Finally: High-Paying Gold Affiliate Update!


It Took a While, But (Finally) Here’s Part II of My Gold Affiliate Program Test…

Yes so my previous Gold Affiliate Program test didn’t go well for a couple reasons. Firstly I lost my employer money and that’s frowned upon. Secondly and perhaps worse, I’ve had affiliates moaning to me near constantly that it was a terrible representation of the success that’s possible.

As the French might say it was a Spectacle de Merde.

So here I am TWO YEARS later, mid-lockdown, with part II.

Alison MacdonaldAlison Macdonald takes a second detailed look at the gold affiliate market working with two top-rated companies and testing their high-paying affiliate programs side by side:
Just like Highlander, there can be only one!

This time around I’ve actually listened to my own advice: I built a small (and I mean SMALL) website specifically to promote on a paid channel. It was built targeting the gold IRA market and nothing else. It was TIGHT.

I had $2000 of my own cash set aside for running ads, I took a quick course on PPC advertising – and then after joining our two best-rated gold affiliate programs Goldco Precious Metals and Birch Gold Group I was ready…

What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

Episode 2: Making Up For Past Mistakes

Was I WHOLLY to blame for the financial disaster that was my last foray into gold affiliate marketing?

All I did was run the completely wrong offer on a totally unsuitable site with a wholly inappropriate DIY banner

So I guess the jury is still out.

This time I vowed I’d do it differently. I knew I had to focus very tightly on Gold IRAs and if possible pick an even tighter niche within that already tightly niched market.

Did I mention I was using $2000 of my own money? To put this into context I drive an 11 year old Volvo that cost me $1500. I am by no means flush with cash and this $2000 represents 6 months of saving – so I needed to get this right from the start, and for me the start means finding good keywords.

Campaigns can live or die depending on niche and keyword choices – too high competition and it’s crazily expensive versus too low – where it’s low for a very good reason.

chef-iconI made a decision that I didn’t want to go with the exact same keywords everyone else was using, but I didn’t want to go so far out on left-field that I was in unexplored (and untested) territory. A colleague recommended I used a new tool called Keyword Chef to find me a bunch of slightly longer-tail terms than the usual. He was raving about it.

I signed up, got my credits to run some free searches and much to my surprise, within 5 or 6 searches I’d made a list of some pretty darn good phrases. Despite having been in the gold niche for more years than I’d care to mention there were a few phrases that really hit the sweet spot. These were money keywords I could build really effective ad groups and landing pages on the back of, so as far as I was concerned Keyword Chef was a big win.

Keywords sorted I needed to drill down further into the numbers and come up with a solid plan.

I jumped onto Google Trends and saw that my chosen niche was growing in popularity. Another win. Next I ran my keywords through a cost per click prediction site and saw I’d be looking at something between $5 and $30 per click if I was to run my ads on Google.

I turned on my VPN and had a look to see who was running ads for the keywords I’d be targeting. Yikes, they were billion dollar companies!

This was a scary prospect given my limited overall budget.

Last time I was using someone else’s website and there was no upfront cost. At least no upfront cost to me…

I knew I’d have to get things more or less profitable from the get-go. This was not going to be a long-drawn out test where I had the luxury of running hundreds of landing page variations on someone else’s dime.

designing-websiteI borrowed a proven website template from another colleague, bought a cheap domain and set about making a new 5 page website.

Before too long I had a homepage, a landing page and some legals. I did a quick logo, making minor edits to something I’d found on Freepik. I wrote about 3000 words of what I’d consider to be good copy and had a nice lady on Fiverr make me an explainer video which I’d test.

All-in I’d taken 20 hours and $60 in total costs meaning my ad budget now stood at $1940.

The Programs

goldco-winnerbirch-winnerI ended up choosing Goldco and Birch Gold because they get great reviews on our site and I knew from a few friends in the niche that they both pay out their affiliates on time every time.

This is NOT a given in the gold IRA market so DO pick your programs carefully!

There are other fantastic affiliate programs available of course, but with a limited budget I couldn’t afford to go spreading myself too thin.

The sign-up process with both my selected companies was really straight forward and beyond the initial application forms and tax forms, I had to explain my marketing method and plans.

Goldco even went one step further and asked that I jump onto a Zoom call with their affiliate manager. I liked this as it means they’re choosy with who they take on.
 
making-money

Show Me Tha Money

In terms of potential commissions, Goldco’s payout was the better of the two at a 6% commission and $100 per qualified lead, while Birch Gold offered a variable rate based on sales; topping out at 5% – with $25 paid on each qualified lead submission.

