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The secret behind those “Win a free laptop” ads.

My teenage daughters like to click on ads that say “Get a Free MacBook Pro for Answering a Survey.” Actually, so does my husband. He also enjoys talking on the phone with telemarketers, but that’s another story.

Have you ever done one of those surveys in order to win a laptop or something? By the time you’re done meeting all the requirements, you’ve added yourself to a gazillion email lists, downloaded malware and spyware and sold your third born to Google for a free eBook In the meantime, the requirements for the free laptop get progressively more personal. They want you to switch auto insurance, get an estimate for a new roof and apply for a student loan. Is it worth all that for a free laptop? Maybe; until you discover you’ve been answering survey questions for 7 hours and given your name, email address and other personal information away a thousand times. And did you read the fine print on EVERY page? Because the nice ones come up first. In the beginning, they say “We won’t rent or share your information…” But after you’ve been beaten down by “one more offer” a thousand times, the fine print gets a little more iffy “You allow us to share your information with our sponsors.” Then, you get all finished and discover your email inbox filled with fifty million confirmation emails. At minimum wage, you’d probably have bought yourself a laptop by the time you get done answering all the stupid survey questions, filling out all the forms and sifting through the mountains of SPAM that you’ll get.

So what’s the deal with surveys? Are the really researching something? Why do they want people to answer questions? What do they get out of it?

The quick answer is that they’re mining your personal information. These companies are getting paid for you. YOU are their product.

They’re participating in (primarily) CPA advertising, or “cost per action” meaning that when you click the checkbox next to “Send me a free sample of Super Slim Chocolate Bars” the survey company gets paid for generating a lead. You are a lead. The survey company collects data (list of suckers people who are interested in ____) and sells you, your address and your email address. If you ever make it to the end of their stream of surveys, supposedly you’ll get a laptop.

It doesn’t have to be so dirty, though. The same affiliate programs that the survey companies use to make their fortunes can also be used by regular Joe’s. If you’re blogging about chocolate or diet products, your readers may want that sample of Super Slim Chocolate Bars, too. And you don’t have to trick them in order to get paid.

The difference between CPA (cost per action, which is what we’re talking about here) and CPM or CPC (cost per click or per impression) is that you don’t get paid because of traffic, or from people clicking on ads, you get paid when they actually take the next desired step, whether it’s making a purchase, joining a newsletter, signing up for something, etc.

It’s all relative to how much the ad-clicker is supposed to “do” in order to get you paid.

Anyhow, Affiliate advertising is a form of CPA. But unlike traditional affiliate programs where the publisher (you) get paid a commission when referring a paying customer, CPA ads allow you to get paid when they join an email list, sign up to be a member of the forums, or whatever else the contract says.

You can manage some CPA ads through the same affiliate programs you use already. Commission Junction handles CPA ads for zecco and eToro, which are websites where users register to trade stock or Forex or something. These are VERY competitive niches and the amount you get per lead is anywhere from $35-$100. It’s enough to make you want to build a Forex Trading website, right? Just be aware that in order to compete in that niche you need to really know your stuff. Shamefully, I don’t even know what Forex is, although I might look it up and write an article about it, just to dip my toe into the niche.

A little further down the list, you can make money generating leads for cell phone companies, health insurance, green energy and other types of businesses. Some of the programs are very strict about the sites that area allowed to promote them,t hough. Good luck getting accepted as a cell phone company affiliate without a website specifically devoted to cell phones or personal electronics. Credit Card Processing is a less-picky niche, that still pays a nice incentive for generating leads. Companies like Lending Tree have really strict requirements (must place link within 30 days, must display prominently on main page, must not charge for membership…) while other personal loan and payday loan companies have easier requirements, without much less stress.  I haven’t seen any incentives for generating leads on Clickbank, you just have to fish around through your affiliate networks to see what they offer. Good luck 🙂 There are also several programs that specialize in CPA only.  I don’t have enough experience with those to recommend any, but if you do and would like to share that, please leave a comment below, thank you.
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So- just to be clear about those “win a free laptop” ads on Facebook. You wouldn’t have clicked if it had said “Get a roofing estimate” but you might ask for an estimate if it’s the next step toward winning a laptop. You basically run through an entire rigamarole of advertisements and the people who are allegedly giving away a laptop get paid (up to $100) for everything you sign up for.
That’s how they can afford to award a laptop to the teeny fraction of people who actually qualify for every offer and actually make it through the entire string of “surveys.” Plus, they make enough to pay for those FaceBook ads. You’re at the keyboard cursing them and annoyed with all the surveys “Jeez, I just want my free laptop” or “I’m not quitting now, I’ve gotten this far.” and every time you click to the next screen, they get paid.

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