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Itay Paz is the founder of the Morning Dough newsletter and the DMIEXPO affiliate conference in Israel. Itay has been building affiliate sites for a long time testing many niches and learning by experience. He shares a ton of wisdom that any affiliate can use today whether you are a new affiliate getting started or an existing one looking to grow your business.   

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Transcription of this episode

Welcome to the affiliate interview series by StatsDrone. Our next guest is Itay Paz, he's the founder of the Morning Dough newsletter and DMIExpo. He shares a lot of insights for affiliates. So let's get to it.

Welcome to the affiliate interview series. I got a special guest with me. Someone that I've known and met at many conferences for a long time, some kind of aging myself here, but I've got Itay Paz from Morning Dough newsletter and the DMIExpo and, Itay, I want you to do a quick introduction of yourself and let us know what you do in affiliate marketing. 

First of all, thank you very much for having me. I really appreciate that and I have lots to share. Just a quick introduction, I started my way online 28 plus years ago. I was basically fired from where I was working and I needed to figure out what to do and the Internet was still, I call it the diaper stage, like still whomever know about the connection to the internet, he would connect with the noises and no one can actually speak on the phone while you're connecting to the internet. Really not fun days. 

And I just sat in front of the computer, I had to figure it out that I was able to build my first affiliate website by my own. I'm not a technical person but I just figured it out. And the first month I already made money. And I said, oh, this is interesting. So, the second month I already added two more websites and the next month more and more, and eventually I had hundreds of websites running and over time it kept growing some websites. We ditched, you know, we moved, they moved too many things online. 

I had what many people, everywhere, not related to online, but especially online, the shiny object syndrome. So, every time you see, oh, there's a better opportunity, a better industry, better vertical, better idea and you keep on moving. Yeah, you make money over time and today, you know, at this point of time after 28 plus years I know that you need to work differently if you want to sustain for the long term. And hopefully I'll be able to share more about that. 

Yeah. It almost sounds like, you know, a website addiction, but I like hearing people's stories about how they kind of just sort of stumbled upon, you know, creating a website. I remember back in the day we never had schools to go to… like, there wasn't courses on like they were maybe just starting like website development. But I just find that people come from different educational backgrounds or even lack of educational backgrounds and they just make it happen. And I kind of like how people just say, well, I’ll just figure it out. 

And technology is there today and, you know, you can pay someone 10 bucks and get the website and just fill out your content or whatever your need. So that’s simpler today. There aren’t more obstacles today other than, you know, things have changed, but still there are lots of things that are completely different and much easier for… especially for beginners. 

Yeah. So you're basically calling out the beginners where they literally have no excuse today for getting started. 

There's no… no, because, you said this, there's knowledge, so they can find any knowledge and get help from anyone, read online for free or pay. It doesn't really matter right now. There's so much information about that. So many people, forums, blogs just to read and connect. You can pay other people to build your websites and not thousands of dollars like back in the days. You can pay, like I said, there's literally… even five bucks to get a website and just put your content inside. 

So on that side, it's much easier. There's no excuse. The only, you know, I think I read somewhere that most of the people are reluctant to begin building their affiliate website. One is the fear of technology, which we already just explain why it should not be relevant. And the second thing is what will be the topic or vertical or whatever it is of the website. Which, for us, maybe we have experience and it sounds like, oh, really? It should be very simple. But people just say, oh, what should I do? Well, let's do about, I don’t know, I love cars. Oh, there's so many blogs and websites about cars. Why, what will be my uniqueness? So, you know what? I don't think, obviously people say about uniqueness, it's important and stuff like that, but there's so many people searching about cars, let's say for example, about cars or let's say vintage cars. So you're bringing your own experience, right? This is your blog or your website, you bring your own point of view, think about all what we call influencers today, the ones that put, let's say, make up whatever it is, you connect to one or and not connect to another one. So it's all about how they deliver the information, how they… so it could be text, video, whatever it is, people connect to different people. So you just need to be there and start moving. You'll adjust, you'll find your format over time. 

