Affiliate Marketing For Beginners
Starting an online business doesn't only have to be selling or offering services. It's a common myth among people who've not yet dived deep into the world of online business. You can start a thriving online business by just having a website. Sounds unbelievable, but it's true.
Welcome to the world of affiliate marketing!
As per research, business spending on affiliate marketing will touch nearly $8.2 billion in the U.S. alone by 2022.
Dive into this highly-profitable niche Today to take advantage before it gets overcrowded, if not already.
In this guide, we would cover –
- What is Affiliate Marketing?
- Why Choose Affiliate Marketing?
- How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
- How Much Money Can You Potentially Earn From Affiliate Marketing?
- Getting Started With Affiliate Marketing
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing means promoting products or services and earning commissions on every sale you generate. The commission you make from the sale can be the percentage of the product or service's price or may even be a fixed amount.
Why Choose Affiliate Marketing?
While there are many reasons to choose affiliate marketing over other options to make money online, here are the two primary reasons –
Low-Cost & Low-Risk
Typically, starting a business need huge investments. It includes upfront costs, including rent, products, equipment, employees, utilities, and other ad hoc expenses. The traditional dynamics of business make it inherently expensive and risky.
In affiliate marketing, you just need a website and a little time to promote it online. Even if things go south, you won't incur exorbitant debt. You would've just wasted a bit of your time and some money.
Most salespeople sell products of only one company. However, affiliate marketers can promote products and services of many companies simultaneously.
It increases the scale of their affiliate marketing business, earning commissions on every sale they make by selling products/services of different brands/companies/vendors.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
As an affiliate, you'll be given a unique link by the merchant. It would help the merchant track who's responsible for the sale. The link usually looks like this –
As soon as a prospect clicks on your affiliate link, a small storage attribute called a ‘cookie' is stored on the user's device.
What does an affiliate cookie do?
- It ensures the sale is attributed to the right affiliate.
- The cookie usually is embedded with an expiration date. It ensures the sale is attributed to the right person even if the buyer decides to purchase later.
Let us look at an example of how this works out.
Suppose a prospect visits your website and goes through a blog about the best DSLR cameras in the market. The user clicks on a couple of affiliate links from your blog post. It opens up in Amazon, but the user gets busy doing something else or goes grocery shopping because who wants to argue with wife anyway!
The user comes back later, helps his wife with cooking, has his meal, and finally, gets back to Amazon to buy the DSLR camera. Now, the user purchases the camera and an advanced high lens for the DSLR camera.
When the user clicked on your affiliate link, a cookie was stored on the user's device. The cookie duration of Amazon is 24 hours. So, you get the commission for the DSLR camera your blog recommended and the lens the user bought, even if you didn't really promote the latter.
How Much Money Can You Potentially Make From Affiliate Marketing?
There's no limit to how much you can earn from affiliate marketing. It primarily depends on the niche you choose to promote and the amount of time you invest in it. The strategy you choose to follow also makes a significant contribution to your success.
Many successful affiliate marketers out there are making six and seven figures monthly, and you can too!
Let us look at how much some of the big names in the affiliate industry are making –
One of the renowned super-affiliates from Smart Passive Income, Pat Flynn, made over $100,000 in December 2017 in affiliate commissions.
Ryan Robbins, another successful affiliate marketer, reported earnings in affiliate commissions of over $19,000 in October 2019.
Even if these reports are from a few years ago, these are self-published income reports with proof. It gives a fairly good idea of the scope affiliate marketing offers in Today's date when 80 percent of the brands have well-structured and established affiliate programs.
Remember, though, that these affiliates have put in a ton of effort in mastering the art of affiliate marketing and establishing a renowned online brand. It's not an overnight success story but years of determination, dedication, and perseverance.
As a beginner affiliate marketer, it is likely that initially, your commission's cheques may be in cents or a few dollars, enough to buy a pizza or a morning coffee – if at all.
The point here is that you won't be making big bucks right from the word go, and it is essential to manage your expectations and stay pragmatic.
There's a learning curve involved, and like any other business, affiliate marketing needs time and effort to bear fruits. Don't get discouraged and stick to it.
Keep experimenting with your marketing techniques and continually upgrade your knowledge. In due course, you'll see notice your income graph moving up.
Getting Started With Affiliate Marketing
Here, we will discuss the seven simple steps you need to follow to start affiliate marketing.
- Decide a platform
- Choose a profitable niche
- Find the right affiliate programs to join
- Create awesome content
- Drive organic traffic to your affiliate website
- Find ways to get people to click on your affiliate links
- Find ways to improve conversion rate.
Decide a platform
Affiliate marketing is possible today in just about any platform, including even on Instagram.
However, two channels that are more preferred in affiliate marketing are – Blog and YouTube Channel.
