Jason Hartman welcomes Zac Johnson, a widely respected leader in the blogging and online marketing community. Through Zac’s popular blogs, bloggingtips.com andzacjohnson.com, he has helped thousands of readers grow their brands and make money online. Zac shares his success story, including tips for gathering leads, the step-by-step affiliate marketing process, becoming a merchant, finding offers to promote and much more. He discusses using Amazon.com, Click Bank, and more to get the best commission sales. He also answers the question about how to pick a niche to focus on if you want to be a successful affiliate marketer. For more tips, tools and advice, visit www.SpeakingofWealth.com.
A self-taught entrepreneur, Zac has been making money online for over 15 years and has been involved in nearly every facet of internet marketing, while also finding great success in the world of blogging. In 2007, Zac launched his first blog at ZacJohnson.com, which is focused on his successes and failures, case studies, industry news and guides on how to make money online. In addition to his own personal experiences, Zac also writes about the latest online marketing trends and informs his readers on how and where they could be creating new revenue online. Zac’s personal blog currently has thousands of daily readers and has referred over $5,000,000 in new business to his advertisers and network partners since launching the blog.
Narrator: Speakers, publishers, consultants, coaches and info marketers unite. The Speaking of Wealth Show is your roadmap to success and significance. Learn the latest tools, technologies, and tactics to get more bookings, sell more products and attract more clients. If you’re looking to increase your direct response sales, create a big time personal brand, and become the go-to guru, the Speaking of Wealth Show is for you. Here’s your host, Jason Hartman.
Jason Hartman: Welcome to the Speaking of Wealth Show. This is your host, Jason Hartman, where we discuss profit strategies for speakers, publishers, authors, consultants, coaches, info marketers, and just go over a whole bunch of exciting things that you can use to increase your business, to make your business more successful and more and more passive and more and more automated and more and more scalable. So we will be back with a great interview. Be sure to visit us at SpeakingofWealth.com. You can take advantage of our blog, subscribe to the RSS feed and many other resources for free at SpeakingofWealth.com. And we will be back with a great interview for you in less than 60 seconds.
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Start of Interview with Zac Johnson
Jason Hartman: Hey, it’s my pleasure to welcome Zac Johnson to the show. He is a very successful blogger and affiliate marker and generally an internet marketer and we wanted to hear from him today about some of his secrets to success. Zac, welcome, how are you?
Zac Johnson: Hey, Jason. I’m doing excellent. Thank you for having me on the show today.
Jason Hartman: Good, good. And you’re located on the east coast. Where exactly are you located?
Zac Johnson: Yes, I’m right in New Jersey.
Jason Hartman: New Jersey, fantastic. So tell us a little bit about your background real quickly and we’ll come up to current day here.
Zac Johnson: Okay, basically I’ve been making money online for about 16-17 years now. Started about when I was in high school, started with the basics of creating a website. And then I figured there must be a way to make some money online. So I came across Amazon.com and I saw that they actually pay out a commission whenever you have a website and someone clicks on a link to Amazon.com through your affiliate link and you would earn a commission based on any sales that go through there. So Amazon was one of the first websites and online stores to offer something like this and today affiliate marketing is all over the place.
Jason Hartman: Right, right. And I know I remember back in the day when Amazon launched that, probably in the late 90s, early 2000s, 2001 maybe, something like that, and they made a big splash in the world of ecommerce back then. It was called ecommerce a lot. And they were kind of like one of the first ones to do it, at least on a big corporate scale. But, nowadays, does anybody actually make any real money with Amazon’s affiliate marketing? I mean I know a lot of people talk about Kindle and so forth and of course I do that as well, but just on the typical Amazon affiliate market, I’m just kind of curious to get your take on that.
Zac Johnson: I know some guys who are doing a decent amount of money with Amazon but it certainly isn’t what it used to be, used to get around 5% to 15% commission. And when I was doing it early on it was when they only had books, movies and music. And so I was able to create celebrity types of pages that would rank in the search engines. And people would click on Eddie Murphy movies or whatever and I would get 5% to 15% commission. Nowadays, it’s a lot lower. It’s even below 1% on some items and you might get around 4% to 8% on higher end items. But it’s based more on how much volume you can actually push. So if you can’t push a decent amount of volume, you’re probably not gonna make money with it, but since Amazon.com is one of the most trusted names out there, you’re gonna get more sales through Amazon than you will trying to push a product that apparently no one knows about.
