Cashing in on Google Hot Trends

I read this e-book recently called Project Quick Cash. The basic premise was why bother with all this “build your marketing empire” nonsense when you can reliably make a few hundred bucks from 10 minutes of work? Well, he’s got a decent point I guess; it is at least worth considering.

So one of the methods talked about is a way of capitalizing on a tool called Google Hot Trends. The purpose of this tool is to flag any terms that are skyrocketing above their average search volume. For instance, if national TV suddenly runs another expose on Britney Spears, even though her name is normally searched quite a lot on Google, the sudden increase in traffic due to greater interest at that moment causes Google to register a spike in traffic and call it a hot trend. This list contains the top 100 and is updated hourly.

So as marketers how can we capitalize on this laser targeted interest? Well in theory it should be easy: find a product that people consider relevant to the hot trend and put it in front of them! This can be accomplished in a couple of ways. The most obvious is to find an affiliate program selling exactly the thing people are searching for. For example, often times the hot trends include specific models of a product. I’ll open Hot Trends and see what is up right now to illustrate (click on the graphic to see it fullsize):

Google Hot Trends March 24th, 2008

The above pic is a screen capture from today, and several items are immediately obvious as specific products. Checkout #19 and #27. These are two keyword versions of the same product, a Kodak v1003 digital camera. So now that you know there are lots of people looking for this particular item right now. The trick is, you’re not sure why people are looking for this item – perhaps it was just featured a “Worst 10 Products of All Time list!” Then again, more likely it was featured as a great product on some review program. If possible, it helps to figure out why it is hot before you promote it, but use your judgement.

So now you have a product idea; now you need to find a site selling it that has an affiliate program. Amazon and Ebay are two obvious choices, though there are many others. Try searching for your keyword and “affiliate program.” Another good idea is to search for exactly the terms shown, find the top site or two and see if they have an affiliate program. Sign up, and setup a Google Adwords campaign using the keywords provided by Google and turn it loose!

A word to the wise: pay as little as possible for your keywords! Using this strategy you WILL get hundreds of clicks in pretty short order; you need to make sure you aren’t paying through the nose for a lot of lookey-loo traffic.

My Experience

So I’ve tried this tactic myself a couple times so far, because the principle of it really clicked with me. It’s like selling umbrellas when it’s raining, and sun lotion when it’s hot, which just makes good business sense.

I noticed that a weight loss book was featured on Hot Trends one day, so I got an affiliate link setup through Amazon and setup a Google campaign. My results:

Clicks: 675             Cost: $80.29             CPC: $0.12
Total Amazon Sales: $351.56                Amazon Commission: $20.67
Net Profit/Loss: ($20.67-$80.29-) = -$59.62

On a different occasion I found a Panasonic digital camera trend, and again used Amazon:

Clicks: 196             Cost: $23.69             CPC: $0.12
Total Amazon Sales: $32.14                  Amazon Commission: $1.29
Net Profit/Loss: ($1.29-$23.69) = -$22.40

As you can see, I kind of missed the profit boat on these experiments, losing nearly $80 altogether.

“An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes \
that can be made in a very narrow field.”
-Neils Bohr

Experience rarely comes free: I’ll chalk this up as part of my tuition. Another quote:

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over
and expecting different results”
– Albert Einstein

Burning $80 just to pass time does no good unless you can learn something from the experience. Here are a few lessons I learned:

Lesson 1: Don’t Pay Whatever The Heck Google Wants You To Pay

Google is now infamous for the “Google Slap” part of which means they can just arbitrarily make your minimum bid whatever they want to. Some keywords are okay at 5 cents, and others Google mandates you need to spend 25 cents, or even several dollars. Presumably, this all relates to their epic quest for relevancy; however often it is hard in practice to see how. Anyways, on the weight loss experiment, I was a cocky little newbie and bid way higher than I should have. I actually accepted some of Google’s minimums (20-35 cents) because I wanted active keywords (the alternative is your keywords don’t run). This led to a much higher campaign cost than I should have had. One thing I noticed though: I had incredibly high click through rates (in excess of 20-30%) and as I checked back in every few hours, Google would let me slide my bids downwards a bit because they recognized the high relevancy. Over time I cut out the high-cost keywords, and my overall CPC came down a bit.

On the camera experiment, I didn’t cave to Google unless their minimum was only a few cents higher than I was willing to pay (I was aiming for 10 cents or less; they offered 12-15 cents for some keywords). However, I still ended up with a 12 cent CPC overall.

I suggest aiming for 5 cent keywords and little else, unless you know you have a real winner of a sales page/product combo.

Lesson 2: Amazon’s Commission Structure Sucks for PPC

When you are making in the 4% range, it is difficult to make pay per click work with Amazon. The interesting thing was that I only sold a half dozen weight loss books and all the rest of the revenue came from items like Brita water filters, camera tripods and DVDs. So I was able to take advantage of additional revenue, because my cookie was on record as the referral. This is a benefit of using Amazon versus a more targeted site; however I suspect a more targeted site would perform FAR better on the promoted item.

I suggest finding a more direct affiliate program where you’re actually able to make a good return on each sale.

Lesson 3: Pick a Good Sales / Landing Page

On the weight loss example, I was too eager to get going because the trend was volcanic hot and it was my first one, and I just KNEW there was money to be made ;). So I looked on Amazon, and they were sold out of the exact book that was listed, except for a couple of used copies, and they didn’t have a real good sales page for it. (Many products they have a good product page, but this one didn’t for some reason). So I linked to the page displaying the Amazon search results for that term. My book was top of the list, but there were a lot of other related items on there too. Mistake. I suspect this caused a number of dropped clicks right there, as people really wanted THAT product, and probably went back to Google to find it.

I suggest picking a good landing page that clearly displays exactly what people are searching for. Make it easy for them to buy! This is PPC 101.

Conclusion: Does it Work?

Although I haven’t made any money on this strategy so far, it makes so much logical sense that I find myself wanting to try it again. I think I’ve learned a few lessons, and I think with tweaking (and the right products) there is good money to be made. One serious advantage of this strategy is the sheer lack of time required to get setup. If you’re familiar with PPC, and have the necessary accounts setup already (Google and a relevant affiliate program) you can have one of these setup in less than 10 minutes.

Project Quick Cash has additional tips to making this strategy successful, but I don’t really have time to get into them here. There are also about five other low-cost strategies to turning a quick buck in the book; perhaps I will experiment with them as well and then share my results here later.

3 Responses to Cashing in on Google Hot Trends
  1. Mike
    March 25, 2008 | 7:15 pm

    I have tried PPC campaigns before and never really had much luck with it. This sounds like an interesting way of doing it. It will be like betting on a horse, you will keep trying until you pick a winner, then hope that you luck holds out!! :)

  2. Jonathan Boettcher
    March 26, 2008 | 6:42 am

    Unfortunately this strategy is geared towards high value, bang and fizzle campaigns. I doubt you’d be able to find a campaign that had value beyond 1-2 days of the hot trend. Still, if it were possible to make a quick $100+ in two days for 10 minutes of work…

  3. dede
    September 25, 2008 | 8:22 am

    Thanks for good information
    i like this