Affiliate marketing is simply a way to earn money from another company or individual by promoting their products or services online. You earn a reward for sending a new customer to a company.
Making money while you sleep is the dream for most digital marketers. When done properly, affiliate marketing lets you generate the holy grail of financial independence: passive income. Affiliate marketing is considered passive because you can theoretically earn money just by adding an affiliate link to your site. Readers can click links 24/7 without your input.
That said, you won’t earn anything if you can’t attract readers to your site. This enterprise requires some effort.
Affiliate marketing is popular among digital marketers since it’s a straightforward way to earn some additional income without having to shell out any money in advance. Even so, anyone hoping to earn a full-time living this way has to be prepared to put in the work. It requires a concerted effort in pushing products and services through all possible online mediums.
As an affiliate marketer, you’ll spend a lot of time building relationships, creating promotional content, and pushing your brand. It’s more than blogging, vlogging, and reviewing products. It’s more than building a search-optimized site. It’s more than trendspotting and finding your niche.
In order to be successful at affiliate marketing, you need to promote yourself and do it well.
If the plan is to be a full-time affiliate marketer, you’ll need to attract site visitors and email subscribers. We’re talking in the thousands. To build this kind of volume takes dedication, upkeep, and (most importantly) a bit of reflection.
By investing your time in a good affiliate marketing course and by using the right affiliate marketing strategies, you’ll gradually accumulate streams of passive income. Fortunately, everything you need to know about getting started with affiliate marketing is included in this guide. Intrigued about the world of affiliate marketing? Read on!
The affiliate marketing process works as follows:
So we know affiliate marketing typically involves three parties: the merchant, the publisher (the affiliate marketer), and the customer. Each time a sale is made, the merchant and the publisher each receive a share of revenue according to their contribution. Let’s take a look at their roles in a bit more detail.
That’s the basic premise behind affiliate marketing. A merchant and publisher have a mutual agreement to divide commission from any sales or traffic amounted from the publishers marketing efforts. People new to affiliate marketing often ask the same types of questions, so before we move on to how to get started running your own affiliate marketing business, let’s get them out of the way.
There isn’t one! As long as you work with a reputable affiliate program and both parties abide by their terms and conditions, there’s little reason to hesitate.
The neat thing about affiliate marketing is that it’s beneficial for all the involved parties. Advertisers, publishers, and customers alike get something from this type of relationship. Think about it: if you provide a service or have a product, affiliate marketing is a convenient way to sell more with a smaller outlay than traditional advertising. Publishers have a way to earn money without stocking a product, and customers can find what they’re looking for while supporting sites they find helpful.
The following five steps are all it takes to become an affiliate marketer.
Your niche is one of the biggest determining factors of your success in generating money. As a starting point, where possible, write about something that interests you. If you enjoy hiking, for example, go with that. You could start off looking at REI for products and Zappos for outdoor footwear for inspiration. Similarly, If electronics is your thing, check out wirecutter.com and rtings.com for inspiration, what are they doing well, and what can be improved upon.
Finding a focal topic isn’t enough. The chances are, it’s been covered to death. The broader the subject, the harder it is to compete. The emphasis here is on finding your niche within broader subjects. A niche can help you shine in any form of content marketing. For example, running enthusiasts might hone in on trail-running shoes specifically like the Running Shoes Guru. This site includes hundreds of running shoe reviews, and ‘best of’ pages movie fans might specialize in classic movie re-releases. Likewise, electronics hobbyists could promote something as specific as Electronic Drum Kit Reviews.
In a perfect world, it makes sense to go with what you know. Of course, this tactic is not always possible. If you decide to go rogue and choose something unfamiliar, do your research. People landing on your content pages are often looking for advice. They want an expert in the field to guide them.
By now, we get the linking people to products concept. But how does that work exactly? First, you need to find something to promote, that’s where affiliate programs and affiliate networks come in.
Products and services linked to affiliate commission can be found at the source, via the merchant themselves, or through a larger network holding multiple affiliate programs. Although some companies run in-house affiliate programs, it’s most common to employ an affiliate network to run programs on their behalf.