Jason Hartman: Right. But why wouldn’t people just go to Amazon directly? I mean, how would they get through an affiliate portal when they do that? And we’ll get off this topic, but I just wanted to kind of touch on it since you brought it up.
Zac Johnson: Yeah, sure. So let’s just use blogging or our news website for example. And a new movie comes out or a new movie was just released on DVD and someone’s writing a review on it, and instead of placing ads throughout that website, they can say if you like this movie click here or if they just want to link to the website whenever they use the title. So, basically this can work for movies, product reviews, everyday household appliances. So it’s not much for a website owner or someone who has a blog to just link content that matters back to Amazon.com. So it’s not so much people looking to buy something through another website. It’s just that they stumble upon it by naturally researching those topics.
Jason Hartman: Okay, good, good. Well, in the affiliate marketing world, it would seem that the most lucrative things are digital products because of course there’s no shipping and they can be delivered seamlessly. Do you have a specialty?
Zac Johnson: I’ve pretty much done everything all over the place. ClickBank is one of the largest digital marketplaces on the internet and they’ve paid out over $2 billion dollars to their affiliate marketers and the people who create products, but yes, when you actually own your own physical products which is very easy to do through the digital space, you get all the commission. And since there’s such a high return investment, they’re actually paying out commissions to affiliates in the 50% to 75% range through ClickBank. So there’s definitely a ton of room that you can do in the digital space.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, there sure is. But do you do any physical products, though?
Zac Johnson: No, I don’t do any physical. In the past, I’ve tried to do some drop shipping stuff, but it ends up being just way too much of a hassle. And the margins aren’t there. It’s come to the point where you basically have to have a warehouse to be able to have the profit margins there or it’s just as big as Amazon.com because even Amazon’s not making a massive amount on everything that they sell but they’re just pushing so much volume that it makes up for it.
Jason Hartman: Well, I don’t want to lead this conversation too much because I know that you have a lot to share. But maybe let’s talk about affiliate marketing a little bit, Zac, and explain to people, just for the few that may not really understand it – we’ve got to just give them a quick explanation – there are two sides of it. One side is that you can produce your own products and get affiliates to market and sell them and pay them commissions and the other side, of course, is that you can not have a product and you can just be a marketer for somebody else with products. Which angle do you want to take?
Zac Johnson: First of all, go with the angle of getting leads if you have a product.
Jason Hartman: Okay, so door number 1, go for it.
Zac Johnson: So there’s lots of ways that you can do this. There’s affiliate networks that house a ton of different affiliate offers or you can start your own in-house affiliate program which means you would manage it through your website. And the process of doing this is basically using affiliate management software and finding other people or websites who are out there that will promote your product. And every time they sign up to your affiliate program and place a link on their website or create an ad campaign which results in someone going back to their website and completing a specific task or buying something through the website, the affiliate then earns a commission and the person who is selling the product, which is the merchant, they’re getting basically free advertising to their website. But whenever an action does take place, they pay for it. So basically, they’re only advertising and paying for a result.
Jason Hartman: And that is a great business model, pay for play.
Zac Johnson: Yeah, definitely. It’s come to the point where nearly every website out there has some form of affiliate marketing. If they don’t have a section on the bottom of the page that says “Join our affiliate program” you can actually contact them directly and there’s a good chance they have something in place to work with premium partners.
Jason Hartman: And do you suggest that people use the big – I guess I’ll call ClickBank a clearing house if you will, and correct me if that’s not the right terminology – but do you recommend people use a clearing house like ClickBank for either side of affiliate marketing or that they go direct and work out a deal with someone like yourself who might have a product or someone else? Of course, a clearing house is going to take a cut of the deal, right?
Zac Johnson: Right. Yeah, there’s some very large companies out there that manage thousands of merchants. You’ve got commission junction, ClickBank we talked about, then you have ShareASale and LinkShare. Those are probably the 4 biggest ones out there right now and they can take anywhere from between 25% to 40% commission of every transaction and that’s not something the affiliate so much has to worry about, but that’s what the merchant is going to have to pay every time a process takes place. But it’s definitely the best way for affiliates to get the largest selection and be able to find what they want to promote and how much they’re gonna get paid per offer.