However as I’d already found out in my first experiment, headline rates are NOT everything. Overall it would come down to a combination of how well their in-house landing pages converted the traffic I sent them to leads and how well their brokers could convert those leads into customers.

Acceptance only took a few days with both of the programs and after that it was just a case of getting approval for the landing pages I was planning to run ads to.

With a plan, programs and landing pages in place I was good to go and ready to get promoting!

Getting Started

It was at this point I found out one of the keyword tools I’d used had massively underestimated how much I’d be paying per click.

With my ads in place, paused and ready for the off, I now realized that unless I reduced the number of keywords I was targeting, I wasn’t going to get reliable data on ANY of them and it was very possible I could run out of budget within a week.

Not an ideal start.

In the end I reduced my keywords and set a fairly low daily budget of $100/day. This would give me 20 days of ads if I maxed out my spend every 24 hours. I didn’t expect the ads platform I was using WOULD use up my full daily budget, but you never know…

I made further changes to the ad account and figured that at a push I could last 45 days on my two grand. This should be enough time to get some money back in the way of qualified lead payouts to help keep my ads running until I got my first sale.

wise-gold-affiliateA wise gold affiliate once told me cash flow is ultra important in this niche – with a typical IRA transfer taking anything from 15 to 90 days and most programs paying monthly in arrears, big commission payouts were NOT going to be arriving in my bank account the day after my ads ran.

If I ran out of money before getting a sale it was game over.

I did some more rethinking, making some edits to my landing page to really make it hit home and hopefully get an emotional reaction out of people. I also changed my plans for how I’d be setting up my landing page testing…

Where I was originally going to do an A/B test with each company having their own separate landing page, the reality of just how much these ads were going to cost me made me realize I needed to be smart and so I worked out a good way to combine both offers on a single page.

Visitors could pick the company they preferred. Heads I get a click, tails I get a click and both ways I get data.

Going Live

nervous-getting-startedI was very nervous hitting the go button I’ll not lie. For me $2000 is a lot of money and if I’d gotten any part of my website or ads wrong I could end up with nothing but a learning experience. I love to learn but not at that kind of cost!

The first day passed and I’d spent $90 and actually got a few leads! I now knew for certain that the process worked. To my surprise one of the Goldco leads qualified almost immediately, like literally within 10 minutes meaning I was actually up $10 on the day. I was now officially Master Of The Known Universe!!

Second day I got no leads at all. And the third.

On day 4, I was again met with a big fat zero.

At this point I realized something sketchy was happening. I was seeing a lot of clicks to my ads on mobile in very quick succession. It didn’t seem natural and so I made another decision: no more mobile phones for me!

After this bloodletting of smartphone traffic, I would get a lead or two most days and thanks to Goldco’s generous payout on qualified leads my hemorrhaging of money was not as bad as it could have been. I was recouping approximately 50 cents on every dollar spent and provided they paid on time I’d hopefully be OK into month 2.

I was also getting qualified leads with Birch, in fact a couple more qualified leads than with Goldco, but the far lower CPL payout meant I’d need a sale fast to be anywhere close to recouping my ad spend.

It was looking like Goldco’s qualified lead fees would effectively be supporting Birch’s leads so I made some more on-the-fly calculations and figured all qualified leads would now be worth an average of $42 to me.

The closer I could get my ad campaigns to costing $42 for every qualified lead I got, the longer I could run without a sale.

Month One Results

health-statusI was not bankrupt and for me this is always a BIG plus.

I’d spent $1229 and earned back $475 from my qualified leads, meaning I was down ‘only’ $754 overall and still had $1246 available to go into month two.

I also had some good early data that my ads were performing better than I’d expected and I was pleased with both the click rate and conversion rates on my pages and the landing pages provided by Goldco and Birch Gold.

At this burn rate, provided I could keep everything running more or less as it had been AND provided Goldco and Birch paid me on time, I’d be good for another 60 days of promotion.

Am I basically gambling? The doubts were creeping in for sure!

Moving Onwards

Both companies paid mid-month as promised. No fuss, perfect transactions with no hitches. I’d been assured by friends that this would be the case but until it’s actually IN MY BANK I’m always wary.

working-at-nightAnd this exact same process continued on as-is for the next few months. Apart from a few hiccups where I made mistakes, I was getting 1-2 leads a day and similarly 1-2 qualified leads a week.

If this were a movie this is where we’d cut to a montage where I’m sat at my computer day and night while the world went on around me. I was in the zone! To say I was addicted to constantly refreshing my ad account and both affiliate backends would be an understatement.

I don’t think I’ve ever visited the same few pages so often.

