Affiliate Marketing Explained: What It Is And How To Get Started
“Work hard in school and get good grades. Join an ivy-league college. Find a good job in a fortune-500 company. And you will have lived the ‘ultimate’ life.”
To so many of us, this was a song growing up. But sadly, a large percentage of the working population today will agree that this formula does not always lead to a fulfilling life.
Having a solid desk job though preferred by many, comes with its share of problems.
You have to wake up at ungodly hours to beat the traffic. Carry out the same tasks over and over again, almost as if you are programmed. And for the unlucky ones, you have to deal with some mean people at your workplace. At some point, you may want to crawl out of your skin to get away from the desk job.
But what if you could make money while you sleep, work from wherever you feel like, and never have to answer to anyone?
Affiliate marketing allows you to experience this lifestyle.
Over the years, affiliate marketing has increasingly gained traction making it one of the most profitable ventures online. Here’s some data on affiliate marketing:
- In the U.S. alone, affiliate marketing spending is expected to reach $8.2 billion by 2022.
- 81% of advertisers and about 84% of publishers in the U.S. are now using affiliate marketing.
- Since 2015, the number of people looking up “affiliate marketing” has increased by over 200%
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is where you are paid a commission for promoting other company’s products. You pick a product, promote it on your website or social media channels, and earn a piece of the profit made from the sale.
You have a higher chance to generate a passive income with affiliate commissions for a beginner, more than any other monetization method out there.
Is affiliate marketing real?
Yes. Most skeptics may claim that affiliate business is dead. But this is far from the truth. Contrary to this skewed belief, the industry is growing at a good rate.
Yes, there may be some challenges with affiliate marketing. But it is certainly not dead.
How much money can I make as an affiliate marketer?
One of the perks of affiliate marketing is that there is no limit to how much you can earn. To a great extent, your earnings depend on your niche and the amount of work you put into it.
You could even make up to six figures. Some super affiliates like Adam Enfroy can make over $100,000 in affiliate revenue every month.
However, if you’re starting, it is vital to keep your expectations in check. You won’t earn tens of thousands like some successful affiliate marketers do but do not be discouraged.
Their success should prove to you that you also have the potential to reach such levels of success with determination and time.
How does affiliate marketing work?
As aforementioned, the idea behind this industry is that you get paid a commission for every successful sale of a product generated through your referral.
Often, it is a process that is multifaceted and transparent. For it to work, there are three parties involved:
- Affiliate Merchants
- Affiliate marketers or publishers
Let’s break down these channels even further to help you understand how affiliate marketing works.
A merchant could be the product creator or retailer with products to market. However, most marketers only consider the product creator to be a merchant.
But this is far from the truth. While companies like Payoneer and Elementor do have their affiliate program that promotes their products, we do have other brands like Amazon that sell products they do not create. Nonetheless, companies like Amazon offer some of the best affiliate marketing programs.
The merchant category can include small businesses, SaaS companies, or even large corporations.
Affiliate marketers are sometimes referred to as publishers, and this can either be an individual or a company that advertises a seller’s product to the consumers.
In most cases, affiliate marketers tend to have a particular audience that they market to, often referred to as a niche. Having a niche helps you build your brand’s authority, which helps attract traffic that’s more likely to act on the promotion.
Customers are the drivers of affiliate marketing. Without them, there would be no one to create products for, and consequently, promote to.
As an affiliate marketer, you can choose to disclose to the consumer that purchases made through links on your site may earn you a commission. However, you are not obligated to.
Now that you understand the brass tacks of affiliate marketing and how it works, let’s dive right into why you should get into it.
Why get into affiliate marketing?
What are the benefits of becoming an affiliate marketer?
A good income stream that’s more passive
Affiliate marketing is a good option for those that are looking to build multiple streams of income. It allows you to make money even when you are asleep.
All you have to do is invest enough time and resources in creating a good campaign that will ensure continuous returns. This way, you will continue to receive money long after you’ve finished working.
No expertise required to get started
Affiliate marketing is one of those fields where anyone can get started and learn on the job. Your effort greatly determines your success and less of what you know from the onset.
Over time, you can try out different campaigns to see what works for you and what doesn’t. You can also try promoting other products before settling on one that gives you the most ROI.
Enjoy the work-from-home lifestyle.
If you hate the early mornings, getting stuck in traffic, and having to sit on a desk for hours, then affiliate marketing is a good solution for you.
With affiliate marketing, you have the power to create campaigns and receive your commission from the comfort of your room.
It is Cost-effective
Have you tried to start a business before, and for some reason, you could not save up enough to get started? It is frustrating.
