In spite of the skepticism regarding affiliate marketing, you actually could work at home, generate income and become your boss. It doesn’t need to cost you a lot of money, and you don’t need to rip people off on the way.
Affiliate marketing is a process in which you (as an affiliate) earn money from referring sales or buyers to another company (known as merchant).
If an individual, referred by the affiliate, to the merchant website, makes a purchase, then the affiliate gets a commission.
Read the above statement again so it syncs in. The commission is usually a percentage of the product’s selling price.
And how does the merchant come to know that which affiliate has referred the person who purchased?
As an affiliate, you’ll get a unique link (known as an affiliate link) for each product that you’re marketing.
It is this link that you, the affiliate, shares with people to direct them to the merchant website.
When someone clicks your affiliate link and visits the merchant website, then the merchant gets to know it was you who sent this customer.
How Much Money Can You Make?
I am not going to give you any false hopes. Like any real business, the money you make with affiliate marketing depends on how much time and effort you put in and how seriously you work towards learning and taking action.
But if you’re willing to do the work, consider this example. Imagine you’re an affiliate promoting a singing course.
For this course, the merchant is paying over $106 per sale to the affiliate.
If you could make just one sale every day of this course (a really conservative estimate. Many affiliates are making way more than that), you’re looking at making an extra $3360 per month, which is about $40,000 per year.
Affiliate Marketing Inspiration
The best way to learn affiliate marketing is not just to experiment with it yourself, but also be on the lookout for what other affiliates are doing.
For that, you should be able to search for and identify websites launched and operated by affiliates to promote merchant products.
The most obvious place to look is search engines paid ads. And the other is the search results you get when you type a word or phrase related to a niche in Google or Bing.
Let’s search on the phrase “learn guitar” and look at the search results in Google. The first 3 listings at the top and the last 3 at the bottom are usually paid advertisements. To remove any doubt, these are clearly marked as ads.
Some of these ads are being run by affiliates, and others by merchants themselves. However, the most obvious signs that indicate that an ad is placed by an affiliate is any mention of words like reviews, comparison, coupon, scams etc.
Many people would want to read a review before they purchase a product, and obviously no one wants to be cheated on or scammed.
As a result, these are some of the standard hooks used by affiliates to get people to visit and engage with their website. Let’s take a look at what kind of page opens when the ad is clicked on.
At the very top, the affiliate has put up a table of reviews. There are numerous affiliate products along with ratings and a couple highlights. The product names are links to the respective merchant pages.
The brief table at the top is a great way to grab attention and direct people who don’t want to spend a lot of time reading reviews. Here’s another decent example of an affiliate site promoting body building products.
Clicking on a product opens the merchant page. If a visitor is interested in reading the full reviews, links to those are further down the page.
In some cases, you can clearly find out how much the merchant is paying and affiliate is earning per sale. When you visit a merchant website, look for the ‘affiliates’ link either at the top or bottom.
In case of the body building example, a visit to merchant’s affiliate program shows the merchant pays 75% commissions on the sale of the product. So the affiliate is making $53 per sale.
The Most Important Tactic
Here’s why most affiliate marketers fail and others succeed. If you browse around some more affiliate websites, you’ll notice that some also provide reviews of “not recommended” products.
These are negative reviews which explain why it’s not a wise decision to buy that product.
These not recommended product links aren’t affiliate links and the affiliate isn’t making any money from them. So why is the affiliate reviewing these products?
The negative reviews show that the affiliate is actually knowledgeable in the niche and knows what he’s talking about. As a result of this, all his reviews seem more credible and unbiased.
Simply reviewing a whole bunch of “awesome” products seems a little biased and incomplete.
The other benefit is traffic coming from search engines. If someone searches in Google for a product which the affiliate has reviewed negatively, then there’s a high chance Google will index the negative review and show it to the searcher.
And once the searcher reaches and reads the negative review, the affiliate may make him reconsider and direct to positively reviewed alternatives.
In fact, many affiliates anticipate this and place a lot of recommended and highly rated product listings at the bottom of the negative review page.
Moreover, many successful affiliates post not just reviews, but a variety of blog posts on topics related to the niche. These articles boost their presence even more in search engines.
