The Tools You Need To Invest In To Run Profitable Adult Campaigns
[Disclaimer: This article was initially posted on STM Forum on July 2, 2019.]
This is the second article in a series of posts about adult traffic and how to work with it.
Oki dokie, so you’d like to test the waters of our beloved “naughty adult industry”, but don’t know where to start and what the basic setup should look like? Is your budget low and you don’t want to blow it on tools that are not ABSOLUTELY necessary? No worries, this article is exactly what you are looking for.
As with any business, there are some things you simply do need and there are some that can make your life easier, but they’re not really a must that you couldn’t start without. In most cases, the available budget is the limiting point, but there are also some tools that you can’t really take advantage of as a newbie.
SO, WHAT ARE THE TOOLS/SERVICES THAT YOU REALLY CANNOT DO WITHOUT?
Landing Page Hosting
Adult is one of those verticals where using Landing Pages is a must, period.
Yes, in rare cases, you might score a winning campaign even when direct linking, for example with offers that have pre-landers built in. But sooner or later, you simply have to start using LPs, there is no way around it.
There are basically 3 ways of hosting your LPs:
- Get a cheap “cloud” server, these are available for about $20 at DigitalOcean, Vultr, etc. There are cheaper options available too, but keep in mind you need to optimize your LPs for speed and the last thing you want is your host to be the bottleneck. Shared hosting plans from the likes of Bluehost or HostGator are not the best options for performance marketing.
- Go for a VPS (virtual private server), these are more expensive but you can still get a powerful setup for $50-$100. If you want to step up the game and work with lots of volume, you can opt-in for a dedicated server with an investment of $100+. I had servers from Beyond Hosting, Exmasters and Reliable Hosting in the past. There is a ton of companies out there, some better, some worse, the choice is yours to make.
- Use a CDN, these are the cheapest and billed based on volume. I’ve used Rackspace and Amazon S3 in the past and the bills were like $5-$10 per month with pretty decent volume.
When choosing hosting for your landing pages, you have to keep one thing in mind. We are working with ADULT stuff here and not every single company is ok with that. Always check their terms. Most of the companies do allow LEGAL adult stuff, so in case you’re not planning to really push the envelope, you shouldn’t run into much problems. But always double-check with the hosting provider. The last thing you want is to have them pull your account in the middle of the night when running heavy traffic.
This is another MUST in the adult space, you simply have to track your campaigns. Running without a tracker is like shooting a machine gun BLINDFOLDED.
Some sources have tracking implemented, so, in theory, you could run without a tracker. But this will expose your full data to the traffic network and call me paranoid if you wish, I simply love to keep this part of the data (conversions) private.
On top of that, trackers allow you to route specific traffic targets to specific funnels, you can rotate LPs and offers with them easily, some trackers have BOT detection implemented… There are simply many valid arguments in favor of using a tracker. DEFINITELY use one.
There are several popular trackers of choice among the affiliate community. I don’t want to resort to recommending any single tracker since we all have different preferences, but there are certain setup differences that should help you make the choice.
There are basically 2 groups of trackers: cloud-hosted and self-hosted, and some self-hosted offer managed hosting plans, so it’s like a hybrid approach.
Cloud-hosted trackers are pretty much full-service SaaS products, you pay a monthly fee and use the product without having to worry about any technical aspects. In the case of a self-hosted tracker, you need to sort the hosting of the product yourself, which “might” require extra work on your side, though all of them provide support, if necessary.
There is one difference between cloud and self-hosted, which is usually the deciding factor. Cloud-based trackers bill based on the number of tracker events, the more traffic you route through it, the higher the monthly cost will be. Self-hosted trackers, on the other hand, charge a fixed monthly fee, regardless of how high your traffic volumes are.
To simplify this, in case you plan to run pop traffic that comes in super large volumes, a cloud tracker might turn out too expensive and a self-hosted one would be a better choice. But when you’re just starting out and your plan is to work with banner traffic, you might want to prefer a cloud tracker since the amount of tracked events won’t be that high at the beginning. And in case you’re not sure what you’re gonna work with and how high your volumes might become, choosing a self-hosted tracker with managed hosting might be the best choice.
There is more to this subject though, some trackers offer functions that others don’t. Some come with free trials. The interface of some might suit you better than with the rest. Again, this is a decision you have to make yourself.
Right now, there are quite a few trackers on the market and all of the ones that I will list below are solid.
Voluum: One of the most popular and oldest cloud trackers. It’s also the most expensive one, but they introduced a starter plan (limited functions) recently that sells at $69 per month. Voluum is one of the most advanced trackers for sure, the only drawback is the higher price.
FunnelFlux: FunnelFlux puts more emphasis on the visual side of campaign setup and works very well with complicated funnels. This was originally a self-hosted tracker that also started to offer managed hosting some time ago. SaaS cloud version is also in the works and should be launched soon, so check their website to see whether it’s already available. Plans start at $99 per month for the self-hosted version. Managed hosting is available at an extra payment.