Well, with affiliate marketing, things are a little bit different. While you will still be required to invest some initial amount, it is pretty low compared to traditional business models. In some cases, all you need to do is sign up for different affiliate programs and promote the links on free platforms like social media.
With time, and after realizing some profit, you can now invest in building a blog for your affiliate business.
Your performance is directly related to the rewards you get
How does it feel when you have to carry out extra duties at work for the same pay you get every month? While some companies are slowly adopting a performance-based reward system, not many give their employees this benefit.
This is not the case with affiliate marketing. The revenue you get is based on your performance.
Common Affiliate Marketing Channels today
It is important to note that not all affiliate marketers go about their trade the same way. While the methods and strategies used in affiliate marketing may be similar, the channels aren’t.
You can choose to use any affiliate channel from the list below:
With blogging, it’s all about leveraging the power of SEO and content creation to convert. Bloggers will typically sample a product and review it for their readers while inserting affiliate links in the content.
Depending on the affiliate program a blogger has joined, they are paid a commission for every successful sale.
Mastermind groups and communities
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of promoting your affiliate links on a blog, you can consider joining mastermind groups and communities. Usually, these communities are made up of people with the same interests. This makes it easy to promote your products and get some sales going.
Who is an influencer?
An influencer is a person that has the power to impact an audience’s purchasing decision. If you wield such authority, then you are in a position to benefit significantly from affiliate marketing.
In most cases, influencers tend to have a large following which provides a ready audience to promote to.
Influencer marketing is most popular on Instagram. However, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok are also good alternatives.
How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing (6 Easy Steps)
The following steps will help you to achieve success in your affiliate marketing business:
- Choosing a platform
- Niching down
- Joining the best affiliate programs
- Finding the best tools for the job
- Generate quality content
- Find ways to generate more traffic
Select your platform
The first important step is to select a platform where you will be promoting the products from.
Contrary to what most people believe, you are not limited to using a blog for your affiliate marketing business. You can also use social media platforms like Pinterest, Twitter, and even Instagram.
Email marketing may also be a good alternative for your campaign.
Choose a niche
Once you’ve decided where you will carry out your affiliate marketing, it is now time to get to the most crucial part – choosing a niche to target.
While some people may find it easy to settle on one niche, it is a mind-throbbing affair. Choosing the right niche can stimulate your success and satisfaction as an affiliate marketer, while deciding on the wrong one will only end up causing you more frustration.
So, how can you settle on the best niche for your affiliate marketing business? Here are some quick tips:
Draw inspiration from your hobbies
What do you enjoy doing? Is it cooking, sewing, or do you prefer to hike when the chance arises? Whatever you enjoy doing, you are more likely to succeed if you make it your niche in affiliate marketing.
Because this is something that you enjoy doing, and you have intrinsic motivation to pursue it. Not only that, using your hobby as a niche gives you an advantage because you already have a lot of knowledge on that topic. This makes it less tiring to research and come up with content.
Research profitable niches
While hundreds of niches exist that you can choose to work with, not all of them are profitable. And you should be able to differentiate those that are profitable from those that aren’t. A good niche will enable you to sell your products quicker, generating more revenue for your business.
A profitable niche should:
- Have low competition
- Have a high demand
- Be evergreen – meaning that it will never lose its demand over some time
Want to find some great niches? Check out: Best Affiliate Marketing Niches In 2021
Search for affiliate marketing programs to join
After settling on a niche, it is time to find the best affiliate networks that will provide affiliate products for you to promote.
Take your time with this step, as finding the right program may be the difference between succeeding as an affiliate marketer or regretting your decision to get into affiliate marketing.
When determining the best program, look at the following;
- The merchants that have partnered with the program
- What are their commission rates?
- Does the program provide reliable support for its affiliates?
- Terms and conditions set by the affiliate program
It is important to note that affiliate programs can be categorized into three groups:
High-paying, low-volume programs
Programs in this category usually offer products with high payouts. However, the demand for the products is typically low.
For example, FreshBooks’s affiliate program allows you to earn up to $200 for every successful sale. However, its demand is relatively low compared to products like toys.
Also, such programs with high payouts tend to have stiff competition. It’ll be pretty challenging to achieve success promoting such products without an established audience as a beginner.
Low-paying, high-volume affiliate programs
The second category of affiliate programs does not pay much but offers products that have a high demand. A good example is Amazon’s affiliate program, which provides a 10% commission on almost all the products they sell.
However, succeeding in a low-paying, high-volume affiliate marketing program requires massive traffic.
High-paying, high-volume affiliate programs
Products in these affiliate programs have high payouts and also high demand.
A good example is credit cards.
The only drawback of promoting such products is that they often have big-shot affiliate marketers promoting them. If you are at that level, you can consider promoting such products, but it is best not to consider them as a novice affiliate marketer.
