Finally Made a Profit on PPC Affiliate Marketing

I do a lot of different things in business, web development, and non-profit work. Some have even called me a “loose cannon” because of all the things I have my hands on at any one time. I’m trying to take that as constructive criticism, but in between therapy sessions, I also try my luck at PPC affiliate marketing.

Honestly, I’ve kinda sucked at it. I’ve lost about $250 so far in my attempts since February. I can’t remember how many I’ve tried at and lost money at before, but it wasn’t that significant. A few dollars here and there. But this time, I’ve been motivated.

Explaining PPC Affiliate Marketing

Before I continue, let me just help those of you who don’t understand what PPC affiliate marketing is yet. I know some of you who read this are web geeks, some are cellphone lovers, some business owners and others are non-profit volunteers. But, stick with me for a bit. Some of my readership skipped this article just because of the title, which is ok. I’ll write another article later that fits them. But, if you’re still with me, keep reading and I’ll try to explain what I’m doing, and more importantly why I’m doing it.

Now, PPC (Pay Per Click) affiliate marketing is this process….

  1. Find a company who’s willing to pay me to bring customers to their website
  2. Agree on a price they will pay me for each transaction (sale or lead).
  3. Find a way to inexpensively bring customers to their site (usually by creating an advertisement and placing it on search engines)
  4. Start bringing people their way (paying the search engines per click on my advertisement)
  5. Get paid by the company when the person buys something or enters information the company will use later

That process is essentially what Pay Per Click affiliate marketing is all about. It’s not my product or service. It’s not my customers. I act as the risk-taking middle man who gets paid for bringing customers into the company’s door.

Some of the better affiliate networks out there, which I highly recommend working with, are Convert2Media and Copeac. The managers at these places are top notch and specifically, Convert2Media gives the biggest payouts regardless of traffic numbers that I’ve seen for the big offers. There, that’s my ad for them – without whom I probably wouldn’t have been successful at all.

What I did to make a profit using PPC affiliate marketing

Now, instead of jumping bouncing around randomly here and there, trying to test a bunch of different PPC campaigns (product/service offers from companies), I decided to choose one that paid almost $50 for each signup. That’s a pretty big payout for each customer, so I figured I had a lot of margin to work with. I could spend up to $49 to get one client and still make a profit.

One dollar of profit doesn’t sound like much, but you have to understand that once you consistently make a profit doing this kind of thing, you simply scale your advertising campaign up. If you brought in 1000 people per day where you made $1 off of each of them, that’s $1000 profit you made that day. Now, that doesn’t happen very often, and I made a decent sized mistake by trying the bigger payout first.

My mistakes in PPC

The thing I didn’t really think of was that while testing this kind of offer, I just might spend and lose a whole lot of money while trying to make this thing work. Fortunately, I figured that out after loosing about $150 or so. It could have been much more, but I’m a stingy guy (just ask my wife). So, losing $150 was a big deal to me.

Instead, I turned from my ways and went to the really cheap payout offers. These offers are usually ones that pay per lead, which means they require someone to put in some kind of information like their email address or zip code before you get paid. Depending on the offer and when/how they pay, this can be a great deal or a sucky one.

I decided to go with the ones that take very little for me to get paid… zip codes. I don’t mind giving my zip code to someone, most people don’t. It’s when it becomes personal, like giving your email address, when people get really hesitant. Plus, this particular campaign was nice in that you put your zip code in on the first page (I get paid), and then they go on to the offer. So, if someone bails before they get through the whole thing, it doesn’t really matter much to me. I got paid already.

What I changed

So, I found an offer that paid little and didn’t cost me much to try out.

I then stumbled upon a few nice coupons where the search engines would give me between $50 and $100 to try out their ad network. I had to put a few dollars in each one, but still, that’s $50 to $100 for free that I got to play around with and test my new little campaign.

I went through the first 2 coupons pretty fast, but with the help of the little free statistics program I found, I was able to figure out what I was doing wrong (was it my ads? my keywords? my max CPC?) and how to adjust my campaigns. What I figured out was that the amount I was willing to pay for each customer to click on my ad was too high (CPC, which is “cost per click”). Because of that, I was spending more money than I was making from the company.

I adjusted that maximum cost per click about 3 or 4 times until I found an amount that actually started to make me a few dollars a day.

What’s the point of this story?

The point of this story is partially tactical, and partially strategic.

First (tactical), before you jump into PPC marketing and lose a bunch of money, spend someone else’s. I spent Google’s, Yahoo’s, and Microsoft’s money first using their coupons. I lost a few dollars while testing things out, but not as much as I would have if I was spending my own money.