I think the best, the best experience or the best example I can give, even after so many years online, we launched during the COVID. So the COVID, you mentioned earlier, around the DMIExpo, which is an international conference for affiliate marketing based in Tel Aviv, and in 2020 we should have had an event in May. Unfortunately, COVID popped up and no events, everything is shut down, Israel borders were very limited so you can't really do an international event without bringing in international people. So we shut down everything. So I said, what should… where should we put the same resources we have that are wasted? And we decided to launch The Morning Dough, which is a newsletter. Up to here very simple, a newsletter that brings news about the industry. Now, there's so many formats that you can bring, long, short, daily, monthly, weekly. You can put video newsletters, whatever, there are so many options. And how did we figure it out? We figured it out over time, we launched a newsletter based on one of the formats we found online that they said, okay, this is nice. And then I found out that I'm working too hard for that, and it's too many… too much effort and I'm not enjoying it. So I said, I need to enjoy it. So I started to shrink the newsletter and fit in more of my lifestyle, what I like to do, and that's how the newsletter eventually got to the format, which is today, which is a year later. Well, I think, well, now it's already almost three years, but a year later it was 18 bullet points. That's it. No extra text. If you want to read more, just click and go to the website. We're not playing games, we just give you the highlights of the industry. 

So if I go back to the vehicle idea, it goes the same thing, you can say, okay, let's say, I go to shows… Every week or every other week I go to a show about vintage cars. So I like to take photos of cars from the 1800 or 90s, or whatever it is, it doesn't matter. So that's your thing. So do that. You don't need to say, oh, but if someone comes and wants to know about cars from the seventies and I'm only about the fifties or whatever it is. That's okay. You do what you like because if you start to do the 70s and you don't like it, then… and again, it's just an example, you will find yourself miserable. And you want to be able to keep on going again and again and you won’t do it if you don't like to do it. So it's all about the format, don't be stressed, just, you know, start and keep on going. 

Yeah. And I guess maybe there's another takeaway point that you're kind of indirectly highlighting, which is like if you're into cars, but you're really specifically about these 50s cars, don't spend all the time and energy focusing on the big encyclopedia of cars where you're competing against giants websites or, you know, directories that are way too big that are going to take forever to build and compete against. And, you know, I guess it's kind of cliche but it's a, you know, focus on a niche and when you're doing that niche hobby, it's not really work. 

This is what's called a long tail. I know most people refer to it when they hear SCL. So long tail just people don't really know what it is. We refer when we say keywords. So let's say the keyword is, I don't know, a Ford focus, whatever it is. So a long tail will be Ford Focus 2020 XL, I don't know, whatever it is, blue, blue color, whatever it is. So the long… the more keywords in the phrase, that means that it's a long tail, it's like a tail. So they, they are behind going, like you mentioned, if you focus on a niche or a vertical, you can go into different long tails and enjoy the traffic, and you get it for free. I know there's lots of people talking about buying trafficking, that's okay, that's a different thing. How can an affiliate, we can talk about it, how can an affiliate get traffic? But long tail is a way to get traffic without actually paying anything for it. 

Yeah, that's very true. So I wanted to talk a bit more about the conferences that you run, specifically DMIExpo. And I know you've been creating conferences for a long period of time, I think starting with The AffiliateCon. So I just wanted to talk about like, you know, what can people expect when they go to these events and what do you do to make your event stand out a little differently knowing that you're very aware of other events and try not to just kind of make the same thing. What's unique about the people that go to your event? 

So first of all, I'll start with the fact that as an affiliate, I've been going to events as an affiliate worldwide since it started. I think in the US, I think the first one was The Affiliate Summit, obviously. And there are the veterans of the online conferences. We came back… we came there like a few years after them, I think three or four years after them. And I say, first of all, go to events. It's important. You think you’re online, and you read on blogs, and you read on forums, and you interact with people… There's no replacement for going physically to events, especially when you're an affiliate. 

I always say… I have an article that I wrote once, Why should you be the best buddy or the best friend of your affiliate manager? And when you think about it, right, an affiliate manager has lots of opportunities coming to his hands, he can help different people in different ways. Sometimes he has special offers and he keeps them only for his top affiliates or his buddys, right? Because they are limited, you can't really offer them for everyone. So if you build a relationship with him over time, you'll find out how much money you can actually make more than others. So, it definitely… like events, it's a must. It's energy, it’s connections for life. 

