Affiliate marketing is no longer just a way to make money online on the side.
With increasing resources, tools, and platforms that help you effortlessly automate your online marketing and promotion, affiliate marketing has become a lucrative business that one can start with minimal capital and skills.
However, the overwhelming info available from blogs, tutorials, and books can make it difficult for you to break into this opportunity.
To sustain your online business for the long haul, it’s vital to develop your unique perspective and voice.
I’ve written this blog to provide clear and practical tips & tricks that can help you revolutionize your business in today’s competitive landscape.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate Marketing is a type of online marketing where you earn money by promoting successful companies’ products.
Affiliate marketers make money by earning a commission for each sale they generate. It is through selling other people’s products or services online.
The marketers get affiliate links that uniquely identify them in the affiliate program.
The affiliate marketing industry has exploded in recent times, and it is now estimated to be worth more than 3 billion dollars annually.
It can be used effectively by entrepreneurs looking for a revenue stream. Large corporations can also use it to target specific markets with their products.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
Affiliate marketing is a promising way for new and existing businesses to promote their products. It is also a fantastic way to make money.
In an affiliate marketing program, merchants offer commissions or other incentives to publishers who refer buyers to the merchant’s website. Publishers can be bloggers, social media influencers, or traditional retailers.
Publishers place links on their site that point to the merchant’s website, and when someone clicks on these links and buys something from the site, the publisher receives a commission.
The most popular form of affiliate marketing is using links as affiliates in online stores. You will often find these links in blogs or websites with a lot of traffic and followers.
It means that when someone clicks on one of these links to buy something from an online store, they are sending the merchant their private information.
How to Start Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate marketing is a great way to earn residual income. It doesn’t require any upfront investment, and you can get started with affiliate marketing for free.
It is performance-based marketing in which a business rewards affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.
There are steps one should follow to start making money with affiliate marketing, I’ve outlined these below.
#1 Choose a Niche
First, one needs to define a niche. In simple terms, a niche is a segment of a population. A population that shares common traits, for example, mothers with young babies, trail bike riders, ancient Egyptian history lovers, cryptocurrencies lovers, and so on.
With a defined niche, it is easy to assess what appeals to its members with some research. Marketers have been using segmentation to promote products suited to the needs of each segment.
The best way to figure out your niche is by coming up with a list of interests and hobbies. It’s best to have a passion you have enthusiasm in since a business is a long-term pursuit.
Many beginners make the mistake of choosing a niche based on expected income. But they abandon this when the promises do not live up to their expectations.
#2 Build a Platform
Just like a physical business, one needs premises to operate. But in the digital world, this comes in the form of a website. Blogs used to be the most recommended type of website for affiliate marketing.
But times have changed, and the rise of the video-sharing platform YouTube has brought about more opportunities. YouTube allows affiliate links that your viewers can click to access the merchants’ stores.
However, blogs are still the preferred option since the affiliate marketer is in total control over its use. One should use these third-party platforms like YouTube, Pinterest, forums, and social media as extensions to their website.
Building an email list is another option worth exploring. Email marketing has the highest return, and you should not ignore it. It might not be the most recommended for beginners, but worth learning early.
#3 Create Content
After setting up your premises on the web, you need a way to attract your target audience. A familiar route is creating content that the audience finds value.
An example is a tutorial that shows beginners how to use Adobe Illustrator to remove an image’s background while leaving the object’s edges intact. Or a home remedy to resolve a skin condition that some people have struggled to find a medical solution.
Helping others is the best way to create the best content. Ideally, it should be content on something you’ve had an experience with or had an interest in and researched extensively.
A vital skill you will need to learn along the way is SEO. It improves the extent of the population that gets to see your content. But besides this, it ensures the target population is the one that gets to see this content.
Creating content is among the most, if not the most, time and effort-consuming tasks you’ll be involved in as an affiliate marketer. That’s why choosing the most appropriate niche is so paramount.
#4 Find Products to Promote
Even before building a blog or a YouTube channel, you should research the viability of your niche.
Does it have affiliate products you can promote? Does it have a large enough audience who can buy these products? The best place to research this is on Google. Checking a few search engine results will reveal a lot about the niche.
Are there other blogs or channels in the SERPS about the topic? Is there talk on the niche in community discussion forums like Reddit and Quora?
Also, use the niche name and add affiliate programs to it to check the availability of affiliate products. For example, use ceramic kitchenware affiliate programs to search Google.
Also, check affiliate programs like Amazon Associates and CJ Affiliate for affiliate products besides independent affiliate programs you will likely see in search results.
If these are present, it’s very likely the niche possesses a large enough audience to proceed.
The Best Affiliate Marketing Networks
Now that you know what you need to do to get started, what are the best affiliate programs? Terms and conditions will vary from one to the next, and you need to be aware of these.
For example, some require you have a website with some level of traffic while others don’t.
The best affiliate programs have high conversion rates and offer recurring commissions, which is why many companies offer both of these features.
Low payout thresholds should also be a consideration, as this ensures that a company pays out to affiliates as soon as possible without any fuss or red tape.
Some of the best affiliate networks are as below, in no particular order;
- CJ Affiliate
- Amazon Associates
Note that some classes of products offer higher commission rates due to their nature. These are digital products having lower overheads since they are created only once, unlike physical products.
Also, ensure the affiliate products you select are reputable. You do not want to promote products for the sake of commissions only. They have to add value to your audience’s life.
The Pros and Cons of Affiliate Marketing
Like any other vocation or business, affiliate marketing has its fair share of positives and negatives.
- Income potential: Affiliate marketing has immense potential, and it is possible to make anywhere between $4,000 and $5,000 a month if done right. Some affiliate marketers make over $50,000 monthly!