Jason Hartman: Well, okay, so that’s an interesting point that you just mentioned because on digital products what I’ve seen some marketers doing or some merchants – I guess we’ll call them merchants, good name – some of the merchants basically are in a position where they’ll offer extremely high affiliate commissions, 80%, 90%, even 100% on the first product and then what they want to do is they’re basically in this essence giving that product away for free but they know or they feel confident that that customer will become a customer for other upsell type products that they have. So I mean standard affiliate commissions on digital products I believe are about 50/50, right?
Zac Johnson: Yeah, in the digital space it’s a completely different game than any type of service or product out there just because they put all the effort in there in the beginning to make the product and they usually make back all their money within the first month or two of the launch and they can pay out so much money to the affiliates because everything that comes in after that point is just gravy. And they don’t have to worry about management of the affiliate program or recruiting affiliates because they have such a high commission that new people are going to be promoting it all the time. Because you see that 50% to 60% commission rate and everybody’s just gonna jump on that.
Jason Hartman: Right. But if the clearing house is taking 30% to 40% of the deal, I mean how do you even do it?
Zac Johnson: Well, on the digital side I think it’s actually much less. I think ClickBank is on a much smaller transaction level where it’s actually a price per product and they sell under volume versus we have other networks like ShareASale and Commission Junction which charge 30% to 40% transaction rate because they’re more service based. So we won’t really find too many digital products on the other guys I mentioned, but ClickBank is specifically digital.
Jason Hartman: Right, okay. Just so we get a sense of how much you do in this world, are there any sort of brag points that you want to mention like numbers that you’ve done? I don’t want to pressure you into like disclosing your income or anything, but just sort of like what kind of success you’ve had with this that’s quantifiable, anything you might want to share there.
Zac Johnson: It’s funny because in the internet world everybody’s out there and there’s haters and there’s people who read stuff because people are bragging saying how much they make, but at the same time you’re inspiring people and showing them what’s possible. So I’ve done everything from I’ve had horrible months to I’ve had super amazing months. And that’s the thing with the internet world. You never know what’s gonna happen next. It’s just a matter of trying to do everything that you can. So for a while I was trying to figure out what I was gonna do next and this was back in 2006-2007 when Myspace started to kick off and I actually created a website that I had a really good feeling was gonna take off and it ended up doing $800,000 in profit within a 4 month span.
Jason Hartman: Wow, pretty nice.
Zac Johnson: Yeah, that was really great and at the time I was like early 20s and it was just pretty amazing because you never know what can happen next. It’s just a matter of testing everything possible and that’s why I’ve always been in search engine marketing, banner advertising, web hosting affiliate, creating my own websites. You just have to be all over the place and you can’t be scared to fail because for every 10 times you fail you’re gonna find one success. The revenue and money question, it really goes all over the place depending on what you’re working on but the sky’s the limit.
Jason Hartman: Mhm, yeah. Let’s talk about the other side of the equation. You talked about one side of it. Now, do you want to flip-flop over to the other side?
Zac Johnson: Yeah, sure. Definitely. So we thought about being a merchant. And those were the guys that have all the offers and stuff for affiliates to make money with. So, as an affiliate, you have a million different opportunities. As mentioned, you can focus on getting listed in the search engines, you can buy advertising on other websites, you can start your own website and you can even create email lists. There’s a ton of different ways for you to promote programs out there. So the best way to start is to join the larger affiliate networks like ShareASale and Commission Junction or whatever. So that’ll give you an idea of what offers are out there. And then you’re gonna want to find an offer that you can promote.
So let’s say, for example, you want to promote TVs, so you might sign up to a Samsung affiliate program or decide to use Amazon.com. And what you could do is create a website or a blog that reviews each of the different TVs out there and let other people leave their reviews and you can essentially become a resource for all the different TVs that are out there and you can provide coupons, basically becoming an all-in-one solution whenever someone goes to the search engines and says Sony Vizio TV reviews or coupons. So you want to become the source for that information. And whenever someone comes to your website and they click on something and if they should buy it you would earn the commission.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, yeah, good, good. So how does someone pick? I mean, with such a big world out there how do you pick a niche to focus on?