And this is how I build my events, just from the connections I've built throughout the years, and I found… You know, I meet people and I enjoy and take it also for my affiliate business as well, which is a different business completely. But it is a great one. I own over 2200 website, 2200 websites today, but going back to the DMIExpo… So, for us, when we started AffiliateCon, it was two thousand… I think eight or nine. And the idea behind it was we traveled to the US and about 10% of the attendees at that time were Israelis and we said this is… why shouldn't we organize an event like this in Israel? And everyone said, oh, this is a great idea. So I said, what can we do? Let's have one. Okay, are you in? And people said, no, you'll do it and we'll come. So I said, hey, if I'm doing it, you'll buy tickets. I'm not doing it… and you're my friend, suddenly you're my friends and you don't want to help. They said, you know that we'll support you. And we built the first one AffiliateCon. It was a really big success. 

So the idea behind it was first of all, having there's so many smart people in Israel, they do affiliate marketing internationally and digital marketing in Israel is huge. So now we bring a lot of interest, if you look all through the years, we've changed different brands, the DMIExpo is basically just a rebrand we build, we bring people from all over the world to one place and the uniqueness of everything among the fact that we're very focused on how they say in the Israelis is to the point. Not just, you know, it's good to schmooze, but we wanna, you know, people come here to do business, we build the environment for that. So one of the things for me as an affiliate when I go to events and then it's 1:00 and I see people are getting agitated because either there's a big line for food or there's no food inside or the exhibitors that work, the people that work in the in the booth, want to go to eat and they go out and in and… there's a big, and I said it doesn't need to be there. I came to work. It's a two days event, right? So we should focus on talking and doing business and helping each other. Not about thinking where do we get lunch or breakfast or whatever it is. So that's one of the things we always do, we build an environment. It's a closed environment. 

You don't need to go outside for anything. We provide food, luxury food, breakfast, lunch, espresso bar for everyone inside the show. And we found out that people love it. Some people say, hey, we're coming just for the food. It's more than enough for us to come. But, seriously, it's a really super food, but it's not about that. What I meant is that the environment is facilitating good business because you're not stressed, you are there, you know that your mind shouldn't be anywhere else. You came to work as an affiliate, as an affiliate manager, as media buyers, whomever arrived there. And I think we were able to capture that. 

And then we are… and since Israel is basically in the center connecting Europe, the US and the Far East or Far Middle East in Asia. So we're actually located in a great place. Israel now has a good relationship with many countries around us as well. So we're just open for everyone to come and that made a big success for DMIExpo and I'm really happy about that. I'm a digital marketer and an affiliate marketer, this business was built just to make…. to make us as affiliates have a great event. But, and that's, I think the biggest key for our success. 

Yeah. And, and I think it makes sense that, you know, you're, you know, of course you'd want to have that event there in Israel where I think when more people start to, like, dig and go… Okay, where are these companies? Where are these internet marketers coming from? And when you start looking at some of the companies that are based in Israel, it's, uh, it kind of seems like, you know, from a per capita kind of basis it's, uh, like there's a lot of companies there, there's a lot of experience. It's, uh, it's almost like one of the places where, you know, internet marketing and affiliate marketing kind of grew up when you think about a lot of companies, whether it's gaming or other industries. And when I look at the companies that are sponsoring your event, I kind of like, oh, I didn't realize they were Israelis and, you know, they're big companies like I think Outbrain is one of them. 

Outbrain… And obviously you mentioned gaming, gambling and other industries, verticals, you'll find here huge affiliates. There are companies here that are making over half a billion dollars a year in revenue. So there's lots to do here and lots of opportunities around here, and that's what it's all about. It's just, hey, let's do business, let's progress, let's do whatever we can. 