- Another unique aspect worth mentioning is the residual income component. Get paid for an activity you did once! A website is also a business. Transactions will take place while you sleep.
- Academic qualifications: Didn’t go to college? No problem. You don’t need it to carry out affiliate marketing. Nor do you need any professional certifications. As long as you are literate and possess some imagination and diligence, I don’t see why you cannot make it.
- Work hours: Unlike employment’s fixed work hours, affiliate marketing work hours are flexible. You can also work from home, or wherever pleases you.
- But don’t misread this to mean it is a walk in the park. Massive efforts are still essential to make money with it.
- Goods handling: Perhaps the top positive of affiliate marketing is the lack of any inventory. All you do is recommend products but escape the handling of orders, shipping, returns, and customer service.
- No benefits and perks: If you’ve been in the formal employment arena, you are aware of benefits like health insurance benefits, overtime pay, paid vacation time, etc. You will have to cater to these out of your pocket as affiliate marketing is not a job in the traditional sense.
- No guarantees: In an office setting, it’s possible to do the minimum work possible and still get paid at the end of the month. Not so with affiliate marketing. Results are dependent on how hard and smart you work.
- But still, there are no guarantees. Learn what to focus on early to have the highest return on effort.
- Needs patience: A virtue in short supply is patience. You’ll need lots of it to build a sustainable online business. It takes time to build trust and generate the necessary traffic that leads to conversions.
- Monetary investment: As a beginner without experience, it might be necessary to invest in a course to learn the ins and outs of building an affiliate marketing business.
- And to go beyond the average affiliate marketer skill, you will need access to tools that ease your work, for example, keyword research tools, which cost money. Hosting services and buying domain names will also add to your expenses.
How to Find the Best Products to Promote
Now that you have your blog or YouTube channel set up, what products do you promote? There are millions of affiliate products on the web. The one to choose for your affiliate marketing campaigns is not a clear-cut decision.
There are, however, a few tips that will guide you in the right direction. Following these will improve your chances of success to help your audience solve their problems and earn commissions.
Consider Your Niche
The first rule is to promote affiliate products related to your niche always.
For example, if I have a blog that focuses on consumer electronics, I cannot start recommending gardening tools! It would just seem disjointed. The assumption is that the blog’s readers are people interested in electronics and not otherwise.
The readers will be searching the web for solutions to their entertainment and communication needs. And some of these affiliate products will be the answer to their queries.
A YouTube channel on babycare should typically find itself recommending diapers, baby play items, pacifiers, baby grooming effects, etc. Do you get the drift?
Promote What You’ve Used
To come across as genuine, find a product that provides utility to you. You’ll find it more natural to recommend. You will have vast information on its pros and cons as you’ve used it extensively.
Personal experiences are powerful at driving emotions and actions, both positive and negative. If you’ve gotten ripped off, you will more than advise your family and friends to stay away from particular products or businesses.
But what about if you have no prior use of any affiliate products?
Simple, do some research. Dig around to find a product that aligns with your values. Check user feedback and reviews. Is the company an honest, reputable brand? Or do they have skeletons in the closet?
Sign up to Affiliate Networks
Many companies do not want the rigors of managing their affiliate programs. They outsource this work to specialist affiliate networks. Fair enough. It lets them focus on their core businesses.
You will find most affiliate products within these affiliate networks. Therefore one has to sign up for an account to access these products. And besides this, affiliate marketers can view and manage their interactions with many companies and products from one portal.
Affiliate networks like CJ Affiliate have extensive info and metrics on a product to help you determine which ones are worthwhile to promote.
User Search Engines
Not all companies market their products through affiliate networks. Some come up with and manage their affiliate programs.
Unless you knew them before, the only way to find them is by using search engines. Google will come in handy in this context. For new affiliate products, it’s worth considering some background research to determine their worth.
You don’t want your readers catching you in a situation recommending useless products. It’s the fastest way to lose trust.
After identifying these, you’ll still need to apply, qualify, and abide by their terms.
Check Forum Discussions for User Reviews
Also, validate your conclusions about affiliate products you’ve shortlisted. Use community forums and social media to check the public’s feelings about the brands.
I highly recommend websites like Reddit and Quora in this regard. You will hardly miss people expressing their opinions about one product or another.
You’ll want to stay away from brands having legitimately negative concerns.
However, for newer products just being unveiled, this route might not work as they are yet to gain any traction with the market and will most likely have no reviews.
How to Generate Traffic
There are many ways to generate traffic to a website, but in this article, we will focus on the most popular methods.
First off, there is SEO. Search engine optimization is a technique that helps websites rank higher in search engine results pages. This can be achieved by following the guidelines provided by Google and other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing.
Second, you can use social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to reach out to more people. You can post affiliate links in forums or even create your own blog with affiliate links.
Another way is to advertise your website through paid ads on social media sites like Facebook or Google Adwords or Pinterest.
Over time, also consider building an email list of subscribers.
Affiliate marketing can seem complicated. But once you get past the common barriers, it gets easier. It takes time, probably several months, before you start making money.
Some gurus have shouted from the rooftops about how easy affiliate marketing is. These people are out to sell their get-rich-quick courses. If they say the truth, that it takes sweat and blood, they believe they’ll find it harder to push their products. Since all they are after is your money!
But if one commits and does it right, the fruits far outweigh the costs. Many online entrepreneurs recommend affiliate marketing for obvious reasons – minimal start-up costs. And you are building a business you can sell later.
If you follow the few tips I’ve outlined above, within a few months, you’ll be far better down the line than most people will ever get. Start taking action today.