An Interview with John Holloway
Who are you, and what are you currently working on?
I’m John Holloway, and I am a co-founder of NoExam.com. I’ve been involved in affiliate marketing since 2007 when I got started creating websites after the poker boom.
My current project started as a life insurance brokerage, but with companies going direct to consumer and cutting out the agents, we decided it was time to pivot to affiliate marketing. Instead of selling life insurance to the consumer and being paid a commission from the insurance companies, we now recommend companies to our visitors and are paid a commission from the companies if they become a lead.
How did you get started in affiliate marketing? What keeps you excited about it?
I was in college and playing online poker on Party Poker. I was reading over their website and noticed a link in the footer that said “affiliates”. Upon clicking it, I found a page that explained what affiliate marketing was and how you can make money if you have a website that gets a lot of visitors. From there, the wheels started turning. I failed at it for a while until one day, a guy on a forum told me what a title tag was. From that moment on, I was learning everything I could about SEO.
The seemingly unlimited earning potential is what keeps me excited about it. I’ve always enjoyed the minimalism of it. No need to have a huge office full of employees if you don’t want that.
What is one piece of advice you’d give to a newbie affiliate marketer? And what is one piece of advice they should ignore?
My one piece of advice is to just get started. Don’t get lost in the minutia of it all. Decide on a project, get a domain, start writing content. Learn as you go. I see some affiliates spending months planning sites and taking courses. To me, that just seems like an excuse to not get started.
They should ignore advice from anyone telling them to think small. I see gurus recommending strategies where you target really low volume search phrases. That might be ok if you are shooting to make $50 per month and prove a concept to yourself, but if you are going to spend the time and money please just create something worthwhile that people want to read. This ends up being more rewarding financially and emotionally. It’s the nearly same amount of work to write the content, might as well aim high.
What has been your favorite mistake? A mistake that in retrospect led to a great lesson and progress in your affiliate marketing?
A long, long time ago, two of my highest earning websites were penalized simultaneously. It was a very costly and painful lesson. I was lured to the dark side in hopes of somehow avoiding hard work. I had just closed on a house. I remember thinking at the time, “This is a big purchase, but as long as my revenue doesn’t go to zero, I will be fine.” You can guess what happened.
I refer to this period of my life as “The Great Humbling”, and it was during this time that my ego was killed off. It took me nearly 5 years to bounce back. Looking back, I needed that gut check.
To anyone thinking of breaking Google’s guidelines, don’t. Live by the sword, and you will die by the sword. Google’s sword is a .50 caliber machine gun.
What is one piece of software or a web service that allows you to be more effective as an affiliate marketer?
Ahrefs all the way. A great tool that helps me find topics that our visitors would find helpful and interesting. We aim to be a top educational resource on life insurance, so covering all the important topics is key.
How do you continue to educate yourself as an affiliate marketer? What are some of your favorite resources for learning?
I used to spend a lot of time reading blogs and forums, but I eventually found that most of that is people trying to sell you something. The ahrefs blog is great for seo related content. Also, shoutout to TTT (seo based slack group full of people way smarter than me).
Last year I found a great subreddit at /r/juststart. It has a lot of people just getting started that share their journey and case studies. There is a great sense of camaraderie there, and it’s one of my favorite forums to read. It captures the spirit of affiliate marketing, where you are working on websites late at night after work dreaming of a day where you can, you’re your boss to get lost.
Other than that, I like to watch what the big sites do. Look at the sites that are ranking high in your niche that promote affiliate offers. What are they doing? Watch them carefully and you will learn a lot.
If people wanted to connect with you, where should we point them to?
You can find me on Twitter at twitter.com/JohnHolloway.