Getting Started As An Affiliate
Now that you have a good perspective on affiliate marketing, it’s time to get started step by step.
There is no one right way to do affiliate marketing. You can either start with a blog, a review site, a comparison or a coupon site.
But there is one general wrong way to do affiliate marketing. That is when the affiliate focuses only on promoting products and not giving enough value.
If you’re actually giving your audience something useful and earning their trust, the selling part will be taken care of by itself. Keep this in mind as you follow the below steps.
Step 1. Pick A Niche & Find Products To Promote
Affiliate marketing doesn’t just start with building a website. It requires self-awareness, market research and careful planning.
You need to think about the topic of your website and find products you’ll promote. The topic you choose should be something that interests you and also has market potential. This is where market research will be crucial.
Affiliate networks are websites which provide tools for affiliates and merchants to find each other, manage the promotion and track performance.
As a result, they are full of affiliate programs listed by merchants in different niches. So you can use these websites to explore what kind of opportunities and products are available.
Let’s take can example of Clickbank.
Create an account and you’ll be able to start filtering through the products available to promote, along with some other statistics.
See if there are any topic ideas that jump out at you. Do a bit of keyword research to analyse demand and find sub-niches. Then you can find products to promote.
For example, let’s say the niche “weight-loss” really captures your interest. May be because you’re really interested in this topic, or because you know that a lot of people buy weight-loss products.
You are going in the right direction, but you need to think a step ahead. There are two issues with this niche
#1. It’s very broad. It won’t be easy to establish your authority as a weight loss expert and win the trust of your audience.
This is because you’re just starting. How will people know that they can trust your recommendations?
#2. It’s a general topic with lot of competition already. There are plenty of affiliates and merchants promoting weight-loss products and who have established a good presence online.
How would you compete with them with your tight budget?
So what you need to do is narrow down your niche one step further. As a topic, health is too broad. You went one step down and thought of “weight-loss” Now narrow this down a bit more.
For example, “weight-loss after pregnancy”
When you narrow down your topic, it becomes to easy to establish your expertise because you have less to learn and your target audience trusts you more because you understand their situation better.
Plus, you cut down on your competition because there’ll be very few other affiliates focusing on the exact same niche. There is a lot more involved in finding a profitable topic.
Niche research and analysis is something that requires to be covered separately and completely in another article.
But until I write that article, keep the above points in mind as you browse affiliate networks for ideas and products to promote.
Click on the link in the top menu called “Marketplace” and you’ll reach ClickBank’s directory of affiliate programs.
Not every affiliate program is part of a network though. You can find more affiliate programs by browsing other websites in your niche and identifying the products they are promoting.
And do they have a link in their top or bottom menu to join their affiliate program.
When in doubt, you can also send an email to the website owner and ask if they are offering commission on the sale of their products.
Step 2. Build An Online Presence
Next up, you need a website, or at least a web page with a lead generation funnel! To set this up, you’ll need to get:
#1. A Web Hosting Package
It’s a storage space for your website on the web. I recommend Siteground, or A2 Hosting.
Stay away from hosts that appear to be well-known but have really poor services. These include Bluehost, HostGator, and GoDaddy. Hosting costs around $3-10 per month depending the package you choose.
#2. A Domain Name
This is the name by which your website will be recognized. You can purchase this from Namecheap, the most reputable domain name registrar. A domain name usually costs around $10 per year.
#3. A CMS & Lead Generation Software
If you want to create a full fledged website without having to code, the best software is WordPress. And the good news is that it’s free.
However, I see many beginners getting overwhelmed with the thought of creating a big websites with abundant content.
For a beginner, all that isn’t required. In fact, you can just create a one-page website. This one page will be a landing page for people to join to email list. Other name for this page is “squeeze” page.
This means that page will be used to collect email addresses of visitors and stay in touch with them via email messages.
The best way to create this kind of page is a WordPress plugin called Thrive Landing Pages. It is the easiest, fastest and the most cost-effective way to build pages to capture leads.
In order to encourage people to subscribe to your newsletter, you offer them an incentive on your squeeze page, like a free book, a podcast, an exclusive video, etc. This incentive is known as a lead magnet.