Yeah, and I'm going back to one of the other points that you mentioned about, you know, being a best friend of an affiliate manager, um, you know, having been an affiliate manager myself, I kind of think that is like a super powerful for affiliates is to understand, you know, how much do affiliates make, you know, it's kind of like an unfair advantage. But I mean, yeah, they can kind of like, you know, give you a bit of coaching or feedback. And I think having that extra view is really important and I personally believe the opposite is true, that a lot of affiliate managers should have experience in building affiliate sites because it goes without saying, when they do that, they gain the experience and they understand what the pain points are of being an affiliate. I think it makes them more competent even though affiliates can kind of complained saying, hey, don't create sites, leave that for… leave that business for me. 

Absolutely. I agree with you. I think people should know… I remember, you know, it happens a lot in the gambling industry, when you're an affiliate, you're sitting and say, oh, I'm sending them traffic to the network and they're making lots of money without doing anything. And then the network is saying, oh, the operator is making a lot, you know, the company, the software provider is making so much money and we're doing very little money, but we do most of the work. And then the software company says, oh, we do all the work and they're complaining, we're… So, it's always to say, the neighbor's grass is greener. So it's a bad syndrome for online. So, don't think it's easier to be an affiliate manager. Affiliate manager should think that being an affiliate is easier. Each position has its advantages and disadvantages. 

I think as an affiliate for over 28 years, I can tell you one thing for sure. Um, I, when I wake up I don't have any direct obligations to anyone. I do whatever I wish to do. I wish to work, don't get me wrong, I love it. But I'm just saying if I decided, you know, uh, in an hour I just go and rest for two hours. I don't have clients, I don't have an affiliate that I need to... If I don't have any meetings specifically, I can do whatever I want. I can really be free. And that's really valuable for people who want their freedom. But the other side of the coin is you need to be able to actually put your part in the sit and do that because if you think that, oh, I'm going to be like… oh, I'll just work a couple of weeks hours a week and, you know, they're talking about, uh, making income with very little, you know, spending very little online and it will happen, residual income. And by the way, if someone looks at residual income, residual income is created only after you create something. 

So once you build the website and once things are running, you can do what… you can do other things. But I'll tell you, if you love what you do, once you start to do it and you see the money rolling, like when I started, you do one website, you say, oh, I make money. So it makes… oh, let's do more, let's do more, let's do more. That's the fun of that. Otherwise it's really boring. That's how I see that. 

Yeah, I fully agree. Um, and I think that's another argument whether it's better to do one website or multiple websites, and I think that just depends on the person, the personality, um, if you're better able to focus on one site. But I think that's a whole other topic and I think that's for everyone to, like you said, you choose your own adventure. You know, you get to make your own rules and do what you want. 

I do want to mention one thing, it also depends on what you do. So let's say, you're going to be an affiliate who reviews products, then it makes sense to have one or many websites. You can find out the strategy. But if you're doing a website about, let's say, vintage cars, I wouldn't necessarily do tens of websites or two, I might do only one because it's more niche and more, it's not just an affiliation website, it's heavily content on specific niche. I would stick there and not expand to many websites. So, like you said, there's a big discussion around that, but initially you can find out right away if it even potentially makes sense to do that. 

Yeah, fully agree. So given all the experience, you've got in affiliate marketing and having a leading affiliate newsletter and also a pretty major affiliate marketing event, I want to ask you, what do you see in the near future or the future of affiliate marketing? 

So, as I mentioned earlier, I'm also an affiliate myself today. I have over 2200 websites and growing. And first of all, I don't think over time if I look at what happened 28 years ago to today as an affiliate, the basic things are still there. You were asking about the future, so here's the thing, I think that the basic will not change. We're talking about email. How many years do we hear about email marketing going away, fading away? It's shutting down, forget about it, and it's still here, kicking and growing and growing and growing. Um, the same goes to SEO. Yeah, it's more competitive. Sure. But there are more people searching, more long tails, more opportunities and the basics are still the same, quality of content, everything in certain order, build it the right way, no sticks and tricks and stuff like that. And strategies clean. If you do what I call clean SEO, you will succeed. 

Obviously not if you're competing on terms like, you know, online gaming or I don't know, whatever it is, I'm talking about it in general, it's the same essence of things. So over time, if I look at what happens, nothing actually from the base changes, the biggest change is actually coming from a different direction. It's on the paid side. Why? Because there's Facebook that wasn't there before. So Facebook, how can you make money with Facebook? The only way is buying traffic from Facebook. Same goes to TikTok or Instagram or whatever things that are not from my generation anymore, but they're all based on paid mostly okay, mostly on paid advertising or followers. 