A blog can be started online easily and fairly inexpensively. The internet is filled with tons of blogs and video tutorials on how to get started. The good news is that it costs just a few dollars every month.
However, it is just the beginning of your affiliate marketing journey. Once your affiliate site is up, it is time to optimize your site for search engine optimization. SEO or search engine optimization helps improve your site's chances of ranking high in the search engine result pages or SERPs.
A higher ranking means higher traffic. When your blog gets higher traffic, more people are likely to click on affiliate links embedded in your site's content. More clicks mean higher revenue. (Optimizing content and adding links is more of an art we would be discussing elaborately later in the guide)
YouTube is yet another popular platform among affiliate marketers. Here, you can create and upload content for free, making it a preferred option for most people to get started in affiliate marketing. It is essential to optimize the videos you upload for SEO and include your affiliate links in the video description.
Remember you need to mention you're including affiliate links as per the Federal Trade Commission's guidelines. It asks people to be transparent when generating income from promotions and endorsements.
In blogs, you can add a footnote at the bottom part of the page or create a standalone page to disclose you're including affiliate links in the content and participating in affiliate marketing. Something like this – (ADD IMAGE)
For the YouTube channel, the disclaimer is added in the description like the example below –
Since the blogs typically get more clicks than YouTube videos, our examples going forward would mostly be for a blog.
Choose a Profitable Niche
Blogging is a highly competitive marketing channel with over 32 million active bloggers in the United States alone as of 2021. So, be prepared to face some tough competition.
The good thing is there is a way to cut through this cutthroat competition.
How? Niche down.
It greatly increases the chances of success in an otherwise seemingly overcrowded affiliate marketing landscape.
Choose a topic or niche that laser focuses on one specific category. The idea here is to choose “Grilled Food” instead of just “Food,” if you get the point.
‘Grilled food' is much more specific than ‘food' which is an enormously broad topic.
Keeping your focus category pin-pointed would help you get a targeted audience that engages. It also increases the chances of ranking higher on the search engines.
So, if you're interested in dancing and want to start an affiliate blog revolving around that, it is better to focus on one particular dance genre that interests you the most.
Don't try to be the jack of all trades. Instead, showcase yourself as a master of one. At least, initially!
Focus on just ‘Breakdance' or ‘freestyle' or anything else you're passionate about in the beginning. That passion will reflect itself in the content you create and eventually translate into more clicks and sales.
Once you've covered much of your focus topic and managed to drive considerable organic traffic around these pages, it's time to scale up and expand into other areas.
If you're going to create content yourself, it is wise to choose a niche you're passionate about and interested in. If not, the drive to keep going would dry up, especially when the results are not what you expected. And, chances are, it just might be worse than you expected.
Lack of consistency is the number one reason why most affiliate sites die. When you're interested in the niche personally, your passion will help you keep going even when things are not necessarily going as you expected.
Even if you're not an expert in the niche you're passionate about, it is a great idea to share what you've learned, what you're learning, and your progress so far. Documenting your growth journey is also a great content topic people are attracted to.
If you're planning to outsource content creation, hiring experts with experience in the niche is advised. Seasoned content specialists with expertise in writing on your niche would help create authoritative, high-quality, engaging, and SEO-optimized content. It leads to more organic traffic, higher SERPs, more clicks, and higher sales.
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Find The Right Affiliate Programs To Join
Ideally, there are three types of affiliate programs you can choose from.
High-Paying, Low-Volume Affiliate Programs
These programs have low volume in terms of demand, buyers, and traffic but offer higher payouts.
For example, ConvertKit's affiliates earn nearly $700 per month for converting 80 customers for them. However, as the product is CRM software used by small businesses, the potential market and buyers are limited.
Note that the competition for high-paying programs is considerably on the higher side. As a beginner, it can be challenging to make an inspiring dent in the market filled with experienced and skilled marketers with a steep marketing budget.
High-Volume, Low-paying Affiliate Programs
These affiliate programs have mass appeal but low payouts.
Let's take PS5 games, for example. Tons of people play PS4 and PS5, but their games cost on an average around $50 to $70. The affiliate commission for the sales of these games would usually be around $2 to $7 and anything in between.
The good thing about these affiliate programs is their redeeming nature. It allows affiliate marketers tons of products to promote and sell in this niche, collectively amounting to a sizeable commission payout.
Amazon's affiliate program allows marketers to earn around 10 percent commission on most of what the company sells. The commission is calculated on the entire value of the cart that checks out rather than just the recommended product.
The trick is to get tons of traffic to make such affiliate programs work in your favor.
High-Volume, High-Paying Affiliate Programs
These are affiliate programs with high mass appeal, a broad audience, and high commission payouts.