Tell them all the excellent things they are going to learn. Tell them how it will help them. Build their curiosity with bullet points like…
• Discover the top X things you should never do when XYZ
• The 7 steps to ABC… no XYZ needed!
Add an enticing picture of your incentive: If it’s a book, turn it into a 3-d book image so that it seems more valuable.
You can also say that your bonus “normally sells for $47” (or some other dollar figure) to give it more value. Make people feel like they’re getting something really incredible for free.
#4. An Email Marketing Software
Connect your page to an email service. I recommend Mailerlite.
When someone comes to your page and enters their email address to receive your book/bait, the email software will capture and store their email address.
It will also automatically send them the lead magnet they’ve been promised. Once you have a list of emails, you can use the email service to send emails with valuable tips, offers and promotion of affiliate products (with your affiliate link). When someone buys, you’ll get the commission.
The longer your subscriber stays subscribed to your newsletter list, the more chance that they’ll buy something, and the more valuable they can be.
So find the right balance between giving them enough information to keep them happy, and making sales.
Step 3. Create Relevant, High Quality Content
Fill your website and emails with content that will be useful to the people who are interested in your niche, and place your affiliate links throughout in the most relevant places.
When someone interested in your content clicks your link, they go to a sales page for a product that they might also be interested in. And if they buy you get a commission!
You can either write articles yourself, or outsource the job to someone else. If I weren’t much of a writer, I’d look at a website like Upwork to find the talent I needed to get some quality content going.
Step 4: Promote Your Website
When you’ve set this up, all that’s left to do is promote your website so you can get more people to your content, and more potential for commissions from referred sales.
There are a few things I could do to promote my website in the hopes of attracting more website visitors.
For example, as I was adding content, I’d make sure I was doing at least a little basic search engine optimization (SEO).
That’s a fancy way of saying I’d show search engines that my website is full of relevant information, so that they’d display it in the search results when people enter certain weight loss topics.
On top of SEO, you can promote content on social media, and look into how email marketing or advertising could work for you.
Another good idea is to build a network of guest posts for consistent traffic and backlinks.
However, there is a much faster way to start getting visitors to your page. Approach other websites that already have a big list of subscribers, and pay them to send out an email promoting your website and your lead magnet. This is called a “solo ad”.
Look for websites directly or indirectly related your niche who might be interested in doing this for you. They might not always advertise that they do this.
In fact some of the best ones might not even know what a “solo ad” is.
You’ll be able to tell if a website owner builds and maintains a list because they’ll probably have a sign-up form somewhere on their website.
Look for an email address or a contact form that you can use to send them a message. Contact the website and ask if they do sponsored emails.
Once you’ve got this set up, the solo ad provider sends an email to their list, and some of their subscribers will click through to visit your website and sign up for your lead magnet.
Step 5: Start Getting Commissions
As these subscribers sign up to your list, you can start sending them emails with relevant content and special offers. Eventually, you’ll start seeing commissions.
It may take a while to make back the money you spent on the solo ad in the first place, but since subscribers tend to stay subscribed for a long time, you have many opportunities to make money from them.
The best thing is: Once you have a reasonable sized list, you can start earning big money from product launches and promotions.
There’s always a lot of buzz around new product launches, a lot of special discounts, and a lot of money to be made by affiliates.
You can email out to your list telling them about a new product that’s launching, or a new promotion that is running, and you’ll earn commissions for anybody who buys.
This is how most of the big marketers make their really big commissions. In some niches it’s not uncommon for an affiliate with a particularly large and responsive list of subscribers to make 6-figures over the course of one weekend.
Just Do It
The most important thing is just to get started. It’s easy to get overwhelmed at the beginning because the whole process isn’t exactly small.
There’s of course a lot more to learn and experience, including market research and site building. But you will never have to try to do everything at once.
You can take it one step at a time, and when you do, you’ll find it’s not so difficult to get the wheels moving.
So don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to read and do everything straight away. Keep taking small steps towards the end goal.
Affiliate marketing is a real way of building your own business online, and a little hard work and time can lead to a solid online income.