But let's say go to the, I think the main thing is the paid advertising that keeps on changing because there are many guidelines and it's still evolving. So the FTC is changing and commercial and things and lawsuits and stuff like that. So this is the main industry that keeps on changing more than what I call the old industry, the non paid one, also probably chatGPT is one of the things that everyone is talking today about, is it affecting us? What will happen? So I think first of all, no one really knows what will happen. I don't think there's, if someone says I know then yes, it's his guestimation. 

But I want to say something. Um, as an SEO guy, we build websites and it's something called zero click traffic. So basically, um, Google searches the website and shows the answer to a question for a search query. Uh, on the top, sometimes if you see also in the actual search bar and where does it get the information? It gets it from a certain website or websites and doesn't pay the website. And there's a lot of lawsuits around that. And I know that Google actually is reducing more and more this zero click because it actually doesn't pay you for the traffic, right? For the knowledge. And he uses it to make his own money. 

So going back to the BI or to the AI, right? So what happens now is you see that, I actually heard yesterday that artists are now suing all the AI photo engines because the AI agent went through their website, saw their art and now it's smart and builds whatever it is. So they're getting nothing of that. So I can see a photo that you painted and just ask, put it inside the eye and say, tweak it a little bit, it's no more yours, I get it in quality, I can print it and instead of paying you $1000 they pay $100 to just print it out or whatever it is on a canvas and they're suing it. 

Same goes to chatGPT or… what will happen? So I'm sure there's lots on the way or already in place because chatGPT is giving answers. It doesn't, think about it, it's not like you say, artificial intelligence, it's not guessing the answer, it's reading the answer like a person, right? But a super smart person, in many places, then it gives you an answer, an educated answer based on everything, that's okay. But that's… you read it on my place, and your website, and your website and, and so eventually I think it will have an issue to be implemented and, and I think I know Google says, oh, it's the biggest threat to our industry or to them as a search engine, and in some ways it is, but I don't think it will be that fast. There's still a big process to go through many hoops until it will be in a more orderly way, and the way to overcome these issues will be having an email list going back to the email marketing. 

So if you have a website, let's say again, let's go to the vintage cars, have people opt-in to your list. Why? Because if tomorrow there's something that you don't get traffic, you know, it's not even related to ChatGPT, it could be because Google decided it doesn't want to send you, or someone is doing a better job than you in SEO and gets on top of you. You still have a list of hundreds of people or thousands of people that are interested in vintage cars and you can keep on building your industry, your list and your community online videos without the word. So always have a few options. Don't just say, oh, I'm doing only one thing because you can be screwed if you can say it in delicate word. So looking in the future, I think the future, no one knows, I think the AI will do some changes. No one really knows yet, but it will take time. Focus on the basics, that always works for everyone. 

Yeah, I fully agree and I haven't even actually thought about, like, the legal implications although it makes sense where, you know, you're getting really nice images and that came from somewhere. And, um, I think I've already read a couple articles about artists saying, you know, you basically are taking my work and that's, that's a variation of it. So it becomes IP theft at some point. Um, so the last question I've got, I know on linkedin you've got, you know, some of the things that you list that you focus on or have interest in is conversion rate optimization. So I've got my next question and I kind of want to see if, um, how you tie conversion rate optimization into it, which is, what is your take on business intelligence and affiliate marketing and how important do you think this is? Or maybe there are not enough affiliates or operators that are paying attention to BI? 

I think there's so many things on the table today online that people are more focused on the day to day and not about BI and… Although, I always say, look at what other people do, it doesn't mean that they are doing it well, it doesn't mean that that's what you should do. But sometimes it's like, when we started, like I said, we started the newsletter, I know email marketing very well, but I looked at other models, I found one that I know that works really well. And I said, let's mimic in different niche, but let's mimic the same concept. So obviously you should look at that. Does it affect your conversion optimization, conversion rate, conversion rate of conversion optimization, internal process? I don't see it as an external one. Um, because it's so many, there's so many factors from the type of traffic you get, the geo you get, so many things you cannot really know how others are doing. 