Second (tactical), don’t learn on the big payout offers. They’re expensive to play with, and although you might win big, you could also lose big too. You wouldn’t go up against the poker champions of the world the first time you try to learn poker would you? Shoot, I’ve been playing poker for years and I still wouldn’t go up against those guys. They’d kill me and not in a small way. Learn on the small payouts because that means they usually don’t cost as much per click either. You can test a lot of things while you learn, and you might only lose $5/day while you do it (you will lose money while you learn). Eventually, when you figure out how to win at this game, it doesn’t take much to earn back what you’ve lost.

Third (strategic), let’s answer the question as to why I play this game at all in the first place….

Why am I trying to make money in the PPC affiliate marketing business?

The real point is that I want my time to be mine. When I was 15 years old, I realized the only way I’ll get to live my own life is to run my own business. That’s been the motivation behind me starting companies, working for startups for equity, and trying out all kinds of little things. I don’t think I’m that different from a lot of other people. But, I have this driving passion for being my own boss. There’s a few ways to do that in this world, but most take either a large sum of money, a lot of time, or a big network of super smart and/or connected people. I don’t have a lot of money or an awesome network. I do, however have time. But, it’s time that I want to keep for myself.

So, here’s some options that I’ve tried a few times.

  • Real estate (takes time and money)
  • Employee at startups (takes time for the shares to be worth anything, if ever)
  • Owner/founder of startups (takes a network, sometimes money, and time)
  • Regular investing in stocks, 401ks, IRAs, and other investments (takes lots of time and at least some disposable income)
  • Flipping websites (hard to make a lot of money for the time it takes to develop, and it’s not residual income)
  • Building awesome valueable sites/services (takes time to market and gain people’s attention for your product/service, although this one is worth doing even if you don’t make a ton of money)
  • PPC affiliate marketing (takes a little money, a little time, and almost no network is necessary)

All of the above have residual income possibilities except for building and flipping websites. I’ve tried them all and the only one that shows promise for residual income with a little risk and trial and error is PPC marketing.

My ultimate goals

I have a few goals which PPC can actually help me reach.

  1. Make residual income of at least $3k per month (because it gives me my time back at the lowest possible level)
  2. Contribute to my local community (requires time and sometimes money)
  3. Spend time with my family (more than I work)
  4. Give my time to others without needing to charge for it (vs. the typical workweek)
  5. Travel often and to many places in the world

Attaining these goals gives me the flexibility to spend time where I believe I can be most effective in all of my circles of influence. Eventually, it may help me to be a world-changer (not that you have to have money to change the world, but it’s much easier). With my constraints, and my goals, I’ve been working hard at this trial and error thing for 16 years. I believe I’ve finally hit upon something which has the potential to help me attain my ultimate goals.

Wish me luck, and let me know how I can fill in any blanks so you can reach for your dreams.

Nate Ritter lives in the Pacific Northwest (U.S.), popularized the #hashtag and creates web applications for a living. He also does miles and point hacking to enable cheap travel for his family. More here →

33 Comments on "Finally Made a Profit on PPC Affiliate Marketing"

  1. Sarah Carr says:

    What a great/inspiring post, Nate! Keep up the great work and keep us all posted on your affiliate PPC success.

  2. nate says:

    Thanks Sarah. It means a lot to me that the first comment on this page wasn’t nasty like “WTF are you doing PPC crap for?” (although now I expect the 3rd comment to be that considering my readers are freaking hilarious).

    I won’t post on PPC stuff that often, unless my readership grows to include people who are trying to learn about it. But, I’ll let you know when I hit major milestones (and how I did). I don’t want to make this a bragging session at all (if it ever could be). That’s not the point.

    Anyway, thanks for the positive comment. I appreciate it.

  3. Dan says:

    Great post! I remember getting my first commission from PPC marketing – felt good; making money with money.

    I’ve been slacking for the most part these days, but this post has brought some light to my eyes, and I’m going full out again with Affiliate Marketing.

    Thanks Nate!


  4. It’s great you’ve finally pulled some profit from PPC. That’d be incredible to get that kind of residual on the side.


  5. nate says:

    Dan, I’m glad I could inspire you. I hope you find the tools I mentioned useful. They certainly helped me figure out what exactly was wrong with my campaign.

    Justin, thanks cuz! Yea, I’m hoping it just keeps going up, but even if not, I’m happy I’m starting to make my money back. It’ll be nice to have a few more dollars in the pocket soon. The best part is all the money I spend on advertising is partially tax deductible too, so eventually I make even more. Blessings right back on ya.

  6. Jed says:

    Nate, thanks for posting this. It’s inspiring to read about people learning, and I think PPC is great—your earnings depends entirely on how interested people are in the offers. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that!

