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Interview With Affiliate Marketing Guru Allan Gardyne

Written by George Manty  · April 4, 2007

This week I had the privilege of interviewing Affiliate Marketing guru Allan Gardyne of Associate Programs. When I was first looking into online opportunities, Allan was one of the first extremely successful Affiliate Marketers I read about. Allan owns many websites, including a directory of pay-per-click search engines and, the first website to give comprehensive reviews of keyword research tools.

Allan I am honored to interview you. I have been a regular reader of your newsletter since I signed up for it 2 years ago.

Q. On your site, you say that you’ve been making a good living from affiliate programs since 1998. Did you do anything before that to make money online? What led you to affiliate marketing?

I started online in 1996 with a hobby business website aimed at people like me who have an intolerance to gluten. My wife, Joanna, and I had spent a lot of time experimenting with gluten-free recipes so I wrote and sold a gluten-free recipes ebook – although I’d never heard the word “ebook” in those days. I called it a “digital book”, which probably puzzled most of my visitors!

That old site still exists but I give the recipes away now.

Selling the book wasn’t terribly successful, especially at first, so I spent a lot of time studying how to market on the Internet. One of the books I bought had an affiliate program. I found the book useful, so I started promoting it on a niche website and received a few commission cheques.

I thought “This is great!” and wanted to find more affiliate programs. I searched for an affiliate directory and couldn’t find one, so I started my own. That’s how was born, early in 1998. Apparently there was already one affiliate directory, but I didn’t find it.

In a fairly similar way, in 1999 I saw people on a discussion list asking for a list of pay-pay-click search engines. I couldn’t find one, so I created and handed it over to an employee to manage.

Q. What were you doing before you started your online business?

I was a journalist – reporter, sub-editor, chief of staff – for daily newspapers in New Zealand and Australia.

Q. Who most influenced you when you were starting out?

My boss. I’d grown to hate my job and was striving to escape from a control freak boss. That was mighty powerful motivation.

I was broke when I started and made the time-wasting mistake of trying to do things purely by trial and error. As soon as I could afford to, I started buying marketing manuals and read voraciously. The first marketing book I read was written by Jim Daniels. I learned a lot from Corey Rudl, Ken Evoy, Marlon Sanders… and lots of other people.

Q. What was the best thing you did to increase your online income?

I sat down and analyzed my skills and interests and decided to build a business around them. I’d wasted a couple of years online before doing that.

Now I always advise people to design their own businesses to suit them. For me, starting websites and newsletters in fast-growing niches was a really good decision.

Q. How has affiliate marketing changed in the past ten years, and how do you see it changing in the next five years?

Whew! It would take books to answer that, because there have been so many changes, so many hyped up fads. However, in all those hectic years, one thing has remained constant: If you build a truly USEFUL, interesting website which genuinely helps your visitors, you’ll have a very good chance of success. I don’t see that changing much in the next five years, although things will inevitably get more intensely competitive.

I think it’s inevitable that search engines will get better at sorting out the junk and auto-generated stuff. They’ll have to.

The whole “Internet marketing” scene is crazily competitive now. Wise affiliates are getting themselves established in less competitive niches.

I think affiliate merchants will have to work much harder to reward successful affiliates and encourage them to stay loyal.

We’ll also see a lot more video, more effectively used – I hope.

Q. In your last newsletter you mentioned how video is helping people sell their products. How can affiliate marketers utilize video to improve their conversions promoting other people’s products?

Yes. It’s good to see people pioneering the use of video for affiliates. I really must make the time to get more involved in video. I’ve seen some good videos created by affiliates who use Camtasia to show you how to use software or they take you inside a membership site – with the merchant’s permission, of course.

There’s fantastic potential for affiliates to do more of this.

It’s the old story. The affiliates who do some work instead of just pasting a link into their site, are more likely to get sales.

Q. Are there any questions you ask yourself about a product before promoting it?

I nearly always test a product before I promote it. I’m swamped with offers to promote stuff, so I can choose only those I strongly believe in. As well as being sure that the product is high quality, I like to know as much as I can about the people behind it. That’s really important to me. I like working with merchants I know and trust.

I’m also keen on programs which pay residual revenue, the sort we review at I like doing the work once and being paid over and over again.

Q. What kind of sites does affiliate marketing work best for? Are there any types of sites that should avoid affiliate programs?

They work well on review sites, where someone in a buying frame of mind types “product XYZ 478659” into a search engine and finds a favorable review just when they’re considering buying the product. That’s powerful.

Affiliate programs work well on any sites where the affiliate has gone to the trouble of researching the products thoroughly and writing in-depth case studies describing in specific detail how the product has helped someone.