It’s easy to get carried away at the beginning and promote too many different things on the same site. As a beginner, it’s best to stick to a single topic for your website. It’s less complicated, and it allows you to set yourself up as a knowledge base for that niche. Additionally, it’s much less confusing from a visitor’s point of view if a site about headphones doesn’t also cover kitchen appliances.
Affiliate marketplaces like the ones mentioned are the best hunting ground for your product research. Browse your niche and see what the top-performing affiliate programs. Additionally, check out blog posts and articles in your niche. Find out what products they are promoting and the methods they are using.
One last word of advice on products; don’t recommend something you don’t believe in just to get a click. Find something that you are happy to promote and that your target audience will benefit from. That’s not to say that you should be using each product you recommend. You should just trust that the product is worth your visitors’ hard-earned cash. It won’t serve you well to willingly recommend anything that may affect your reputation among your site visitors. If a product doesn’t rate well, it’s advantageous all-round to offer alternatives.
Browsing between products, you’ll notice a steep difference in the amount of commission offered from one to the next. Often, you’ll find there is a trade-off between the quality of a product and the commission paid. Naturally, it’s tempting to gravitate toward the products that pay the most per sales (conversion). But, realistically, if those products are unlikely to convert, they might not be the best fit.
Let’s consider two products, first off, let’s discuss what matters: the commission:
Product A has got your attention, right? Before getting tempted by high paying products, think about the likelihood of conversion. Your ability to sell this product will dictate your overall commission. Suppose the conversion rates look like this:
For each affiliate click you send to Product A, you can expect $2.00 in revenue. For each sent to Product B, you can expect $2.25 in affiliate revenue. The moral of the story - Don’t get blinded by commissions. One of the most important parts of the affiliate business is finding relevant, quality products to promote.
It’s natural to wonder whether the end consumer is at a disadvantage when buying products through an affiliate recommendation. Since the cost of the affiliate network is included in the recommended retail price, the customer won’t pay more by following an affiliate marketing link and making a purchase that way.
At this stage, you’ll likely be wondering how you generate money. There are different types of affiliate marketing compensation. It depends on how the company or affiliate program chooses to compensate you the publisher for your work generating traffic and sales. Most of the time, you can expect a share of the revenue, meaning that you get an agreed percentage of the sales you help generate. There are alternative arrangements.
Cost-per-click (CPC) is reserved for traffic generation. A publisher can use CPC marketing to send traffic to a website via a search engine or maybe even social media. When you see a “sponsored” ad on a search engine like Yahoo, Bing, or Google, that’s CPC marketing in action.
Cost-per-action (CPA) works a little differently. A publisher is paid for each action taken instead of a percentage of sales. CPA is used most often if there’s no actual product or stock to sell. When you place a CPA form on your website, you’re promoting a particular product from the vendor. You get paid for completing an action that could be as simple as getting a user to fill up a form or take any other desired action. Payments are usually based on lead generation to get some free product or information such as:
There are many other actions that you get paid for, even if the product is not sold. With the CPA model, the merchant is taking the advertising risk since their commission is dependent on achieving a good conversion rate from the affiliates’ creative content and website. As the website owner, it’s your job to make the website and the offer look attractive enough for the visitor to submit their information. Once they do, the merchant will pay you the agreed-upon amount of money for the lead.
Whereas in affiliate marketing, you get paid when somebody makes a purchase. Cost per action is seen as easier than typical affiliate marketing because with CPA you get paid just for sending a lead. Once the traffic you send converts into a lead, your job is done. It’s then the job of the merchant to convert it into a sale.
Moneysupermarket.com is a good example of successful CPA. This is a big brand financial site that focuses on a UK audience. They get a fat commission for every credit card lead they send to Visa and the other big credit card companies. To learn more about how to incorporate CPA advertising into your affiliate website, read this practical guide from the Modern Entrepreneur.
