We caught up with online marketing industry veteran, Ricky Ahuja to learn how he’s made it in the industry, what drives him nuts about the industry and what advice he has for new affiliate marketers.
Tell us about how you landed in affiliate marketing. What led you to this business?
I actually got into this industry by accident. I used to own an internet café in Chicago (Go Cubbies) and some of the patrons who frequented the café needed a website and search engine optimization done. I happened to have some contacts in the space, which truly enabled me to find out the benefits and rewards of Internet marketing and haven’t looked back since.
As far as hitting it “big time” – I think that is still to come. I think completing the buyout of Affiliate Venture Group was definitely a step in the right direction. We all measure success differently and to me it is more about the relationships you make and the experiences you have and knowing that you have made a positive impression on people.
What was your biggest mistake along the way?
I do not consider anything I have done a “failure” per se (unless you count that one semester in college) but rather a stepping stone from which to learn and advance. As it pertains to Affiliate Marketing – the frustrations are many: fraudulent affiliates, compliance issues, AMs who will say anything to make a buck, people asking the wrong questions, etc. But you know what, that is what makes our industry so unique and dynamic, keeps things in check.
And when you got to a good level, what did you do to break through?
I was always building other peoples’ companies and brands. My breakthrough came when I purchased AVG from the previous investors and started to build it as a standalone brand. My business partner Chris Kautz and I have worked tirelessly and have some exciting news we will be sharing in the coming weeks.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever tested that’s worked?
Generating a significant portion of our traffic internally, we are always testing different campaigns, technologies and traffic types and often times sources we expect to back out – bomb and sources I have absolutely no faith in, turn out beautiful. Take my publisher base, many of these publishers had been rejected or not given the time of day from the “larger” networks – but we take the time to educate them, train them and help them become a successful affiliate. A lot of these noobs are now our leading super affiliates.
What do you like best about being an affiliate? What drives you crazy about the industry?
I am in somewhat of an enviable position in that not only am I an affiliate but also have my own network. Majority of the campaigns we bring on are tested internally before I place them on the network so as to make sure we have high converting products for our publishers to promote. There is nothing more frustrating than having AMs giving you bogus metrics and numbers just so they can generate some traffic. We know what converts, we know what works and that is what I present to my publishers.
There are so many things about the industry that drive me crazy and it would take a whole afternoon to go over those things – perhaps a follow-up interview may be in order. However, some of the top items would be fraudulent traffic, miss-informed affiliate managers and finally advertisers who don’t know squat on how to assess the success or failure of a campaign.
What are 1 or 2 tools that you use every single day to help make your affiliate business better?
A lot of the tools we utilize are in-house and proprietary, however as far as what affiliates should be looking at are tools to help them optimize their campaigns, their bids, their conversion funnels and totally understand their analytics so that they can see where they need to make a change to make their business successful. There are a lot of industry blogs that provide these tools so if your readers want to get any additional information – they are more than welcome to contact me via my blog or email/twitter or FB.
What do you feel sets your sites apart from your competitors?
There are many networks out there but only one Ricky Ahuja. I am not so concerned with what others are doing or not doing as I am with what I am able to provide. We do not hide behind a privately registered website from some off shore country but at the forefront of affiliate marketing industry, compliance and transparency. I am probably one of the most easily accessible person there is and call it like it is. You can get more insight into who I am at my blog (cheap plug) at www.rickyahuja.com.
In all seriousness – we pride ourselves on AWESOME customer service and many exclusive campaigns that we have had for the last 3-4 years running. We are also now expanding into India on a large scale so look for big things to come.
What can affiliates do to build a strong brand in the industry?
This is simple – have a set of core values and goals and do whatever it takes to adhere to them. It takes a long time to establish a credible brand and a single instance can destroy it so guard and monitor it very closely.
What resources have you used to learn and expand your skills as a professional Internet marketer?
I read a lot of the industry blogs, journals and newsletters. Staying abreast of the emerging trends enables one to position themselves properly to take full advantage of the opportunity that may arise. Some of these are Perform Insider, Digital Moses and of course my blog, www.rickyahuja.com.
What advice could you offer someone who is considering becoming an affiliate in today’s market?
The best advice I have been given has been from my father and it is to not be afraid to take risks. Even if it doesn’t work out, you can always learn from the experience and apply it towards your next venture. There is quote from T.S. Elliot that I like: “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
Guys – thanks for giving me the floor to talk a bit about myself, it is most certainly an honor.
You can reach Ricky at: