Ruud Questions: Rae Hoffman aka Sugarrae

To those in the SEO/SEM industry, Rae Hoffman needs little or no introduction. She's an icon.

To those who've ever been even remotely serious about internet marketing or affiliate marketing, Rae's accomplishments are proof positive, her ideas and tips guidelines to live by.

Rae is to affiliate marketing what Matt Cutts is to Google. It's that simple.

Rae Hoffman Pulls Rank

You say that earning a full income from affiliate marketing is the exception. In other words; those looking to the web for new income are better of looking for another job?

Rae Hoffman aka SugarraeI wouldnt necessarily go that far. For a "real world" comparison, take a look at restaurants. New restaurants have a sixty percent chance of failing.

That means someone starting a restaurant has a bigger chance at failing than they do of succeeding, but it doesnt mean they shouldnt try. What it does mean is that they need to be realistic.

If theyre not willing to put in the effort, to put in the time and to work through the dip - to do what it takes to succeed - then they definitely shouldnt waste their time and energy trying. The same goes for affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing is too often portrayed as a "lazy" way to make income. But what a lot of people dont see is the time, effort, sleepless nights and many failures that went into creating the successes that now allow me to earn income while Im laying on a beach chair in the Dominican.

The guy trying to sell you a guide on how to make money while you sleep doesnt want to tell you that part. "Its a lot of work" doesnt sell. "Make four thousand dollars a month while you watch T.V." does. Its not that you CANT make four thousand dollars a month (and much more) watching T.V., it is simply that it doesnt start out that way. You have to hustle to make real money and to have real success in affiliate marketing.

Ignore Everybody
Hugh MacLeod

In the beginning, its all hustle and no money. If you succeed, the balance between hustle and money changes slowly over time. But the real hustlers never stop working " they simply find smarter ways of doing it.

You once told someone to create sites in spare time, save 6 months of income, then take the jump. What is that jump off point? Why not wait until those sites make enough money to warrant taking the jump?

Rae Hoffman aka SugarraeWell, first, there are some catches to that statement. The "six months of income" you save should be money that was made by your affiliate sites. I am certainly not recommending that someone making websites that make no cash, save up income from their job and then make the jump when they hit six months of income in savings.

What I am suggesting is that you build up six months of your normal income from earnings made by your affiliate site and then take the leap, if the leap is something that individual can do. Not everyone can be their own boss. Some people cant handle the pressure of not having guaranteed income coming in. Some people cant handle the lack of supervision and motivate themselves to work hard without a "boss" pushing them to do so. Some people cant handle the "isolation".

Woman home office laptop

The jump off point is going to be different for each individual. There is no "perfect time". Ive been doing this for a long time and have been making a very comfortable income solely from affiliate marketing for at least seven years now. I still have no guarantee that I will make money next month. Neither does the restaurant owner or the guy running his own accounting firm.

You can wait until your sites are making double your normal income to jump if that is your comfort level, but you need the savings as an entrepreneur, not as an affiliate marketer. I still keep that savings in an account I never touch.

You're strong on "work hard, play hard". Sitting down to do the nitty-bitty detailing where a site should be in 3, 6 and 12 months is part of that game. Of course how to go where is the real deal. What should Jane Doe be mapping out so her plan isn't just adding wishful thinking markers to a map?

Rae Hoffman aka SugarraeIts less about what she should be mapping out and more about making sure she DOES what she has mapped out. The biggest affiliate marketing mistakes mostly boil down to not doing what amounts simply to being "the hard work". Create a loose plan and then do the work and adjust as you learn and as needed. I wish I had a more exact answer for you, but most failure boils down to be lazy. And those that dont are actually simply learning experiences that will serve a hustler well in their next endeavor.

Create or Die Hugh Macleod

Hugh Macleod

  1. Choose a market
  2. Define your point of difference
  3. Decide where you want to be in 6, 12 and 18 months
  4. Define what needs to be done to get there
  5. Decide at what point youll walk away from the site if it isnt meeting its goals
  6. Work hard and stay focused
  7. Learn, grow and adapt your plans


You're huge on creating what you call a "Point Of Difference" or Unique Selling Point for a site. It goes way beyond "just" having "unique" content; it's the thing that will make that site a brand in its space. Is this in a way affiliate marketing/monetizing as an "afterthought"? Making a solid site which can also be monetized through affiliate marketing?

Rae Hoffman aka SugarraeFor many site owners who created a site out of love and ended up with a brand and explosive traffic by "accident" and not by design, it a lot of times is an afterthought. Creating a website can be an act of passion or an act of business. For me, its an act of business but once I decide to attempt it, it becomes an act of passion. I think that is the sweet spot where you can achieve moving your site from an affiliate site to an affiliate brand.

Mediocrity Sucks by Hugh Macleod
Hugh Macleod

Can we create a point of difference in this niche and if so, can we profit from it? That is the question I ask myself and my team before we build any site. So while our first question is "Can we build a solid site?" the monetization strategy is never an afterthought.

AdSense and the like: yes or no?

Rae Hoffman aka SugarraeIts no secret that Im not a huge fan of "webmaster welfare". I think its a lazy way to monetize a property and that youd make a lot more if you went out and monetized the property yourself (assuming the property is a real resource and not some crap made for AdSense site).

Lemonade stand


I prefer to use affiliate marketing whenever possible and only use AdSense as a "not so emphasized" backfill so to speak. Once you start getting significant traffic, you can add CPM advertising to your revenue stream. I sleep much better at night knowing that AdSense is 20% or less of my income

Finally, the site has been setup but there's no money left. What do you suggest someone does to move forward and make things happen?

Rae Hoffman aka SugarraeStarting a web based business, any web based business, is not free. It has lower overheard, lower costs and you can definitely do it "on the cheap" but youre going to need some kind of budget to get started. Luckily though, Guerrilla marketing techniques (Id label Twitter the top online guerrilla marketing technique of 2009) make it a lot easier to work with a very low budget. Subscribe to a good online marketing blog, a good affiliate marketing blog and a good search engine marketing blog and an active webmaster forum and read for at least an hour a day. And then put into action what you learn.

Do - Don't Talk

Hugh Macleod

RMH: if you plan to be smart about affiliate marketing or SEO, Rae is one of three people you should pay attention to on Twitter . She post there daily at @sugarrae and, less frequently, on her blog Sugarrae.
Note that would Rae's Twitter stream be put to music it would carry a warning label:

Parental advisory - explicit lyrics

Together with two industry icons she recently launched Outspoken Media.

About the Author: Ruud Hein

My paid passion at Search Engine People sees me applying my passions and knowledge to a wide array of problems, ones I usually experience as challenges. People who know me know I love coffee.

Ruud Hein

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