Joining our Influencer Interview series today is Jeff Lenney – an SEO expert and one of the top affiliate marketers in the game. He stole the limelight as 2017s and 2018 Best SEO Influencer, along with the Most Influential Affiliate Marketer of 2018.
He started with Launch Jacking for which he utilized YouTube videos and a personal blog. He then delved into Amazon Affiliate websites. Jeff regularly earns in 5-6 figures per month and has earned as much as $135,000 in a single day from Affiliate Marketing and his Search Engine Optimization skills.
He is also interested in passing on his SEO and affiliate marketing knowledge and support or endorse several popular courses such as The 100k Shout Out.
Cloudways: Hi Jeff, Thank you for taking the time out for this interview. Let’s start with the introduction: How and why you got started in affiliate marketing?
Jeff Lenney: Glad to be here, Usman, and thank you very much for the opportunity!
My story….I got started probably back in 2005 or so, simply trying to find ways to make extra money online. I was working a Helpdesk job in Irvine, California making $43,000 a year or so (while that may be a lot for many parts of the USA or world, it’s NOT a lot in Orange County, California!).
I started poking around eBay to see what others were doing and discovered that people were selling small ‘how-to’ tutorials on how to do things like unlocking a 3rd party car navigation unit to allow input without the car being in a park and random things like that.
I then found the information myself on Ask Jeeves or Lycos (yeah, this was 2005), and put my own guides together which I sold for between $7.00 and $15.00. There was a lot of competition for many of these, and after 2-3 months I was up to about $1,000 a month income, but it was taking me 6-7 hours per day.
My “$12,000 per year raise” was taking an extra 6-7 hours out of my day, and while it was nice at first – it became too much to handle and was hard to scale with how I was doing it. I started looking into other ways to make money online and finally came across Clickbank, one of the more popular affiliate marketing networks. Clickbank has a marketplace with hundreds, if not thousands of products that you can promote as an affiliate, for a percentage of the sale (or a commission).
I won’t go into crazy details on what I did for the next few years, but it basically involved a lot of trying things, messing up, quitting, then starting over again until I finally found a few things that started working very well for me. I had my first $100 day, my first $500 day, and even my first $1,000 day within 1-2 years of starting on Clickbank as an affiliate.
Cloudways: What are the main areas in which affiliate marketers should focus in the beginning?
Jeff Lenney: Do NOT, I repeat DO NOT jump around from one thing to the next. Don’t chase shiny objects, find one aspect of Affiliate Marketing you want to make work, and stick with it until it does. This can be blogging, SEO (like I do), ECommerce (Dropshipping, or FBA – Fulfillment by Amazon), Facebook Marketing, Funnels, and a ton of other methods.
Cloudways: In your opinion, how has Affiliate Marketing evolved in the last five years?
Jeff Lenney: “Influencers” (i really do hate that term) has become a thing, and Social Media has become a lot more popular than it used to be as a means to make money online. People with fun personalities and the ‘natural ability’ to talk on Camera can now become Instagram Stars, Youtubers, Famous on TikTok, etc. Youtube was around five years ago, but Instagram was nowhere where it is now in terms of reach, and who’s on it.
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Cloudways: Do Influencers with huge followers have an edge over affiliate marketers with a smaller following and reach?
Jeff Lenney: Yes and no. They’ve got a bigger audience they can promote their products to, but I’ve seen people with smaller numbers (3-4000 followers) crush it with certain promotions. It’s not just about the # of followers you have, but the relationship you have with them.
Cloudways: Can an affiliate marketer replace SEO with paid marketing?
Jeff Lenney: Sure, I know a few people that have done it. I’ve dabbed in paid stuff myself, and I can see the appeal. For affiliate marketers though, I recommend sticking to one thing, not jumping around from traffic source to traffic source (from SEO to PPC, to Youtube Ads, etc)
Cloudways: In the context of Affiliate Marketing, what is the proper attribution rule where cookie gets overwritten throughout the user journey?
Jeff Lenney: Most Affiliate Networks use the ‘last cookie rule’, which means the last affiliate’s link that gets clicked on gets the sale. This is fine, and what I take advantage of as an SEO. I’ll often offer a bonus for bigger product launches, where people buy through my link in order to get some extra training or a coaching call, etc.