One such example is credit cards. Everyone uses credit cards these days, and most of these users stay with the company for years to come, and even decades.
The downside to these affiliate programs is it attracts seasoned affiliate marketers with deep pockets. Many of these marketers even tend to use spammy marketing techniques beginners don't have a chance to compete with.
If you're a beginner affiliate marketer, stay away from such affiliate programs. As tempting as it may seem, you would just be beating around the bush without getting anywhere, resulting in you getting discouraged.
As this guide is for beginners, discussing this any further deflects us from the topic.
Just remember, such a category exists.
Finding The Right Affiliate Programs To Join
Finding the right affiliate programs you should join depends primarily on two things –
- Your niche
- Your expertise level
If your niche and affiliate program focuses on consumers, going with the second category we mentioned earlier (high-volume, low-commissions) is an ideal option.
If you're focusing largely on a business-oriented audience, going for the high-paying, low-volume affiliate programs seem likely. Some of the most popular affiliate programs in this category are web hosting, software programs, enterprise-level software solutions, etc.
A simple Google search would help you find tons of these affiliate programs.
You can also use Ahref's Site Explorer to find tons of such affiliate programs. All you need to do is enter the website's URL of one competing affiliate site and check out the Linked Domains report.
In the report, click on the “Links from Target,” and you will know the affiliate programs the affiliate promotes.
You can also do a quick Google search to find the application form for the program.
Contact the company directly if you come across a program that you really want to promote without it being a public affiliate program. Inquire if the company is open to building a tailored affiliate relationship with you.
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Create Awesome Content
One of the key components of a great affiliate site is its content. Create awesome content that's engaging, informative, and SEO-optimized that naturally integrates your affiliate links.
Create content that your target audience resonates with and finds valuable. The more authoritative you sound, the more are chances of clicks translating into sales.
The focus should be on creating content, answering readers, and mentioning affiliate products/services that address the target audience's pain points. Blindly curating a blog around Amazon's best-sellers doesn't only look tasteless but comes across as too ‘salesy,' something that more often than not results in no sales.
The content you create should solve visitors' problems. So, if you're going to review products from your niche/category, buy the product, use the product, and share your honest experience.
Create a blog review as well as a video review. Creating a crisp and detailed blog and video content helps showcase your commitment to the end-users, and it establishes you as a go-to blog for review/information in your niche, resulting in more sales.
Wirecutter used this strategy, and its success in the affiliate marketing sphere is no secret, and its success led to it being acquired by New York Times.
If you don't have the budget to buy every product you consider promoting, start with what you've at home. If you have a tech blog, begin by reviewing your smartphone, tablet, and other gadgets you use.
When you have a first-hand experience of a product or service, the resulting content you create has depth, is more descriptive, and talks about the pros and cons in a way other users can relate to. It makes an impact!
Drive Organic Traffic To Your Affiliate Website
Creating great content is the supporting pillar of your affiliate marketing business. Once content creation is taken care of, it is time to find ways for more people to read your content and click on your affiliate links. And, you need organic and targeted traffic for that.
While there are many different ways people use to drive traffic to their websites, we would talk about the three main strategies here –
As the name suggests, this strategy includes paying to get traffic to your website. It is done using PPC advertisement.
The instant result offered by PPC ads is its biggest advantage over other methods of driving traffic.
But, as they say, all that glitters is not gold. There are a few downsides to using PPC ads you must keep in mind.
Running PPC campaigns will eat up from your net profits if you're making any initially. The cases where marketers spend more than they make or do not make any profits at all are pretty common.
It takes some time to optimize a running pay-per-click ad campaign. You've to be realistic about the time it will take to optimize a campaign to improve CTR and conversion rate. There's a good chance that you might not even have sufficient clicks even to get started with optimizing the paid traffic campaign in the first few weeks.
The second downside to using paid traffic is the influx of traffic stops as soon as you stop the paid campaign.
As discouraging as it may sound, the affiliate game is about numbers, and using paid ads is a great way to drive traffic. It is particularly useful if you're enrolled in a high-paying affiliate program and can find a formula that works.
However, paid traffic isn't a good idea if you don't have experience running a paid campaign, are completely new to PPC marketing, have limited or no budget, or work with low-paying affiliate programs such as Amazon Associates.
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Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is all about optimizing your website and web pages to get to the first page of Google. Getting consistent and considerable organic traffic won't be a problem if you rank high for your target keywords/keyphrases in the search engines.
For better understanding, let us break down what SEO is all about.
- It is about understanding the search intent of your target audience.
- Creating great content around the audience's search intent in the form of blog posts, videos, product pages, reviews, etc.
- Performing on-page and off-page SEO to steadily push the website's rank in the search engines. This may get a little technical for beginners.