  7. Congrats!!! Nice to see that many peoples now-a-days earning revenues through PPC programs. I have a friend who purchased a car, all thanks to such PPC programs.

  8. 股票分析 says:


  9. Hi Nate,

    I’m on the same road as you. I appreciate you sharing what you did as raising what advertisers pay makes a lot of sense.

    I was wondering if you could share some insight buying domain names? Do you purchase different domain name for each company you promote?

    Eric P. Martin

  10. nate says:


    I noticed you found the answer to your question and posted it to your blog, but as I was writing my response, the comment I was going to leave got huge. So, I’m turning it into an article that I’ll post here on my blog within a few more minutes.

    I’d love your response and thoughts on the subject.

    (If you aren’t subscribed to my RSS feed, feel free to subscribe using your email address above and you’ll get an email when new articles are posted.)


  11. nate says:

    For those of you interested in the answer to Eric’s question, I’ve posted it in this article.

  12. Hi Nate,

    Man count me too in the boat….. ;-) I am too a yead old in IM. Craxy abt PPC. Though i am a Financial Analyst still want to make huge money with PPC.

    Its very much possible just that i am passing through the Typical Newbi Cycle of failure, paralysis of analysis and all….

    Man what you are doing and want to doit that same with all of us 99.99% of Wannabi- PPCers…………

    The one thing i do belieev is that the only thing v r lacking is a Start once we get even a small success we will catch the train .. for sure…….

    I am sure even Jonathan had the same time once…. But his passion drove him till where he is today…….

    Hope to hear form ya soon……

    catch me at gtalk…. ankur.sancheti.ccim


  13. Yeah PPC/Affiliate is a great business model to be in right now. I am also trying to move away from SEO/Blogging to PPC/Affiliate. It is a very bumpy road and ends up costing a lot of money, but so does an MBA ;)

    Keep up the good work and good luck.

  14. DaveB says:

    Hi Nate,

    Well done on your first profits!

    I have a similar story and am currently experimenting with PPC AM. I’ve tried a few things myself with similar aspirations – varying levels of success. I enjoy my day job, but can’t escape the idea of answering to no one but myself and the flexibility that self employment will bring.

    PPC does seem appealing, i’ve recently been speaking to a full time affiliate who looks to double her money through ppc!

  15. Kevin Vu says:

    Hi Nate,

    Keep it up, seems like you’re working your way up and making it a soon to be consistent win.

    I think just the same, same age too. Around 15 I always thought owning my own business and making open time for whatever comes my way. I’ve gone through real estate to promotional companies, club vendors, poker playing and sales. I figure PPC may be my next step. My brother took a midnight coffee out and told me a bit about it and has goals for the future of PPC. I may start my venture soon ! well hopefully hear more soon nate. Have a nice time!


  16. Robert says:

    Congratulations! I, too, am starting to have profits. Thanks to a program I joined.

    Hope you continue to post your progress.

  17. Aldric Chang says:

    Hi Nate,

    Thank you for your post. I enjoyed the read and am pleased to see that there are marketers like myself who find joy in sharing their experiences honestly.

    Since this was 2 years back, have you since found more profits in PPC affiliate marketing?

    Kind regards,

    • nate says:

      Yea, I had a great 2009 (six digits in revenue, by the grace of God), but I’ve halted my marketing for 2010 for the moment. I’m working on a new site, pushing it out probably in the next month or so which will put me back in the game for the long term.

      Thanks for the encouragement. I hope you are doing well also.

  18. Aldric Chang says:

    Hi Nate,

    Thanks for your reply.

    Congratulations on such a solid 2009! I’ve been unable to commit so much time to IM last year and early this year as I had been building a virtual world and consulting online campaigns for several companies. I’m quite eager to get back to my own IM efforts again. Looking forward to seeing your site. Would love to correspond more and perhaps collaborate sometimes.

    Kind regards,

  19. Mary says:

    Hi Nate

    I’m glad I found your site! I’ve been researching the PPC Affiliate Marketing for the last 3 weeks, I’ve read some books, I’ve read other sites and blog’s. But I have not started the PPC AM online business….I guess, what I’m not told is the standard necessary tools you need to began. What do I need to start the process? I have all of this book knowlegde and still I don’t know what the first step’s are……do you have a Step 1,2,3…process I can get my head wrapped around?…..I know, I know….I’m such a Nubie! Sorry, but I just need a little push……


    • nate says:

      Hi Mary,

      Fortunately/unfortunately there’s no real basic set of tools you need to begin. Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably selling something, and I mean that literally. While you learn AM, you have to realize that nobody in the AM game cares if you succeed or fail. So, if you’re buying advice (through an e-book, course, forum, or whatever), you’re probably just playing into another marketer’s pocketbook.