All leads generated by affiliates need to be accurately accounted for so that all sides are up to date on any sales and commission due. Tracking links provide a real-time and automated process to log leads. Reliable tracking allows advertisers an overview of how successfully their affiliate campaigns are performing, in real-time. The most typical types of tracking link are postback URL and cookie tracking. Deciding which one to use for your affiliate website will depend on your technical know-how and the nature of your affiliate program.
An affiliate uses a tracking link to promote products and offers. Tracking links via cookies include a unique affiliate ID. When someone browsing the affiliate’s site and clicks on this special link, your affiliate ID is stored on their browser within a text file. The text file is called a cookie. The cookie remains in the visitor’s browser for a month or so, or until the cookie is cleared from the browser manually. The reason for tracking with cookies is that if the customer comes back a few days later and completes a sale or any suggested action, the lead is still attributed to the affiliate, via the original affiliate ID.
The next option is called Postback URL tracking, or callback tracking as it’s also referred to. This method uses a server to server approach. It’s the most accurate way to track sales and leads, however, it’s more complicated than depending on cookies. It will require some extra technical skills to set it up. With this type of tracking, information is stored on the merchant’s server, and this means that no code needs to be placed on the advertiser’s website. If you are running multiple affiliate sites, postback tracking is recommended.
High-ticket affiliate marketing means that instead of earning small pocket-change sized commissions, you can earn big commissions. We're talking about a range of roughly $1000 and up to $10,000. Of course, the products are more expensive. For you to get a commission of $1,000, then the product must be priced much higher. High-ticket affiliate marketing sounds great, but it would be much harder to sell a product that costs $2500, than a product that costs $100. No doubt about it! If you’re interested in selling high-value items like yachts and Rolex’s, high ticket marketing is the best option for you.
Although it’s not necessary to have a website or blog for affiliate promotion, it’s a great promotional tool. Instead of employing hit-and-run affiliate marketing that costs, such as PPC, email marketing, or advertising that comes with various price levels, you can use your website for hard and soft promotion at zero cost outside of your time.
We suggest getting started with a platform like WordPress to create a website for free which can start to make you money. WordPress is completely free, can be set up in minutes, and is extremely easy to use.
Content is key to making money in affiliate marketing. Generating regular content around your chosen topic gives you the best chance of generating sales. The more product reviews, excerpts of visitor feedback, and other pieces of useful information you can publish on your blog or website, the greater the chance you have of attracting visitors.
We spoke about doing your research into your chosen niche. This is invaluable. We can’t overestimate how invaluable this will be. The real secret to making a name for your new brand is pumping out as much helpful information into that marketplace as possible. Internet shoppers are often looking for helpful advice to guide their purchases, and chances are, they’ve already scratched the surface, you need to finalize that decision.
Even if you are brand new to your product niche, learn as much helpful information as possible, and share that with your own flair. There are many successful affiliate sites you might not have noticed were profiting from offering real-world value, such as MoneySavingExpert for example.
The audience comes back for more because the best content like this offers real-world, practical advice. Check out the site Moneysupermarket, usually you’ll notice there are no advertisements. All revenue is generated from affiliate links. Considering that these links are performance-based, this is a testament to the fact that this model works. These links are generating conversions.
Apart from selecting the right product to be an affiliate of, as a marketer you need to have the right set of words while promoting your product. Don’t confuse your content with creating a sales pitch. It’s transparent to internet readers. Following this style, things don’t work out well.
There are multiple ways to go about content creation, from product reviews and how-to posts. Another way to organically reach the right audience is to create an engaging blog that addresses news, updates, and fixes about the industry where your product fits. Customers looking for industry-specific news are more likely to stumble upon your website and hence catch a look at your products as well.
Since the aim is to make some money, we’re going to focus on free traffic generation for now. Until you have some cash to play with, content is your king. Once you find your feet, and start making money, you can think about spending money on things such as Pay Per Click advertising, which we’ll come to later in this article.
Webmaster Webmasters are affiliates who run a website and publish content such as information, news, reviews, how-tos, or some other area of interest.
