The affiliate marketing vision … You wake up in the morning, check your PayPal balance — you made money while you slept
You didn’t buy and resell any products, you don’t have any customer support tickets to check, you don’t have any returns to deal with.
Just sit back and watch the money come in so long as you put in the work now.
In fairness, this does describe the best parts of affiliate marketing and for successful affiliate marketers, it does happen. But it glosses over all the effort it took to get to that point and to stay there.
It is of course not effortless but it is free from most of the issues surrounding e-commerce, drop-shipping, FBA and most other ways of making money online. And it is not going away … in fact, the industry is growing.
Affiliate marketing is a big industry and expected to reach $6.8 billion by 2020. Most companies view it as a valuable sales channel. It is here to stay.
Let’s look at affiliate marketing for beginners and experienced entrepreneurs as well.
Table of content
- What is Affiliate Marketing
- How to Get Started
- Affiliate Networks & Programs
- Can I Make Money
- Related Posts
What is Affiliate Marketing
You will receive a commission for referring a customer who makes a purchase.
It is a very simple business model – you are essentially an independent sales representative. Most people are familiar with Amazon’s affiliate program- Amazon Associates. It is by far the largest in the world and a great place to start. Amazon’s program is a Pay per Sale type of program. You get paid when the customer purchases something. Although Amazon is the largest there are thousands of other affiliate offers and marketplaces to find products that are best for your audience.
A lot of new online marketers start with affiliate marketing.
It is a great ideal business
It is the perfect starting point for beginners and all the skills you acquire – WordPress, SEO, content development, keyword research, SEO, etc. are transferable to ANY online business.
The Two major Characteristics of Affiliate Marketing to Consider
Not everyone who tries affiliate marketing sticks with it, but almost all successful Internet Marketers started with Affiliate Marketing.
Many marketers continue to make their family’s income with affiliate marketing.
Unlike e-commerce, FBA, or creating your own products there are few startup costs. You can learn about marketing products on the internet with much less risk. You learn how to build websites, how to rank content, content marketing strategies and more. Much better to do this with someone else’s products that you represent. The alternative is to have an engineer on your payroll to build products or a container full of products in your warehouse or at Amazon’s. Some marketers will stick with affiliate marketing and grow their sites and revenues. Others will move on to drop shipping, creating their own products or an e-commerce site. But whatever your next step is, the lessons learned as an affiliate are transferable.
New marketers are bombarded with enough new terms, acronyms, and concepts to make one’s head spin. Let’s break t all down and explain what affiliate marketing beginners and intermediate marketers need to know to succeed.
In the simplest terms, affiliate marketing is the sale of another companies product or service for a commission. You are part of their sales team and they pay you when you bring them a customer who purchases from them.
There are many styles and types of affiliate marketing sites and some marketers don’t have a website at all – they use YouTube or social media as there audience/customer outreach. You can check out our Affiliate Marketing Site Examples to get an idea of what affiliate sites can look like. We also have income reports in that document.
The transaction flow of an affiliate deal is straightforward.
- Sellers have products they want to find additional distribution channels for.
- Affiliates have an audience, or e-mail list and possibly some online advertising skill. The affiliate signs up to represent the product. They learn to create squeeze pages, reviews, e-mail campaigns, paid ad campaigns, YouTube videos, etc., that promote the product.
- A buyer responds to the affiliate offer. Buys the sellers’ product at the seller’s site – after coming from the affiliate. The link from the affiliate to the seller has the affiliates’ id in it to ensure credit and commissions.
If there is one underlying concept it is that you must create an audience. If you have no audience you are simply shouting in an empty forest. You are making noise but no one can hear you. You can either purchase traffic via ads or attract it with content. This is not a build-it-they-will-come type of effort. It is a way to monetize traffic.
So how to get started with affiliate marketing?
Affiliate Marketing for Beginners
Remember, you need to create an audience or use paid traffic. There are a number of ways you can get traffic …
- Google free website ranking and SEO
- Paid Ads — you can purchase ads
- Social — FaceBook, Pinterest, etc.
- Video — Videos are easier to rank and very effective.
- Email – Email let’s you interact with your audience
- Search – The backbone of most sites. Great content attracts search visitors.
You can purchase traffic with advertising and many are successful at this. It is a more advanced affiliate concept and you have now added the cost of the ads to your business model. Many new affiliates’ have spent more on ads than they have received in commissions. You have eliminated one of the best aspects of affiliate marketing. Very low startup costs.
For most affiliates’, the SEO traffic niche model is a better one.
Social media is a key part of many affiliate sites. Some niches are very visual and work well with social media sites like Pinterest. These include sites like:
- Beauty and Makeup
- Weddings and Events
- Many others …
YouTube and other video distribution sites are a great way to get your message out. People love videos and they are easier to rank in search for many niche keywords. What’s in the box type reviews as well as instructional topics perform very well.
Email lists are a great way to interact with your audience. Don’t use it as a place to make a daily affiliate offer. Use it as a way to provide valuable information. You want to build trust and then your occasional offers will convert better.