This was also nerve-racking. I may have mentioned $2000 is a lot of money for me to lose and if I ran out of advertising budget before I got a sale that would be me out of the game, no second chances, banned by my long-suffering partner from ever running paid ads again.

There were unfortunately a few days between being billed and getting commission for my qualified leads where I did actually hit a zero balance and not wanting to get into debt on my account I temporarily paused my ads.

this-is-fineThankfully new qualified leads continued to appear in both of my affiliate back-ends and I knew at this rate a sale would be only around the corner.

At least that’s what I told myself as I lay in bed.

What kept me going was the thought that any company paying $100 for a lead is going to be;
 

  1. reluctant to qualify anything other than ready-to-pop leads and
  2. work super-hard to sell these qualified leads.
    1.  
      For me that was sound enough reasoning but I had such a clawing sense of unease in the pit of my stomach I kinda suspected I didn’t believe myself…

      And then suddenly it WAS fine!

TA-DAH! First Sale!

I was still just about scraping by on the fees from Goldco’s qualified leads. But I was also getting pretty dejected and I’ll be honest I was starting to think I’d thrown away my $2000. I was the worst affiliate in the world. I was a loser. My hair was bad. I didn’t care.

So you’ll understand how I reacted when one morning I woke up after a restless night’s ‘sleep’ and found THIS sitting in my back-end:

first-sale

Goldco had sold one of my leads $120,000 in gold and silver and I’d made a very healthy commission!

There were tears. There was shouting. There *may* have been an impromptu dance.

This kind of healthy commission didn’t just repay ALL of my $2000 ad budget in one swipe but left me with a few thousand dollars profit!

buy-a-hondaNow if you’ve been around affiliate marketing long enough you’ll know that the big guns like nothing more than flexing with photos of their Lambos and Bentleys.

I COULD have gone large.

I COULD have rushed out and splashed the cash on a 12 year old Honda and made an ‘In My Garage’ success video but if I was to avoid any more of those days sitting with my ads paused I knew I had to put it ALL back into my ads account.

With my now massively increased bank I was able to up my overall ad budget, up my daily ad spend and not to mention that finally I knew that Goldco’s program was profitable! The jury was still out on Birch, but I now knew for a fact that there was merit in this whole Gold Affiliate thing.

I had been getting VERY stressed as I headed towards the end of my $2000 – far more than I’d realized. This sale and the excitement of it exhausted me. Suddenly I could relax a little bit and soon as the nervous adrenaline wore off I crashed.

On thing was sure – I was going to be able to sleep a little better at night…

By now I had some solid data on what ads were working best and what keywords to concentrate on. My ad campaigns were tweaked a little, which saw me achieve a nice lift in clickthrough and I also upped my budget a little further still on my best performing keywords.

I was also getting ready to pull the plug on Birch. Sure I’d made some money on Birch’s qualified leads but the only reason I was still running their page was because Goldco’s qualified lead fees were effectively funding them.

The Birch Gold affiliate manager was a great guy – and I felt bad – but I had to be pragmatic…

Then it happened…

First Birch Sale!

Literally the day I was planning to stop my promotion of Birch I checked my affiliate stats expecting to see the usual big fat zero – but instead there in all it’s glory, sat proudly in my performance tab was a $3k commission!

birch-deal

Birch Gold’s team of brokers had somehow come up with the goods just in the nick of time – adding another substantial capital injection to my ads budget.

To say I was happy would be doing a disservice to just how {excited|pleased|proud|elated} I was feeling as I’d somehow turned my $2000 pot into some serious cash and could now scale my ads further.

money-decisionBy now I was spending more on my ads daily than I’d EVER earned in any job. It was both exciting and scary.

Now I’m normally very cautious with my money and so to reduce the stresses I was feeling I decided to take my initial $2000 investment out of my ads account. With ‘my’ money out even if I lost everything I’d still break even.

As far as this awesome new logic was concerned I was now playing with free money which made everything that much more liberating!

I could afford to properly scale my campaign and started outbidding other affiliates I’d seen pop up. I’d say it felt bad because I probably knew these guys but by now I could smell blood and I was like a MONSTER.

I liked Birch. I liked Goldco. They were both great companies, fantastic to work with – but because I’m a fickle creature I’d started to favor Birch. After all it was Birch who got me my latest sale so they were the shining light of the moment…

 

 

 

 

 

Then Goldco sold me another couple of deals!

 
new-goldco-sale
 

 

 

 

 

Which Brings Me to This Month (May, 2021)

You could say it’s been a good month with Goldco:
 
goldco-month
 
With better pre-qualification in my funnel, I’m now seeing a 20% conversion rate from click to lead – and I’m earning $82.62 on each raw click to Goldco’s landing page.