Binom: Probably the most popular self-hosted tracker right now. The price is $69 per month and comes with free support. Binom is one of the newer trackers, but they already made a name for themselves as being one of the industry leaders.
RedTrack: Another “recently” launched cloud tracker that is gaining popularity quickly. It’s on the cheaper side, the basic plan sells at $29 per month for 300.000 events. That should be enough for someone starting with banner traffic.
AdsBridge: This is a cloud tracker again and an established one that many affiliates use. AdsBridge offers a 14-day FREE trial, so it’s a great choice for someone who just wants to test the waters with as low investment as possible. The cheapest paid plan is $89 per month.
Thrive: This one offers both cloud and self-hosted versions. The basic plan with 100000 events included costs $39 per month, but since 100k is really not that much, you would soon have to upgrade to the next plan at $99 (or $79 with annual billing). The self-hosted version sells at $99 per month.
Prosper202: The last self-hosted tracker that I want to mention in this article is Prosper202. It’s one of the pioneers of the tracking industry. I couldn’t find the pricing info on their website, but they do offer a FREE 30-day trial.
There are more trackers out there, like maybe a dozen more, but the ones I listed are the most popular among STM members. Whichever of the listed ones you choose, it should do the job well enough.
When starting your first adult campaign, you have two ways of approaching it. Start from scratch and try to figure it all out yourself… and fail, most likely. Or skip the phase of reinventing the wheel and get inspired by what other affiliates are running already. In other words, rip some ads and LPs from the popular adult sites and start by running those yourself.
Spying on your competition should be a vital part of your strategy, there is no need to argue about this. I’m not saying that you can build a successful career by running the campaigns you rip from others, but it can be a decent start.
So how do you do this?
Two options again: spy manually or use a spy tool.
Spying itself is pretty much a MUST, but using a spy tool is not, though it could make your life easier, way easier.
Adult is one of those verticals where everything is out there up for grabs. The reason is simple: the most popular adult websites are well known. All you need to do is to browse them and look at what ADs are running, save the banners and click on them to get the LPs and offers.
There are some tools you need for effective manual spying.
A solid VPN is the most important part, you need it to “pretend” you’re browsing from a certain GEO in order to see the GEO targeted ads. There is a fuckload of them out there, some better, some worse. You can find a lot of reviews on Google, here is one to get you started: https://www.techradar.com/vpn/best-vpn.
VPNs are quite cheap, they start around $5 per month, and so buying one is a no brainer. You might want to stay away from the most popular ones though, their IPs are known and some ad networks might recognize these and show you bogus ads. Many affiliates are also protecting their LPs against the known VPNs to make spying harder and, again, the most popular VPNs get blocked first.
You should also get some kind of “agent emulator” plugin. These will modify the browser identification/headers and make you look like a mobile or tablet browser should you need to spy on device-specific campaigns. These plugins are available for free (or cheap) for any browser.
Another handy plugin would be some kind of “IP spoofer”, these let you configure a specific IP that you want to pretend you’re browsing from. It’s not working 100%, again, and you need to get the IPs somewhere, but it can help to fool some ad networks or LP protection scripts.
Once you have these tools, just head to one of the popular adult sites and explore the world of naughty ads. You can start here: Pornhub, XVideos, YouPorn, porn.com, RedTube, xHamster, XNXX. There is a ton of sites out there and most adult networks are pretty transparent about what sites they sell ads on.
There are some drawbacks to spying manually, of course:
- it’s very time consuming;
- you can only see what’s running in the very moment you’re spying;
- advanced scripts will prevent you from seeing the real ads, no matter how hard you’re trying;
- it’s extremely hard to manually imitate a 3G connection;
- you won’t see what’s running everywhere as it’s not really possible to browse the 1000s of adult sites out there.
Spy tools can help you out a lot and save a lot of your time. Some of them also cover the 3G specter, which can be useful for carrier-specific campaigns. There are large archives to go through, so you can see what’s been running in the past too. Spy tools grab ads from a TON of websites, you can never have the same reach with manual spying.
The best spy tool hands down in adult right now is AdplexityAdult (https://adplexityadult.com/) but it’s not cheap. Standard price is $199 per month. I would strongly recommend to join for at least a month and spend some solid time with it. You can kind of prepare a base of banners and LPs to use later on. Once you run out, you can rejoin at any time.
The choice is yours. As I mentioned above, a spy tool is not a must, but it will help you a ton.
These are pretty much all the tools you need to start in adult, there are other ones out there that you can decide to utilize later on, but for the starters they are not a must.
So now when we have the tools, we need two more things: the traffic and something to sell to it.
The next part of this guide will focus on how to decide what to promote and where to get these offers.
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