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In early 2003, I discovered how to easily and quickly create doorway pages. I was busy signing up for every affiliate program on the planet and I was auto-generating millions of pages of crap content based upon targeted keyword insertion into “borrowed” sales text. I figured out that doorway pages could easily be created by hijacking the mail merge properties of Microsoft Word and using some shareware software to parse the pages at their logical break points. Sure, these pages looked like Word documents pushed to the web instead of true template web pages, but the less savvy people who were my targeted audience didn’t really care back then.
I pushed the pages live and because they were the right keyword density, they were getting indexed and ranked very well organically in the search engines. People would land on my pages where I linked to the merchant pages with banners and hyperlinks. Clicking through to the merchant pages and making a purchase earned me a nice commission. I didn’t actually sell anyone anything…instead, I just inserted myself as a middleman by “tricking” the visitor to go to the merchant site. Even though my doorway page wasn’t particularly professional, the merchant website was professional and visitors quickly forgot about their initial crappy landing page experience when they made their purchase.
Google AdSense also was launched in 2003, and the combination of these two efforts generated me a salary reasonably close to what I lost when my job was eliminated at the beginning of the year.
Along the way, I had some pretty interesting experiences. Once, the makers of a very well-known supplement couldn’t figure out how to rank ahead of my crappy Tripod-hosted affiliate doorway page that was making me many thousands of dollars a month. The merchant contacted the host of the affiliate program who shut me down for several days in order to appease his client. Fortunately, I got let back into the program and recommenced earning money until the search engine algorithms caught up with my spam. Soon thereafter, the FDA got involved with these folks…
I got involved with another “offshore” affiliate program that paid pretty well. Success in this program consisted of “leads” and “sales”. Each morning, I would login to my account and see my stats. In an average month, I’d probably do 1-3 “leads” a day and 5-10 sales per month. At $100 per sale, I did pretty well with these folks. Again, all these earnings came from the crappy doorway pages I created that, at the time, gave me an immense feeling of satisfaction that I could game the system in a way that supported my family.
One morning in December, 2003, I logged into my account and instead of 1-3 leads, I had 7 leads. The next day, I generated over 10. Things began to snowball until I consistently generated 20-40 leads per day. In addition to that, I was making 2-4 sales per day at $100 per sale. Remember, this is well before the creation of most ranking tools so it took me a while to figure out what happened.
Yahoo had ranked me organically in the Top 10 for most every top-tier 2-3 targeted keyword phrase that I might have wanted to target. Today, only the biggest of brands could attain the rankings I possessed, and they’d probably be worth many millions of dollars a month in this particular vertical. However, I was way too unsophisticated at any aspect of search marketing beside doorway page creation to take advantage of my good fortune.
Early one morning, I got a call from a very far-away place…which happened to be the headquarters of the affiliate merchant. They called me because this unknown person they never heard of generated more leads (though not sales) than any of their other affiliates that month. The guy I was talking to was asking me all kinds of questions as to how I was doing what I was doing and while he was chatting with me. I had no real answers for him since I couldn’t admit the truth. What shocked him the most was when asked me about “my clientele” that I was working with and I told him I didn’t have the foggiest idea who these people were. He was making suggestions about building relationships and upselling (all of which is primo affiliate advice today) that would have maximized my revenue yield but I didn’t have a clue how I could accomplish that.
On April Fools’ Day 2004, Yahoo updated and wiped all my spammy sites from the index. I never heard from the affiliate program manager again and I only made a handful of sales for that program going forward.
Even today, I earn a few hundred dollars a year from one affiliate program I signed up for way back then. One day, some unknown soul signed up as an affiliate from my link off a spammy page I created that earned me a cut of all his future commissions. This person continues to make quite a few sales over time, earning me about 2 Euros per sale.