That’s quite an improvement from the previous month’s 13.5% conversion rate and $37.78 earnings per click, which at the time I thought was staggeringly good. Higher earnings from the same number of leads and a lower number of clicks can’t be a bad thing.

gold-affiliate-winnerAt $37.78 a click you have the kind of room to move where you can really push out your ads – but at $86.20!? That’s proper freedom!

Overall Goldco’s sales team are killing it in converting my qualified leads to sales and I couldn’t be happier with their affiliate program, affiliate team and everything they provide for their affiliates.

Their affiliate manager is the most communicative I’ve come across in 13 years of online marketing and I can see no reason why with careful scaling I can’t keep adding to my clicks, conversions, sales and commissions. Sure competition is heating up exponentially but then I have the funds in place now should this become a bidding war…

How About Birch Gold?

How did the company that I almost dropped do this month? Well you could say it’s been a good month for them too!
 
birch-month
 
As you can see Birch have been busy, with my warm traffic converting at 8.33% giving me an average earning per raw click of $98.81.

Yes that’s AHEAD of Goldco’s $86.20!

I don’t even want to show EPC or EPM figure because they’d seem ludicrous, unbelievable – preposterous. I look at them myself and to someone who’s only ever promoted relatively low value offers in the past these numbers just don’t make sense.

While in my experience it takes Birch longer to make a sale from a greater number of qualified leads (leads for which they’ve paid out only a quarter of Goldco) their overall numbers are still very favorable.

With this sale in the bag I have no doubt I’ll be able to continue sending Birch traffic and grow my campaign further – and indeed I’m now working on a new website to promote them separately to Goldco.

 

 

Time For A Conclusion

Do gold affiliate Programs Work? Absolutely they do!

Overall in May thanks to my work in promoting Goldco and Birch Gold I have made a grand total of $28,610.71.

made-money

Let that sink in. That’s far more than I’ve EVER earned in a single month by a factor of at least 4 and more than I’ve eared some YEARS!

Of course that’s not wholly profit.

But even taking away my ad costs of $4116.92 that leaves me an actual profit on the month of of $24,493.79 – or a 495% ROI!

I’d call that a success.

A huge success – BUT and it’s a very very big but – it may not have gone all my way.

I cannot stress this enough, I was quite literally at zero funds. For several days. And I was SICK with worry.

Thankfully for me, I was able to get through this initial wilderness of despair between spending money and making money. My cashflow just about made it without any pauses, even if every dime I had in savings was on the line.

I am fully aware that if I hadn’t gotten that first sale when I did, I’d be writing a VERY different story here. It would have been like my first disastrous foray into gold affiliate marketing – only so much worse. And the sad fact is while I was running my experiment a friend of mine actually DID run out of money running ads to HIS gold affiliate offers.

A nice guy – broken by the system.

Which brings me I guess to my big takeaway:

My Big Takeaway

need-money-as-affiliateWith the benefit of hindsight, if I was going to do this again or advising friends who planned on taking the same PPC route I did – I’d say no way is $2000 enough to get started in this niche.

With $2000 or less, there’s just no leeway for error or allowance for the time delays between getting a lead, getting a sale and then being paid the following month. Any other less competitive niche I’m sure would be OK, but with many of the good Gold IRA keywords, for you to even appear at the bottom of page one you need to spend well over $10 a click.

With rival affiliates, curious bullion dealers and bots clicking your ads left right and center you may be spending $40-$50 every day without a single potential customer even seeing your landing page.

Running out of money would have meant I’d need to pause my ads until I could save up again, which given my financial prowess (ha ha) could take some considerable time. If you’re like me and losing $2000 would hurt badly, then maybe gold isn’t the niche for you.

To have a chance of getting past that initial learning curve which could quite easily run you $1000 – $1500 and through the delay between a lead and a sale, you’re going to need more. If you’re going down the SEO route be aware that some of the biggest guys in SEO are ALL in gold – so you’re up against them AND gold companies with $100k+ a month SEO budgets… Things are either going to get expensive fast, or take a LONG time.

How much IS enough?

I’m only talking PPC here. To do this right and allowing for the inevitable mistakes I’d recommend a pot of at least $4000. If you really know your stuff and know PPC inside out, perhaps $3000 will do.

ally-ninja

If you tick all those boxes and have nerves of steel with strong SEO, PPC or Social Marketing ninja moves, then I cannot recommend it enough.

This experiment has quite literally changed my life.