When deciding on which medium to use to promote your affiliate, harness your strengths! For example, if you’re not comfortable being on camera, then don’t rely on Youtube as your primary method of promotion. If you have a way with words, then find a written form of communication that suits you. Think about starting a blog or finding forums to contribute to.
Understand your marketing tactics to know what type of affiliate links to use depending on your medium and who you want to reach.
Medium Target audience Website content Website visitors Social media Social followers Email Email list subscribers
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We mentioned that making a successful living from affiliate marketing takes work. Regardless of the niche you’ve gone with, you’ll find that the most successful affiliates build a brand. Building a brand means people will trust you. They see you as an authority in your niche and as the "go-to" person for information on a given topic. To be that person you need to start publishing some interesting and useful content that helps your readers make smart purchasing decisions while helping you make money from your marketing efforts. Let’s explore the most successful strategies for creating affiliate marketing content.
Affiliate marketers can use how-to guides to offer simple and clear instructions showing readers how products work and how to perform specific tasks. These are often used by digital marketers because they provide clear value to their readers, and elevate you in their minds as an authority on your chosen niche. What’s more, these are often long-form in nature - going into detail to cover complex topics can improve your page rank in search engine results pages (SERPS).
You could take a couple of different approaches when it comes to using how-to articles for affiliate marketing. One method is writing articles that describe how to get the most out of a product or make use of certain features. Or, you could use more general how-to articles to point readers toward affiliate products.
A good example of this is Penny Hoarder’s article How to Build a Home Gym for $100. Given the name of their site, their audience is frugal. They have answered the question of how they can stay in shape while saving the cost of a gym membership. This niche topic also gives plenty of opportunities to link out to product ages of relevant items readers interested in losing weight can buy.
Now it’s time to develop some instructionals for your products, here are some tips on what should feature in your how-to guide.
How to structure your guide
Reviewing products is a classic affiliate marketing technique. Simply write your opinion on a product or service based on your personal experience. Since you’re already going to be spending a lot of your time promoting products, reviews are a natural addition to affiliate marketing websites. Again, when well researched, they offer value to your readers who are at the stage of choosing between similar products, while offering the opportunity to include tracking links to the products in a more natural setting. A particularly good example of affiliate review work is NerdWallet. Delivering practical advice on products and services in the financial industry. The difference between a good and a not so good review affiliate is respectability: those which deliver high-quality content
Given the popularity of product reviews, you need to differentiate yourself from your competitors to stand out. If that means writing in more detail, including a better rating system, whatever it takes. When you begin creating your own product reviews, keep the following in mind:
Affiliate marketing is all about answering the question your target customers are most likely to have when they are deciding which products to buy. Think about your last online purchase. Unless you knew exactly which item you wanted, you likely tried to figure out the difference between similar (competing) products to determine the best product for you. This type of search query ‘vs’ can be answered with a product comparison article. The objective here isn’t to push for a sale, just like reviews, your focus is on providing every detail your visitors could possibly want, and anything your competitors have left out.
The most popular examples of comparison shopping include Shopzilla, who have a well designed front page featuring popular searches, hottest sellers, new products, and a handy search filter by brand, price, and cost of shipping. PriceGrabber also offers a range of products including how-to videos, deals of the day, and seasonal gift guides.
Price comparison sites like Junglee, CompareRaja, PriceDekho offer solutions to the sheer amount of shopping options and choice we have online. They show consumers the best deals from different product sellers. One of our favorite examples of product comparison content comes via CarsDirect, who zoned in on comparing car prices.
Comparison sites should write in a way that’s more educational than salesy. People would rather not feel persuaded which is why this writer has made it clear they are recommending the product. This information included will be valuable to anyone trying to decide between competing products and they won’t have to go elsewhere for any additional information. As such, this type of page builds trust in the quality and intent behind the content. Readers are more likely to click on links in these types of pages, and with a bit of luck, make a purchase, better still they may depend on this publisher for product comparisons in the future. With regards to layout, this comparison post on Aweber, MailChimp, and GetResponse handle it well. Readers can clearly see the different email services and easily understand how they compare.