Here’s a bad use of affiliate programs…

If I’m promoting product A, I hate seeing affiliate links on the sales letter promoting product B, on which I don’t earn a commission. I saw an affiliate merchant site the other day which had a pop-up which not only included an AdSense ad – against the AdSense rules! – but also promoted a third-party product. That sort of behavior isn’t fair to affiliates.

If affiliates spot this sort of thing, I think we should not only avoid the affiliate merchant but also tell them why.

Diverting traffic to non-commissioned sales is a really dumb thing for an affiliate merchant to do because experienced affiliates – the ones most likely to produce good sales – will see what’s happening and not sign up.

Q. What is the most important thing to remember when promoting an affiliate program?

The affiliate’s job is to help someone decide what to buy. You have to make a conscious decision to do this, not merely present a few facts.

Try to see things from your visitor’s point of view. Try to imagine what is going on in your visitor’s mind, and help him or her decide what to buy. This may sound simple, but it’s so easy to forget to do it.

Obviously, it’s really important to promote high quality products so you can enthusiastically endorse them. Enthusiasm sells.

Q. What is the biggest mistake people make when trying to promote an affiliate program?

The most common mistake is for an affiliate newcomer to create a site about how to do Internet marketing – when they know almost nothing about Internet marketing.

There are tens of thousands of affiliate programs and millions of products you can choose from. New affiliates often overlook the fact that it’s easier to succeed if you choose a less competitive niche. I own a bunch of websites in non-Internet marketing niches.

Here’s an article I wrote describing 12 mistakes affiliates make:

Q. What are your favorite affiliate marketing tools?

My mind and my fingers on the keyboard. Sorry if that sounds flippant, but it’s so true. When I look at how I spend most of my time, that’s what I do – answering questions on our affiliate forum, writing my affiliate newsletter and writing articles.

Of course keyword research is hugely important when you’re researching a new site or writing an article. I have an annual subscription to Wordtracker and dip in there every now and again.

I’ve never really been one for in-depth tracking and analysis, but I know it’s hugely important. That’s why I teamed up with Jay Stockwell, who created for us. He loves doing that stuff.

Q You are one of the most recognized names in affiliate marketing. If you were to write a formula for affiliate marketing success, what would it be?

I think far too many new affiliates try to run before they can walk. They should start with something fairly easy and earn while they learn.

That’s why I strongly recommend that every new affiliate should start by creating a useful niche content site, weave in a few affiliate links and AdSense ads, and get good links to it. By doing this, you gradually learn all the main facets of Internet marketing, while generating revenue at the same time.

Who knows? You may do so well with this formula that you never venture beyond it.

My Affiliate Program Tutorial, which I wrote when our bookkeeper started asking questions, explains this in more detail:

Q. One last question. What is the best way I can learn more about affiliate marketing from you?

Thanks for asking! Explore the hundreds of articles on, explore our affiliate forum, subscribe to my newsletter, and explore the newsletter archives. If it all seems too overwhelming, start with my free Affiliate Program Tutorial. It sums up years of experience – and a lot of hard work.

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7 Responses to “Interview With Affiliate Marketing Guru Allan Gardyne”

  1. Amanda on April 4th, 2007 8:05 am

    That was a very well thought out interview with great questions!

  2. George Manty on April 4th, 2007 9:39 am

    Thank you. Allan thought the questions were good as well. I have to admit, my wife Jill helped me brainstorm them.

  3. Joey on April 4th, 2007 10:20 am

    Thanks for the interview with really good substance. I like an interview that is entertaining now and again but I really like the ones that have some meat on the bones.

  4. Daniel on April 4th, 2007 1:03 pm

    Awesome interview George, very informative. I will explore the sites you mentioned since I am starting to learn more about affiliate marketing lately.

  5. George Manty on April 4th, 2007 1:16 pm

    Thanks Joey and Daniel. I was extremely happy with the interview and because I had been fan of Allan’s for years, I was also extremely happy to have the oppurtunity to interview him.

    PS. Daniel, I love the blogging interviews you have been doing. Very creative.

  6. Mike Levin of HitTail on April 6th, 2007 9:18 pm

    Thanks George and Allan. From the talk about the slow build, to the tools, to the niches, I could hardly contain myself. I try to read these things and not say: “Hey, you should really try this free tool, HitTail” because it seems impolite to do that, when all comments should be directly about the interview. But I really see this as two dots that need to be connected. Googling a bit, you could see the connection between HitTail and the pursuit of Affiliate success. We want to be the answer to the question “What are your favorite affiliate marketing tools?”

  7. George Manty on April 7th, 2007 7:15 pm


    I will take a look at it sometime in the near future.

    Thanks for sharing.