Zac Johnson: It definitely is a hard choice and you’ve got a lot of stuff in front of you. And, more times than not, people are gonna look at the commission rate and let’s say web hosting for example that can pay anywhere from $100 to $200 per signup. And you’re getting paid that amount of money for people to sign up for only a $7 a month hosting plan, but then you have to think about all the hosting comparison companies out there and all the massive budgets people have. It would be nearly impossible for you to ever rank on the first page of Google for anything related to hosting. So you have to look at it from a profitability perspective to how much you actually know about the product and then being able to do keyword research and knowing where the profit margins are.
Jason Hartman: And if someone wants to get some help with this type of stuff, I know there’s always a level of intermediary coming up in our world. This is fairly complicated, this stuff, when you really open up the website and start trying to do it and then start trying to get traffic to your website if you’re an affiliate or create the right product if you’re a merchant. There are affiliate brokers and affiliate consultants that help you with this stuff, right?
Zac Johnson: Yes. There’s a whole business out there of just helping other people.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, a whole cottage industry.
Zac Johnson: Yeah, definitely. So I always advise people the best way to learn affiliate marketing is to not overwhelm yourself by continually reading up on it or trying to find who’s offering the best advice. I say just do it. And one of the best ways to do it and one of the best ways to do that is if you want to start a website, just go get a domain name, set up hosting and you can be up and running in a few minutes for $10 versus paying someone for consulting or buying one of those huge learning packages because at the end of the day it’s just all rehashed information that’s already out there for free. And I do this through most of my blogs and websites where I’ll provide full case studies and expect nothing in return except some emails saying that people benefited from it. So don’t spend money to try and learn everything when it’s already out there and you just need to actually walk yourself through it and fail and figure out how it works.
Jason Hartman: Good stuff. What other magic tricks and secrets would you have for people to really accelerate their success in the affiliate marketing world.
Zac Johnson: There’s lots of tools out there that can help you. Google AdWords Keyword Tool, for example, it’s a free tool and if you just type “Google AdWords Tool” into the search engine it’ll bring you to a page and you can type in any specific search term or product idea that you might have and it will show all the different listings of what people type into the search engine relating to that. They’ll show you how many times people search for it, they’ll show you how much advertiser competition there is, and it will also give you an idea on what advertisers are paying per click. So you can play around with this tool, and it’s free, and it will give you some new ideas on if you should even try and compete in this area based on the competition, and then there’s lots of other things like Facebook ads. Whenever you’re on Facebook there’s a ton of ads on the right side of the page. What most people don’t know is these are all paid advertising that you’re only seeing these ads because ad campaigns are created specifically towards demographics. So if you’re 21 years old, single in California, you might see an ad campaign for a dating service in California. So it’s a lot of studying the different methods out there to find out what the best way to reach your audience is.
Jason Hartman: But Google AdWords, I mean we’ve tried it and I’ve heard just totally mixed results. But obviously it’s successful for Google. We’ve done, by the way, a lot of Facebook advertising. And, I don’t know, I’m not convinced that either of them work. And we’ve had PPC companies do it for us. We’ve done it ourselves with the Google side. Of course there’s a technique and a method to everything and you gotta have the right offer just like in an old fashioned print ad or radio commercial, television commercial. You gotta have the right message, the right targets and so forth, run it at the right times, right frequency. There’s a lot to know. But any tips you can give to people specifically, any of your preferences that you like better – do you love Facebook and you’re not so crazy about Google AdWords or vice versa?
Zac Johnson: Yeah. Well, when you advertise on the search engines through Google, you have to worry about page rank, quality scores, advertise the competition in keywords. These are all different things that are gona factor on how much you’re gonna pay. If Google doesn’t like how your webpage is set up, they might give you a lower quality score but someone competing for the same keyword and exposure might be paying a lot less money from you. And then you have to worry about getting a high click through result and that’s gonna be based on the ad copy that you used. So then if you also look at Facebook ads, you’re not gonna have to be worrying about quality scores. You can just put your ad up there and as long as you have a high click through rate your cost per click is gona go down over time. And then, if you don’t want to deal with any of that, then you can just go out there and buy as much pop-up advertising or banner advertising. All of that’s through media buying and you can target which websites want your advertisements to appear on it. So search engine marketing is not what it used to be. It’s a lot more annoying and costly now. You have to worry about all the tiny things that Google is very speculative on, Facebook ads that allows you to reach a billion users and can send thousands of people to your website within hours of going live with your campaign and then banner advertising and media buying, it’s basically on every website on the internet. So the exposure you have is limitless. It’s just a matter of split testing your webpages and your ad campaigns for each of these platforms and seeing which can give you the best return on investment. So you have to have a decent amount of money to be able to split test. But there’s no reason why someone couldn’t start doing this at an amount of $10 per day.