Best-of pages are simply summary posts. These summaries can be collections of all the most successful articles published from the blog, at the blogs anniversary, etc. You can also help readers understand what is out there. They can redirect your present traffic back to forgotten articles, and they create a lot of SEO value for your site.
These posts may also bring back tips and tricks that might not be relevant to some of the readers at that time but is truly useful right now. Every industry has related tools and services that can help their readers. Creating the best tools or services post will guide them on where their money is best spent.
Video tutorials are similar to how-to guides, however, they add more value to the learning process as they have a more interactive approach. Additionally, video guides are popular and can help your blog reach a larger audience. Text is an obvious format, however, people generally prefer consuming content in video form rather than reading an entire article. Can you afford to not take part and miss out on this audience? If you’re a natural in front of the camera, then consider informational videos to talk about your chosen products.
Videos can be particularly useful if the affiliate products you are promoting are complicated to use. That could be a complicated game or a piece of software with new features to get to grips with. You’ll find that many products would benefit from a tutorial that offers visitors a visual walkthrough of how it looks or how to perform a certain action. These are far more helpful for some people than trying to understand the same information in words.
Consider something such as software usage. A video that demonstrates where to click on their screen is extremely helpful. Similarly, workout equipment complemented by a video showing how to use it properly will help those watching use it safely. For some inspiration on how a good video tutorial can play out, check out Envato Tuts short videos showing their readers how to navigate multiple tasks in Microsoft PowerPoint.
To get started with making videos, you need a camera and a microphone, then you must decide on a platform to broadcast on; YouTube for example. To make the best videos possible follow these three tips to get you off to a good start:
You might create a video explaining how to use a product and embed this within content detailing its specs. Or, your video might explain the benefits of a product you are helping to promote. You could embed this video in a post that provides similar information, then visitors have the best of both worlds.
If you’ve not done it before, creating videos can be daunting. Given the number of platforms offering straightforward video functionality, even the most technologically-challenged can create video guides and get them posted without a problem.
An email newsletter is a piece of content sent every day, week, or month to your subscribers. You need a decent amount of well-targeted readers to make the most out of email marketing. We’ll cover how to go about that later in the article, but first. Let’s look at how to go about promoting products via email.
Browsing the web, you’ll have noticed various calls to action to sign up for a brand’s newsletter. Digital marketers have long encouraged their readers to subscribe to their lists. Email lists let you contact previous site visitors, outside of them being on your website. This is what makes them so effective, they expand your reach. The flexible structure of emails allows plenty of room to get creative.
Keep these tips in mind when it comes to your email list:
Unless you’ve written a long-form guide or eBook substantially more than 4,000 words, you might not be familiar with the benefits and simply think it’s a ton of work. If you have, then no doubt you’ve decided whether this style of content is worth the effort. There are loads of reasons to write more. Ultimately, a written longer copy will get you more of what you want: visibility (links and social shares), further proof of your industry expertise, and more material for altruistic engagement and community building with your target audience.
Still not convinced? Image for a moment that you are the one consuming the content, not marketing it. Let’s say for instance you are about to launch your own business. You’re concerned about breaking even, making your mortgage payments, and so on. A quick online search and hey presto, you find the definitive guide to starting a business, and it helps you.
You trust the people who write this helpful advice, and as such, when it comes to getting something for your business, such as website hosting, or a project management tool, for example, you know where to go. That’s the point. Also, you get SEO points for this type of content: long-form content ranks better, with a preference for more keywords offering an opportunity for greater visibility in search engines. As you can imagine, there are hundreds of thousands of results for all search terms; it is the depth of the content that allows this guide to rank high.
Now we’re back to being a marketer, let’s focus on how you are going to do it. While there is more to discover about getting content off the ground. For a step in the right direction, here are some steps to follow:
Follow these five tips, and your long-form content will be in good shape. Next up, we need to make this hard work worth your while by creating a promotional strategy, which we’ll come to later in the article.
