One of the oldest affiliate programs in the industry, Intertops celebrates twenty years in operation this year. At the London Affiliate Conference earlier this year, they presented one of their first affiliates to deliver the story of how he had started working in this program and as an affiliate all those years ago. As the industry matures and we move rapidly forward, we thought you might like to take a moment to read an excerpt of his speech and share a look back at how and where it all began….
“I founded my internet company in 1995 with a search engine called ‘Suchknecht‘ at its heart. Back then I didn’t have any idea how I was supposed to earn money with it, but – whatever – not everyone has their own search engine.
I started getting a foot in the door using premium rate numbers with mobile phone logos… And earned around 50 Euros in the first month 😉
Gradually I found my place in the local online-scene, where people who were looking to make money on the Internet got together…
Butchers, barbers, unemployed people, postmen like me…
That was me… I worked from 6 to 10 delivering letter and then came home and played around on my 486…
At some point I delivered a letter to a certain address, the founder of Intertops
And he needed to sign for it.
For some reason I wasn’t having a very good day… I had probably just split up with my girlfriend, or my bank account was overdrawn or some bullshit like that.
Okay – So I rang the door-bell and a stressed-looking secretary came to the door with a ‘give-me-that-and-then-get-lost‘ look on her face.
Okay, my dear. That’s not the way it’s going to be…not today… I need to see this guy.
In person… at 8.30 in the morning.
After a lot of to and fro, she went and fetched the founder from his… well from his private quarters and he signed on the dotted line. Strangely enough he was in a good mood and we got chatting about this Internet thing. After what seemed like an hour or so, I told him that I had my own search engine and we agreed to see each other again.
Wow – I had an appointment!
Okay… it was time to take that big next step.
The founder and I think Helmut was present too, kept on talking about affiliates and nice amounts of money… I didn’t really know what they were going on about, but I just said ‘yes’ to everything.
So, I got home, looked up ‘affiliate‘ on altavista, understood what it meant and got started.
I was there at last – it was happening…. nothing – nada – niente.
I had always been really into programming and so I started thinking about how I could guide visitors to my affiliate link.
There were several creative possibilities… Placing small ads, domain-snapping, printing the affiliate code on dollar notes and much more…
Built the software, for doorway pages and search engines… that might work.
And indeed it did… that was the birth of an SEO business, and in addition an extremely successful affiliate partnership with Intertops.
Cloaking, the forwarding of millions of keywords, became one of my most important pieces of vocabulary – and I can safely say the same for one or two Intertops employees.
The first dollars soon came rolling in.
In time for the 2002 World Cup I persuaded the German search engine Metager to place a football-shaped link under its search field, which then linked to one of my domains associated with my Intertops affiliate link.
Back then Metager had around 250,000 uniques… per day, and a page ranking of 8.
Therefore – we were right near the top of the search engine rankings for ‘World Cup’ and our target: The Intertops affiliate link.
Not long after I started to get much more professional and took time to get to know other sports and major events.
Super Bowl? Wtf… what is Super Bowl, March Madness etc?
I had got to know Helmut better and the poor guy had to patiently answer my naive questions about this stuff…
I think it was in 2002 that I was on page one of the search engine results pages for words like Super Bowl, NFL etc… and that, at the end of January!
The result was that we closed the land-line from Holland to Vienna, where my servers were.
In the meantime I had around 50 servers, 20,000 domains and around 2,000 IP-addresses working for the Intertops Affiliate Program alone.
But hang on a minute – there‘s a casino as well.
The Austrian law states that advertising for online-casinos is not allowed…
So I gave Helmut a ring, found a solution and moved my servers overseas.
The problem was that there was customs duty of around 2000 USD for a new server.
So what did I do? I made the server look old by getting it dusty, a few stickers here and there, a few scratches… and so avoided paying customs duty.
So I started moving into the casino and poker businesses.
By now we had around 2 million doorway pages listed in Google and co. and that brought a hell of a lot of traffic.
My motto was, if Google deleted a domain out of its index, then I would add three more – and each domain full with around 5,000 to 100,000 doorway pages.
Of course I was present in loads of DMOZ Editor categories that had something to do with sport and gambling which led to a huge increase in traffic to my link.
As we all know, SEO with doorway pages was a model that couldn’t last and so things quietened down on the affiliate front after a few years.
But thanks to the pay-per-lifetime system I can still enjoy one or two nice evenings out with my wife. But all in all I can safely say that none of the around 350 affiliate models that I have been involved in can live up to Intertops. I have never enjoyed a partnership with such flexibility, such a professional environment and, of course, competent employees.
Thanks a lot, Intertops! “