Jason Hartman: Okay. Good, good. Well, what else would you like people to know? Just take it anywhere you want even if you want to do kind of another area of marketing or blogging.
Zac Johnson: I would say it’s so important for people to start building their own brand because if you’re strictly an affiliate marketer, you’re gonna make a lot of money promoting other people’s products but what happens if that product goes out of business? If you spent 3 years building a website focused strictly on sending leads to another person and then they disappear, what are you left with? Potentially nothing. You should be focusing on building your own brand and that’s what I have been doing over the past several years through my own websites because I’m no longer sacrificing everything I have to make money with the next ad network that might potentially go out of business. I have people coming to me and searching for my name in the search engines, learning from me, and I can send them to the direction that they want to go. So even if the search engines disappear, if Twitter’s gone, if Facebook is there, they’re still gonna know what my name is, what my brand is and how to find me. And that’s something that I continually stress to people that they need to focus on and not be relying on other sources of revenue. That could disappear at any time.
Jason Hartman: Yeah, good point. You know, you mention Twitter, Zac. And Twitter now allows you to advertise. I don’t know how long that’s been going on but it seems fairly new to me. I just noticed it a few months ago. Any thoughts about the Twitter side.
Zac Johnson: I’m not as active on Twitter as I should be. I have my accounts and I have followers. And I actually set up a few campaigns once I saw that they did open up to advertising. And on one side it’s about getting your tweets out there for more people to see and then another angle is to get your following out there.
And there’s two different ways to get people to follow you on a pay basis. There’s websites like Twiends.com, it’s a twist on the words Twitter and friends, where you can pay for your picture to be up there and a lot of people will see it and if they want to follow you they can click follow. Basically, on that you’re paying for the exposure to get your face out there but you’re not specifically paying for people to follow you. And then there’s other services out there where you can pay $100 and have 10,000 people follow you in a day and that’s where you’re probably gonna get in trouble where it’s pretty trashy traffic that’s from other countries where they’re all potentially spam bots.
So what Twitter’s trying to do is create their own platform that kind of gets rid of these other two guys where you can pay to have your social icon shown and people can follow you which are potentially more interested in you. But a lot of people have been trying to monetize Twitter for a while now and I know that they’ve released it but I haven’t heard too much on their latest ad system.
Jason Hartman: And Twitter has been trying to monetize Twitter for quite a while. So I don’t know if they’ve succeeded at it either. It’s just such an interesting company. It’s so well-known and widely used but I think they’re really struggling to figure out what their actual business model is. So we will see as it develops. Good stuff. Well, Zac Johnson, tell us a little bit about what you do and give out your website.
Zac Johnson: Okay. You can find me at ZacJohnson.com and I also have BloggingTips.com.
Jason Hartman: And when I say tell us what you do, I mean for other people who are interested in getting into this world. You’ve told us about what you’ve done for yourself.
Zac Johnson: Yes. So at ZacJohnson.com, you can learn about all the different ways to make money online and I’ve written out full tutorials where you can walk through the whole process of how to start your first search engine campaign, search marketing, everything from creating your first Facebook ads campaign. Basically everything that you would need to know to get started is on the website and on BloggingTips.com it’s the exact same thing but from a blogger perspective. So I get hundreds of emails every day and I’m not out there sending consulting fees to people. If you have a generic question, I’m just gonna answer it. And if you have something more complicated, I’ll point you in the right direction. But I’m not out there to try and make money off every person who comes to me. Instead, I try and provide the resources that I continually get asked to offer and put them out there for anybody who gets started without having to put money out there because I got started when I was 15. I lived out of my parents’ house and I started with basically nothing and built it up into what I have today. So it takes patience and dedication more than money. So, if you’re willing to do this and put yourself out there and just put your blood, sweat and tears into it, you can create your own business. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to get consulting or figure out the next get rich quick system because there’s none out there. It’s just a matter of doing the math, finding the offers and building the campaigns that work.
Jason Hartman: Good stuff. Well, Zac Johnson, thank you for joining us today.
Zac Johnson: Thank you so much for having me on.
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Transcribed by Ralph