It is crucial to start building an email list from the very day your website goes live. It helps you stay connected with your audience and communicate important information like email promotions, freebie downloads, etc.
You can send in engaging newsletters to your email list periodically with value-oriented content. It generates interest in the products/services you're promoting and invites users to visit your website. Not everyone who opens the email will buy, but email marketing is known to increase clicks and sales.
So, how to build an email list?
You need to find ways to get the visitors on your website to sign-up. You can offer a free e-book, weekly informative newsletters, PDFs, etc. Also, it is important to show the opt-in tab at strategically located places across your website without being too much ‘on the face.'
Experiment and get creative with it till you see the email list growing.
Find Ways To Get People To Click On Your Affiliate Links
Publishing awesome content does not always guarantee more clicks on your affiliate links.
Other factors come into the play, such as –
Your affiliate links need to be placed strategically and naturally across the content. If you place your affiliate links at the bottom of the page where people hardly ever scroll, the clicks generated would be far lower than you desire.
It doesn't mean you will embed your affiliate link to every other word in your blog post's introduction or body. It will look off and spammy.
It will most likely kill the readers' interest to continue reading and lose trust in you. Coming across as too ‘pushy' means you're more focused on your profit than addressing customers' pain points.
Find a balance with link placement while considering other factors mentioned below.
Let us start with an example to understand this point.
For example, you're creating a blog post about the best smartphones under $300.
The introduction of the blog post cannot look like this –
As you may have noticed, the placement doesn't only look spammy and unnatural; it is also completely out of context.
There's no harm with placing links, but it should make contextual sense and look organic.
The purpose of the callouts like boxes, tabs, buttons, tables, etc., is to direct the audience's interest towards important points or whatever you want the reader to focus on.
It makes the content more navigable and skimmable. Take a look at how Wirecutter does it –
The top picks shared by Wirecutter always have eye-catchy boxes embedded with product links. These boxes look inviting and clickable, positively influencing the clickthrough rate.
You don't necessarily have to follow the same but understand the basic concept of what callouts are and why they're important. It boosts clickthrough and conversion rate, helping scale your affiliate marketing endeavor.
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Find Ways To Improve Conversion Rate
Affiliate marketing depends on two conversions to become successful and make money.
The first conversion includes the prospect clicking on the product page.
It depends completely on you, and you're in full control of practices that help increase clicks. Following the tactics we discussed earlier would help immensely with it.
The second conversion is when the visitor to your website buys the product. This action is not in your control but that of the merchant.
The key is to find affiliate programs and merchants that are good with conversion.
So, how to find them?
Public Income Reports
Check out reviews and public income reports. If other marketers are making good money from a particular program you're considering joining; it means the product has a decent conversion rate.
How to find out if other marketers are making money?
Many affiliate marketers or bloggers publicly disclose their income from affiliate programs and deals. Such public income reports are available in plenty on Google.
If you're interested to know how much Amazon affiliates are earning or want to check out public income reports of top Amazon affiliates, search on Google for “Amazon affiliates income report.” You will come across several blog posts by bloggers showcasing how much money they're making from Amazon affiliate programs and how.
Learn from the experiences, tips, and advice offered by these seasoned affiliate marketers and bloggers. When checking out the income report, if you notice they are from the same niche as yours, check out other affiliate programs they promote.
You may replicate their strategy and follow the same programs to scale your affiliate marketing business. This strategy helps in avoiding common mistakes beginner affiliate marketers make and paves the way for success.
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Be Curious – Ask Questions
If there's any affiliate program, you're interested in joining but can't find enough information to proceed – sign up and ask questions.
Some of the common questions people have in mind you may want to ask includes –
- What is the average conversion rate of the affiliate program
- A rough estimate of how much their top marketers are making
- What kind of assistance is provided to the marketers
Basically, ask anything you're unsure of to understand if the affiliate program is worth your time.
Trust Your Instincts
At times, it is wise to just go with your intuition.
If the program you're considering joining doesn't feel right or something about it feels ‘off,' it is better to leave it at that.
Also, if you don't feel connected with the product/service or something you won't use yourself or recommend to your friend or family, it's not a good idea to promote it to others.
This affiliate marketing for beginners' guide isn't meant to be the Holy Grail of affiliate marketing. It simply introduces you to affiliate marketing and its fundamental aspects to help you get started in the right direction.
Remember to be practical in your approach and expectations. Don't expect windfall overnight or that it would replace your day job in a month. Affiliate marketing, like most other businesses, takes time to mature.
The most important goal of a newbie in affiliate marketing should be to make their first sale. It helps you understand what you did right, helping you focus on the right areas. As your website grows with time, it is essential to continually set new goals and experiment with your marketing strategies and techniques.
You'll get results if you're consistent with your effort and stick to it stubbornly through the tough times.
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