One of the best things you can do as an online marketer is to build an email list of subscribers. Leverage is the name of the game. By building an email list of subscribers of your specific niche, they have already expressed an interest in what you have to offer by signing up. Use this as targeted leverage for your business.
Social media is one of the busiest sectors of the internet these days, and its popularity isn’t ceasing. As an affiliate marketer, you must be active on social media to reach a wider audience to promote yourself and your websites/blogs.
Popular social media websites from Facebook to Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn are the best platforms to promote products as an affiliate. Browse for groups that relate to your products’ interest group. These types of interest groups serve as an extremely effective way to increase a product’s reach in terms of organic audience.
Think about the number of people querying search engines daily. Can you afford to miss out of this traffic? A popular method of promoting affiliate products is search engine optimization (SEO). SEO is all about a website’s visibility in search engines. SEO focuses on unpaid so-called natural or organic search results. Any attempt at SEO won’t bring immediate results, but in the long run, it can be extremely rewarding.
At this stage, your affiliate website is up and running. It’s now time to observe what’s working and what needs work on. This involves testing and adjusting your campaigns through the following methods:
So far, we’ve covered real ways to make money with affiliate marketing. Take any of the examples above, and you’ll have a fair chance of making some money. Now we’re going to look into how to take your website to the next level. Now you’re at the stage of earning revenue, try out these paid tactics to skyrocket your commissions:
Price per click (PPC) is a popular way of promoting affiliate products. Bid on relevant keywords related to each product you are trying to market and your adverts will show when someone searches for these terms in a search engine. For example, if someone searches for a certain type of bestselling books such as Harry Potter and Amazon are bidding on a related keyword such as JK Rowling book, Harry Potter book, Amazon’s paid-for advertisements might show up in their results.
Most search engines follow the PPC advertising model. Google is the leading search engine, acquiring the largest volume of search shares, Yahoo, Bing, Ask, and AOL. There are numerous keyword research tools to help you find relevant keywords for your campaign including Google’s Keyword Planner, a free tool that comes with each Google Adwords account.
Keyword planner gives a good impression about search volume for each keyword on Google’s search engine including the number of clicks it receives plus its average cost per click. Bing Keyword Tool which is very similar to Google’s tool but all keywords here are related to Bing. Long Tail Pro is one of the best-paid keyword research tools available. It’s useful for finding high volume keywords.
People new to affiliate marketing often mistake PPC for just writing an advertisement with your target keywords thrown in and leaving it at that. Indeed that’s part of it, but that alone won’t get you many sales. To justify paying for PPC, you need to familiarise yourself with how AdWords and Analytics work. A big part of PPC is tracking everything to be sure of what keywords are generating conversions, thus worth bidding on, and which aren’t.
To track your analytics, first you need to make sure that conversion tracking is in place. Conversion tracking is available through all major PPC search engines, utilizing conversions tracking services from Google, Bing and all the other large search engines will let you manage your accounts easily because they offer immediate access to conversions stats.
Social media marketers often say that sponsored social messages (the ones you pay for) are more effective than many of the other marketing tactics. Paid social ads increase your reach, and since social media platforms have a lot of information about their users’ demographics and behavior, these can be leveraged to target your desired audience. If you want to put your money where your mouth is, your best bet is through the following platforms.
For tips on how to make the most out of social media advertising, head to Hubspot’s eBook guide to social media advertising. This free ebook walks you through how to make successful affiliate marketing campaigns from the main platforms so you can reach a wider audience than you were able to reach before.
Hopefully, by now you feel you’ve learned the basics and know what it takes to get started with affiliate marketing. Some of these programs might seem too good to be true but don’t forget: affiliate marketing takes work to see positive results.
As this has been an exhaustive article so let’s have a quick recap on what you’ve learned about how to make an affiliate marketing website. We’ve discussed the three main players involved in the affiliate marketing process.
We tackled how to make money with affiliate marketing given these proven effective affiliate strategies. Plus, the secrets to going full time. Affiliate marketing is a good way to get started with online marketing. The only question remaining is, which style will you pick to launch your new venture.
From content creation to SEO, here’s everything you need find customers and keep them.