And if someone says, oh my pages converting 30%, you know what? And not everything that everyone says is, let's say, 100% accurate, okay? I'll be very delicate. So, you know, you can always learn, talk to people. I always love to talk to people and I share a lot and I collect many things from every person I take a few things and then I put it all together to my own. What I like, what I found, and that's the way I do it. I think people should do it, companies should, companies, affiliate programs, whatever, look at what others do, definitely learn from others. If you see many people doing smart things, probably there is some truth to that. But not necessarily, you need to test it. The fact that it works for one person doesn't mean that it works for you and same goes, like I said, to conversion, just try and test it. You never know what it is. 

But I always say, try to keep the details, like capture the person before you send it to a different affiliate program because that's the way for you to keep on making more money and money again and again. So let's go for gaming, whatever website. So you bring someone, and you give a review on a game, and then he clicks, he goes to the game and that's it. He will never ever, ever probably come back to you unless something happens online and the chances are very low. So you should, before he leaves, first of all, give him enough value so he will remember you. But I would ask for his email because that's a great way to actually get him back and then, and get another chance to send him to another program or to another game or buy it something from you or from others. It doesn't really matter. Keep on the communication, the engagement between you and the audience, that's a great way to get higher conversions from the same traffic. 

Very true. And I think collecting emails is something that we should probably pay more attention to where like you said, if you can lose your rankings overnight or you build your whole channel on YouTube and YouTube decides to take it down, it's kind of like, what are you left with that is your own ownership? 

Absolutely. And when we collect, we didn't mean to collect, find it online is let them opt in, collected just the now we use. But eventually you need to put an opt-in box. It could be in a pop, it could be in the corner. It doesn't matter where it is on the website and ask people to opt into your list. That's what we mean legally for collecting. 

Of course, yeah. And I like the other point you mentioned where it's kind of like um you know, affiliates if they, you can focus on, you know, the business intelligence and conversion rate optimization, but there's some people that if you're just more focused than being in the present, creating content, I know lots of people that, and I'm sure you know tons as well, and probably you see this on your side, people having success without actually looking at any data. They're just like, hey, this is working um you know, if you're great at business intelligence and using that as your leverage to get stronger, you know, good for you. I see a lot of affiliates doing that, but I also have met a lot of affiliates that say we don't have time to do that. I'm sure we can actually gain more value out of it. But they're so in the present focusing on what they do, it's kind of like, you know, like when you've got your own newsletter, it's a, you just keep, keep working and doing what you like. 

Absolutely. And you keep on learning. And for me, the fact that we're building, we're now building about 2 to 300 new websites per month, were actually able to collect more and more data and we learn from the data and we learn and we learn and we adjust and then we fix back and we keep on going. So it's always about learning. 

So if you do. and someone will say okay, but I'm not building hundreds of websites, that's okay, but go back, you're building a blog, you put posts or you send emails, look at the results of the emails. So if you send them every day or every week, look at what happens, what happens when it's short, when it's long, what happens on different things and just keep on learning, you'll find a way. That's the best way to find what works for you and what doesn't work for you, what works for your audience. 

And, by the way, it's a completely different story about email marketing. Do you send it daily? Not daily? That's maybe a different chapter. But I'm just saying, everything, it's not complicated. Just test it as you go and you'll find the solution. It doesn't mean that if someone does it daily, you should do it daily if it doesn't fit for you. But I think more people should pay attention to that. Like that's the easiest example of conversion optimization. That's something that we can all do and we all should pay attention to.

Well, Itay, thank you very much for joining us. I'm going to give it back to you to say how can people find you and tell us about your events and your newsletter. 

First of all, thank you very much for having me again. You can find me either, first of all, my DMIExpo, www.dmiexpo.com or MorningDough, which is one word, D O U G H, not bread dough, well, it's the same word but it's the dough money, themorningdough.com or type itaypaz.net, which is I T A Y P A Z dot net. You can find me in all the contact details. Feel free if I can help you with anything to reach out. 

Awesome. Thank you so much. Thank you very much.