Today, we’ve got to talk about spying as an affiliate, and especially manual spying on (CPA) affiliate campaigns.
Generally speaking, you don’t find a lot of really great and useful public information on that topic.
Most experienced media buyers and CPA affiliates only speak about this topic in private/closed forums or after a few drinks at specific affiliate conferences. *lol*
The reason for that is simple: As an affiliate marketer, and especially as a CPA affiliate who’s running huge media buying campaigns, we struck gold once our campaigns are consistently profitable.
That’s when we scale the campaign (scale the traffic/media buying part), and that’s when we let our campaigns run (longer).
All this sounds very simple and like common sense, and it is. But it’s even more important for us when spying as an affiliate in the information gathering/market research phase.
Let’s dive in.
A Few Important Points/Thoughts Upfront
As briefly mentioned in the intro of this article, the length of the campaign (in other words: How long a particular campaign is running overall) is a very important aspect to pay attention to when spying on other affiliates’ campaigns.
Because - generally speaking - highly negative/unprofitable campaigns get shut down (by the affiliate/media buyer/advertiser) rather quickly.
Either that or plenty of (radical) changes are being made.
But if a particular advertising campaign runs for weeks or months, it’s extremely likely to be profitable for the media buyer/advertiser/affiliate.
Also, if a specific ad campaign gets scaled aggressively, either by raising the bids or by running it to a broader audience, that’s a very good indication that a particular campaign is profitable for the affiliate.
In addition, if you find the same campaign running on different mediums/ad networks, chances are, it’s a proven campaign that worked (first) on one specific ad network before it was spread over many other networks.
And lastly, if a certain ad campaign isn’t being changed in a long time - the same ad creative, the same ad headline - chances are good that it’s profitable for the advertiser.
The Two Ways Of Spying As An Affiliate Marketer (CPA)
Basically, you have two options as a CPA affiliate to spy on your competition:
- Manual spying (discussed here)
- Spy tools (separate article coming soon)
==> Stay tuned
There are a few more ways to get the desired information (like talking with your affiliate manager, chatting with the vendor (offer), or speaking with other affiliates), but I consider all these forms of “manual spying”.
And while spy tools are great, most of them are pretty expensive, and most newbie CPA affiliate marketers don’t want to spend $300 (for one month) on these tools, especially in the beginning.
That’s kind of a wishes circle, as that’s exactly when they’d need those tools the most…
… But I can’t change that.
Instead, we focus on “manual spying” in this article.
What Exactly Is Manual Spying?
By “manual spying” I mean all possible ways of manually finding (profitable) advertising campaigns of other affiliates or media buyers, that ran in the past or are still running.
How To Spy Manually As An (CPA) Affiliate Marketer?
Here are a few simple, but very effective ways to manually spy as an affiliate.
This list isn’t meant to be complete, but it’ll give you some very great starting points…
Method 1: Artificially Becoming Part Of The Targeted Audience
Let’s assume for a second you’re trying to manually spy on an affiliate campaign that has the following attributes:
- BING search engine / Microsoft Advertising network
- targeted at US users only
- desktop devices only
- solving a specific, health-related problem
In this case, you could easily:
- Use a VPN service to acquire an US-based IP address
- Use an incognito browser
- Browse to bing.com and
- Search for keywords/search terms that you’d naturally associate with the problem that the product/offer attempts to solve
Here’s what I mean, these are some example search terms:
- how to lose weight fast
- how to win the lottery
- how to stop ear ringing
- how to cure tinnitus
- how to make money online
- how to get rid of nail fungus
- best ways to stop back pain
- best way to lose belly fat fast
- best way to make money online fast
- best cure for knee pain
- best free bet or no deposit bonus for betting/gambling/casino
- how to get rid of diabetes
- how to prevent diabetes
With the above mentioned, technical adaptations, and a variation of the suggested search terms you’ll be able to artificially become part of the target audience (of that particular advertiser/affiliate) and therefore you’ll be able to see their exact ads, landing pages, and chosen offers.
And if the landing page has an email opt-in/squeeze page, you’ll also be able to spy on their email (follow-up) campaign.
Method 1b: Artificially Becoming Part Of The Targeted Audience
A similar method works (sometimes) to find media buyers’ campaigns running on Native ads…
… via locating the exact placements on gigantic (news) websites.
These websites are often being monetized via Native ads and the corresponding networks’ widgets. (revcontent, taboola, …)
Here’s the process:
- Use a VPN service to acquire an US-based IP address (if that’s your target audience/market)
- Use an incognito browser (and deactive all potential ad blockers)
- Browse to the news website, for example cnn.com and
- Scroll down to the Native ads widgets (often called “sponsored content”, “paid content”, or “you might also be interested in”)
Sometimes these widgets and placements can be a bit hard to find, because that’s the original idea of Native ads, they are supposed to “blend in” with the other website articles.
I’ve found great media buyers (and their landing pages) via this method, so give it a try!
Method 2: Knowing The Exact Offer Name
If you know the exact (affiliate) offer name and website, we can try some reverse-engineering for our research/spying purposes.
A good starting point is this:
- Go to similarweb.com,
- Enter the (target) website
and you’ll see an overview of where the majority of the (web) traffic is coming from, potentially some referring sites, etc.
These infos can be very helpful. (to locate and spy on the competition)
Sometimes you get lucky and you can even find big media buyers who are buying lots of ad placements via this method…
Method 2b: Knowing The Exact Offer Name
Another approach - if you know the exact offer name - is trying to search (on BING and Google) for the following search term:
buy + "offer name"
And variations of it. This might also work:
best price for "offer name"
best offer for "offer name"
Alternatively, some affiliates create advertorials and/or reviews around specific offers, so you could also try:
"offer name" + review
does "offer name" really work
is "offer name" legit
Method 3: Finding And Spying On Similar Offers
If you can’t find any ad placements or landing pages via the methods described above, it sometimes is a good idea to follow the same research process for a very similar (or even more popular) product.
That way you can find competing landing pages, and oftentimes you might be able to locate split tests and variations of these landing pages…
… And you might be able to get a few ideas and inspirations for your own landing page. 😉
Method 4: Analyzing Landing Pages (From Other Affiliates)
Once you found a landing page that’s being used by another affiliate, you might be able to find more/corresponding pages by
- either checking the same domain for more pages, or
- finding text and page elements that might be re-used on other pages.
You could try to find those other pages by using the following Google search operators:
- site:XXX.com (replace XXX with the domain you found)
- intext:YYY (replace YYY with the text element you assume might be re-used, like a specific name or copyright)
These are just a few ideas, you can “play around” with different Google search operators to find much more, often called “Google Hacking” or “Google dorking”.
These terms are mostly used in hacker/security circles, but the same techniques can easily be used when doing thorough market research.
Method 4b: Analyzing Landing Pages (From Other Affiliates)
Similar to the method described above, you can use Google’s “reverse image search” to find more pages and other affiliates who might use the exact same ad creative.
Or, you could try to find pages that use a very similar headline, for example.
As you can see, the possibilities to spy (on CPA affiliate marketers’ campaigns) are really endless here.
If you take market research and spying seriously, you will find a lot.
Just by using the above described methods, you’ll be able to locate tons of (currently running) ad creatives, images, headlines, landing pages, email follow-up campaigns, and (affiliate) offers, used right now by other media buyers.
If you have any questions, or would like to add a method, please let me know here.
And if you like to learn more about profitable CPA affiliate marketing and professional media buying, get this. It’s 100% free.
Thanks for reading and stay awesome,
Tim for Online Business Dude