      The reason I say there’s no standard necessary tools is that the people making the most money are doing so creatively. They use all kinds of different tools. And honestly, the tools don’t matter one bit. What matters is understanding the psychology behind why people buy, click, or give their information. If you understand that, then you’re a marketer. If you don’t, then regardless of what tools you have, you won’t be successful.

      So, don’t worry about the tools. Don’t look for a step by step process. Just find a product or service you know enough about to understand the psychology behind why people want it, and once you have that, test it out. There’s a million different ways to test things out and many of them don’t have anything to do with learning a new tool. Find a way to use an old tool you know or if you think you absolutely must have it done using new stuff, then pay someone to do it.

      That’s the best advice I have for you Mary. It’s probably not the push you were looking for, but it’s probably the most honest advice you’re going to get from another affiliate marketer.

  20. Mary says:

    Nate ~

    I appreciate your honest response! Thank You so much Nate!

  21. Nicola says:

    Dear Nate,
    I read your post, and although it is rather bony in substance, it is well structured, well written, and helpful. It’s helpful in the sense that it makes me hopeful; that I’ll finally commit to starting a campaign, that I’ll figure out where to begin, whether PPC is right for me or if maybe SEO would work best. Either way, I NEED to take the leap and take the risk, can’t make a dollar without it. Now, I was just gonna ask you a couple of things: have you ever tried AM through SEO on a website? Also, where did you look for products that simply let users put in their zip for you to earn cash? Finally, which AM website would you recommend now (I’ve heard a lot about Clickbank but I noticed you didn’t mention it in your post)?
    Thanks for the post, and I’d really appreciate the help!

    • nate says:

      Hi Nicola,

      Keep with it. You’ll get it. It does take risk, time, and definitely a thick skin and ability to face failure over and over again. One successful campaign could definitely pay for all the unsuccessful ones and so much more.

      As for trying Affiliate Marketing through SEO – sure, I’ve tried it. I put about $15k into an SEO project (redesign and development mostly) which has failed miserably. I also do some AM SEO with this site on certain pages/posts and have had some other successful campaigns using SEO. So, it can go either way, just like PPC/PPV. The difference with PPC/PPV is that you learn faster, and that’s really the key. You still have to learn with SEO, but you’re learning something different, and it takes way more time than paid traffic. So, if you’re the kind of person who does well with long projects (like a year or more), and you have the time but not the money to go do SEO, go for it. Otherwise, I’d suggest trying your hand at PPC/PPV first, but start small and slow. Your objective is to learn, not to make profit. Once you’ve learned, then you will make profit. If your objective right out of the gate is to make a ton of money, you’ll probably just end up spending and wasting all your hard earned cash. Be smart about it and learn.

  22. Taylor says:

    Excellent post Nate,

    Is there anyway that i’m able to IM you?

  23. Olly says:

    Hi Nate,

    Really enjoyed reading your article – thanks for your honesty and not showering us with a gazillion affiliate links.

    I share your feelings about working for someone else – being your own boss is challenging, but so much more rewarding.

    The last 8 months have been a roller coaster ride in SEO, but I’m not sure I like playing a game where the rules change all the time. The theory behind PPC seems pretty straight-forward, but as you say – there’s still a load of learning to be done!

    Thanks again for your insights and advice.


  24. Christopher says:

    Hi nate,

    Great article. I feel you. I’m in the same boat as you, as far as starting a million businesses. Few years ago, i settled into doing freelance web programming, which allowed me to get out of the 9-5 grind. Now, I have a client who’s into affiliate marketing and we’re building an affiliate platform for tracking and campaign management, to help with that “testing” phase.

    in working with him, I’ve started thinking if affiliate marketing might be the way to go from here. As it stands, I get to control my time much better than when I was working for someone else. However, the hours in a day are still finite, so I’m looking for residual income streams. Thus I ended up on your site lol…

    How are you doing with your ppc business? are you still at it?


  25. John says:

    Hey there! I would be really interested to know how you have got on? Are you living the PPC dream?

    • admin says:


      I\’m not living the PPC dream. I did do very well for a short period of time, but then realized the kind of business I had to run to be in this game and it\’s not appealing. Instead, I\’ve created 2 startups, one of which is still in the lead generation game, and we\’re doing well, now in our 2nd year of business there. This year is the year of scaling, so hopefully I can report back next year with some strong success.

      It\’s a fun game, no matter what you do. Good luck to you though.

  26. Alex says:

    Nice one!!

  27. PPC says:

    Nice article to make more profit in PPC, this is very helpful information for PPC begainner.

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