those
interested in excelling in the competitive world of affiliate marketing.
Q. Shawn, how would you describe your initial experiences with affiliate
A. It was back in 1997. I had a dial-up account on AOL, a 14.4 modem and
a desire to make more money. odn-plock At the time, I didn’t know a thing about
creating websites, marketing, etc. But I went through a tutorial at AOL on
writing HTML and picked up the basics. Then, I created a hideous, single
page site about New York City and put up some Amazon links. I never earned
a cent on that site.
Q. What growing pains did you endure at first? What were the biggest
obstacles and challenges from that period of time?
A. Back then, there was a monopoly on registering domains, and it cost
$35 a year. At the time, that was a bit prohibitive for me (I didn’t
realize what a good investment a short name would be). That was a trend –
an unwillingness to invest in my affiliate efforts. I was going the free
route with tools, hosting, etc. That definitely delayed my progress.
Q. What was your first “Ah-ha” moment? How did you incorporate the
lesson learned into your affiliate marketing business?
A. The first time I got my reporting via email from Amazon with
information on commission earned. Back then, there was no option to login
to an interface – just a periodic email with affiliate stats. When I
realized it was real that I could earn money this way, I was excited and
motivated. This persuaded me that I was wasting my time working in
magazine publishing – it was time for me to get into a line of work that
was stimulating and rewarding.
With my limited affiliate marketing experience, I managed to get a job
with a start-up in 1997 called Medsite.com, and I bluffed my way into
running the affiliate program there. I’ve enjoyed my work ever since.
Q. Without mentioning names, have you joined affiliate programs that did
not keep their promises and/or provide appropriate compensation? What
measures did you take when confronted with this situation and what advice
can you give others to avoid this circumstance?
A. Lots of affiliate programs lie in their recruiting efforts – they
talk about how easy it is to earn commission from them. That’s simply not
true – it’s not easy. I just don’t pay attention to most recruiting
efforts from affiliate programs. I would encourage affiliates to ignore
proclamations of easy earnings and high EPCs – the most important thing is
to test everything yourself and promote what works for you.
Q. How has affiliate marketing changed in the last seven years? What
strategies would you implement now that you would not or could not do
A. The industry has matured greatly. Seven years ago, many affiliate
marketers were content sites which relied on 468×60 banners. The analytics
were primitive and fewer companies offered affiliate programs.
Now, the industry is so diversified. Essentially, any way to market online
is being leveraged by affiliates… including comparison shopping,
domaining, video, SEO, e-mail, social networks, PPC, rewards programs,
If I could turn back time, I would have started up multiple niche
community sites back then for popular topics. By now, if nurtured they
would have grown nicely and become lucrative affiliate sites.
Q. If one is gifted marketing an affiliate product or service, is it
likely that this individual can effectively market his/her own products or
services? Should people look into developing their own items while
marketing or instead of marketing others’ products/services?
A. I’d say anything that is already selling online can be effectively
marketed through an affiliate program. Selling your own products or
services can certainly provide more rewards in the best case scenario, but
then you’ve got a lot more risk, too.
If somebody has the infrastructure and know-how to sell a certain product
or service, I’d say to go for it. But don’t take uncalculated risks.
Q. What are crucial mistakes that newbies tend to commit?
A. Lack of investment and understanding. It’s really difficult to
succeed in affiliate marketing if you are unwilling to spend the time and
money required to develop a long-term strategy. And affiliate marketing is
most certainly not a quick endeavor – it takes patience to endure and