Cloudways: How can retailers (affiliate) keep track of sales so that they don’t miss the sale’s commission?
Jeff Lenney: 99% of affiliate companies out there track this for you. You just have to trust that they’re reporting the data and your sales correctly. I’ve never had any problems not getting paid for sales I generated.
Cloudways: For an affiliate marketing campaign, would you prefer well-optimized content (and SEO) or spending on performance marketing (PPC) campaigns?
Jeff Lenney: Well, being that SEO is 95% of what I do…I’d have to go the SEO route! 🙂
SEO isn’t for everybody, it’s not sexy – you can’t just set up a campaign and start generating sales that same day. It takes time to create the content, optimize it properly, and of course rank it in Google for keywords you feel will generate the best traffic for you.
PPC, on the other hand, requires you to create a well-written landing page, understand copywriting and sales, then, of course, understand how to launch paid traffic campaigns and optimize your landing page, keywords, etc.
Cloudways: Everyone wants to be in the top three SERP positions for business keywords. Do you have any suggestions for beating the competition and getting ranked on these keywords?
Jeff Lenney: Oh, I love this type of question! Well, according to aHrefs (3rd party SEO tool), your DR (domain rating) is 90 out of 100, which is fantastic! You’ve got authority, which means you’ll be able to rank fairly easily for fairly difficult keywords!
Right now (March 2020), you’re ranked on Page 2 in Google for “ Dropshipping”, which gets 67,000 monthly searches – but that word may be a bit vague and may not convert, as it could be people simply searching for a definition. You want something a bit more specific.
You’re also on page 2 for “What is Dropshipping”, which gets 15,000 monthly searches. This is a more direct search, and you could easily convert traffic from that post into a free Guide on Dropshipping. Once they’re on your email list, you could promote various dropshipping related products to them (as an Affiliate, or create your own) and rinse-and-repeat! That’s what I do, and would do in your situation!
Here’s the post I’m referencing, for those who are curious: What is Dropshipping?
You would want to start with proper keyword research, determine what keywords you’re ranking for, what keywords you want to rank for, and what keywords you want to rank better for. Next you’d want to do competitor analysis to see what they’re doing, what kind of content they have, what kind of and how many backlinks they have, etc. It’s a pretty in-depth process, but one I honestly enjoy doing. I like the data aspect of a good SEO campaign, which has definitely helped me build high-converting campaigns.
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Cloudways: What events would you recommend affiliate marketers attend? Do you have any personal favorites?
Jeff Lenney: There are TONS of great events every year, one of my personal favorites is Affiliate Summit (In San Diego every March or April), and Affiliate Summit West (Las Vegas) and East (New York City).
If you go to the events, it’s important to get to the parties, get to the bars – that’s where you’re going to make connections, that’s where the business is done.
SEO Rockstars is a great one – I’ve been a speaker at that event the past 3 out of 5 years (would have been all 5, but my wife and I were having babies during two of them). 🙂
There’s also a new event in Tempe, Arizona, called SEO Spring Training. It’s early April and has an amazing speaker line up (including me). 🙂
Cloudways: Which link building and content distribution strategies you would suggest to affiliate bloggers in the light of the upcoming 2020 Google updates?
Jeff Lenney: Great question. Google (appears to be) cracking down on blogs that just offer “guest posts” for sale – so I’ve been a huge fan of legitimate email outreach for backlinks.
Cloudways: Let’s step away from work. What do you do to relax and unwind?
Jeff Lenney: Honestly, it’s something I need to do more! Haha. I live in Orange County, California – so my wife and 2 kids and I love going to Disneyland. We probably go there once a week and have had season passes for quite some time. I do enjoy traveling, though, and get to fly cross country or international a few times per year for both business & pleasure.
Cloudways: We would love to see your work station. Would you like to share a picture?
Jeff Lenney: Sure, I love bragging about this! 🙂 I’ve got 2 34” Ultra-Wide monitors, and use all of the space, most of the time! 🙂
Cloudways: Who would you recommend we interview next?
Jeff Lenney: Ooh, a few people I can think of! Kyle roof for hardcore on-page SEO and SEO Testing!
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Usman is a Digital Marketer at Cloudways- A Managed Cloud Hosting Platform, where he looks after affiliate partnerships and helps digital nomads in generating passive income. He is a foodie by heart, who loves to explore new eateries around his vicinity.