Important: You should choose which of the three program categories you should join based on your expertise and niche.
Get the right tools for the job.
The best investment you can make is in getting the right tools for your affiliate business.
As an affiliate, you will need tools to help you build and manage your sites, create content, manage your affiliate link(s), measure conversion rates, and grow your audience.
You can always start with free alternatives if you cannot pay for premium affiliate marketing tools as a beginner. They will get the job done. Just not on the same scale as premium tools would.
There are over 50 free alternative tools for SEO that you can use, so you don’t have to pay a leg and an arm for tools such as ahrefs.
If you want to succeed as an affiliate marketer, you need to generate great content for your audience. Content that your readers can draw actual value from and want to come back for more.
While creating content, ask yourself these questions;
- Will the audience find value in this?
- Does it solve the problems that my audience has?
If your answer is yes, then you have a better chance of succeeding with the content you create.
If you have the means to, you can go a step further and purchase the product you want to promote and test it. It gives you a better understanding of the product, which allows you to review it better.
Check out Google’s product review algorithm update to learn more about creating product reviews that will rank and bring you more money.
If you don’t have the budget to buy every product you want to review, you can start with readily available ones. For example, if you are in the Tv niche, you can start by reviewing the one you have at home, your relative’s and even friends’.
Find ways to bring in traffic.
Here’s where it gets even more enjoyable.
Once you have great content for your site, you now need the eyeballs. You can generate more traffic for your site in either of the following ways:
You can use PPC ads to generate guaranteed traffic. The downside is that the costs incurred may eat into your profit. My advice is that you should only use this method if you are promoting high-pay, high-volume products.
SEO is the practice of increasing a site’s ranking on search engines.
As an affiliate marketer, SEO is your best shot at getting quality and consistent traffic to your site. For as long as you can rank for keywords in your niche, you are guaranteed quality traffic.
SEO is a broad subject. But in the most basic sense, SEO revolves around understanding what your audience is looking for and creating content around that. It also involves some technical stuff like link building that will help to push your pages even higher on search engines.
Make some money
Not so quick.
Completing the above steps only gets you started with affiliate marketing.
While there is more to be discussed on getting started in affiliate marketing, the above steps are a solid foundation for you.
How to become a successful affiliate marketer
Develop a strategy
Having a good strategy is critical in affiliate marketing.
What problems are you solving for your audience? What’s the demographic of your audience, and what are their needs? How do you plan to address them? Figure this out, and you will have a clear road map that will increase your affiliate revenue and help to elevate your brand.
One of the things you should keep in mind as an affiliate marketer is that people love to connect with voices that have an authentic message. Get comfortable with the products you are promoting and be genuine with your recommendations.
One of the quickest ways to lose the trust of your audience is by recommending products you’ve not used or those that aren’t good for their needs.
“It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation.” – Herman Melville
Take Affiliate courses
Never stop learning when it comes to affiliate marketing. It allows you to grow and scale your affiliate business using the knowledge acquired. You don’t have to start with the expensive courses at first. Find free alternatives, and when your affiliate business starts to pay off, you can save for advanced affiliate marketing courses from industry experts.
Related: Best Affiliate Marketing Courses
Be creative & keep up with trends in your niche.
There are probably thousands of affiliate marketers in your niche. How do you stand out and get the sales? By doing things differently but in the right way.
Research your market and identify the gaps you can fill. If all other affiliates in your space use paid ads to generate traffic, invest in a worthy SEO course to help you gain traffic.
Learn, try and optimize continually until you have something that works for your business.
Frequently Asked Questions on Affiliate Marketing
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is the process of earning an income from promoting a product created by someone else. For a successful purchase completed using your link, you get a commission.
Is affiliate marketing easy?
Affiliate marketing is not hard. However, it is not as easy business as you may want to assume. It takes hard work and seriousness for one to succeed. However, if you stick to the tips provided in this guide and invest in getting your affiliate business right, you will find it relatively easy for you to succeed.
How much does it cost to start affiliate marketing?
Not much. With a budget of around $200, you can get started as an affiliate marketer. All you need to do is find a platform, choose a niche, select a program and get the ball rolling. If you opt not to use a blog, you may not spend a single cent as everything else is almost free.
How much money can you make as an affiliate marketer?
There are no fixed earnings when it comes to affiliate marketing. Your income level will depend on your efforts and the products you are promoting. An average affiliate marketer makes about $10,000 a year, while some get revenue as high as $1,000,000.
If you are looking to create a reliable income source, affiliate marketing is a good option.
Even though most people may disregard it, data shows that there are people out there making a killing with affiliate marketing, and so can you!