Niche Marketing & SEO Search Traffic
With niche marketing, you use optimized content to generate free traffic to your website. You select a niche based on keywords and topics that you can compete for in Google and other search engines like Bing. You want to find a topic that you can become the authority in. This means you need to find the right size niche. One that is big enough to have search volume but not so big that you are trying to compete with larger, more established sites.
After you have selected your niche you create content that is a mix of topically relevant articles that answer searches at Google. You research both informational queries like “how to …” type questions and buying/commercial intent queries like “best …”. The informational posts establish your authority and are often easier to rank.
You want to pay attention to the search intent when evaluating keyword topics. The buying and commercial intent posts are your money pages – these have most of the affiliate links in them and convert better because of the searcher’s intent when making the Google query. To get traffic from your content you need to consider SEO. Creating content that performs well in search is what affiliate SEO is all about.
Affiliate SEO stands for Affiliate Search Engine Optimization. In the past, this was a bit of a game that allowed you to trick Google into sending you traffic by stuffing keywords all over your content or having a long exact-match domain name. Now SEO has become more technical and is really about organizing your information to make it easy for Google to find and rank. There are two main areas of SEO – On-page and Off-page.
On-page is all the information about your content and the way it is delivered to your audience. This includes the structure of the content and the performance of your website to both desktop and mobile users.
Off-page SEO is all the links that are incoming to your content and how people interact with it. This includes back links from other sites, social media links and any other external interaction with the content.
At myclicklabacademy.com we have lots of SEO tips for you to optimize your site and content for search traffic.
Right-sizing your niche is a critical first step as you develop a content strategy that will establish you as an authority. You need to find a niche with enough search volume to generate traffic but not so much that you are competing with giant sites that will always outrank you.
Non-Search Niche Traffic
SEO will be the largest source of traffic for most sites but other traffic sources can add up to more traffic and income.
Strong marketing execution with email, landing pages, social media, and other tactics will often be the critical success factor.
In addition to SEO there are also programs to choose, both Amazon and others.
Affiliate Networks & Programs
There are a number of marketplaces that bring publishers and affiliates’ together. There are three parties in an affiliate marketplace.
- Affiliates — The affiliates’ agree to direct traffic to publishers for a commission.
- Product Owners — The product owners or advertisers pay the marketplace to manage the affiliate system and fund the commission payouts.
- Marketplace — The marketplace supports the affiliates’, does the commission tracking and payments
Downloadable & Digital Products
Sure there is the Amazon Associate program and other sources for physical products to represent. You should consider using these for all niches. But there are so many other affiliate offers and networks that you can use. In addition to the physical product marketplaces, there are downloadable products and recurring products. Do be careful with these products as there is definitely a mix of good products and junk. You don’t want to alienate your audience with bad products – that’s hard to recover from.
ClickBank –– After Amazon the program most familiar to people be ClickBank. The ClickBank program is primarily for electronically delivered products, Software as a Service products or memberships.
Direct In-house Programs
Many larger product owners choose to have their own marketing programs rather than being in a network. Much software, and Hosting companies do this. Typically, this is because the affiliate channel is a very important revenue source. By running a program in-house they can have their own affiliate managers and team rather than paying fees to networks for this.
There are also products with recurring commissions. These are typically hosting products. Any product that has a monthly subscription may have a monthly commission.
How to Find Other Affiliate Offers
The website http://www.myclicklabacademy.com has lots of information and reviews of affiliate marketing programs. The best starting point …
Tips & Technique
There are certain basic marketing concepts that work well. Sales funnels are created to bring a customer through the sales process. You have a much better chance of an offer being purchased from a visitor who is familiar with you. Someone who has visited your website, read your emails and posts and been to your social media site. Sales to a cold first touch prospect are much less likely.
Writing and design are a big part of your marketing strategy. You need to be creating content on a regular basis that is topically relevant.
Traffic and Search Position
You want to choose your topics and keywords very carefully if the goal is search traffic. You need to find topics that are hopefully trending. The keywords that you target must have enough search volume to bring traffic but not so competitive that your page ends up on page 5 in the search results. The top 10 results in Goggle search get almost all the traffic. The top 3 get over 50% of the traffic.
Can I Make Money
But it will not happen overnight.
Do you want to build sites to resell or generate income? Many affiliate marketers will get a site off the ground, develop the content and start to monetize the site. After a year’s worth of earnings, they will sell the site. Affiliate marketing sites sell for 20-40 times their monthly earnings. So if you are making $2k per month you can expect around $60,000+ for the site. You can also buy affiliate sites to hit the ground running and know that you have a viable niche. Other quick-start options are purchasing a Built for You site.
One thing to consider is that there is a startup period where you are developing content and getting better positioning from Google. They typically “sandbox” you for 4-6 months as you are evaluated and gain authority via your content and back links. Purchasing an aged or income-producing site gives you a jump-start. Or you can just use this time to create a great base of content. Remember affiliate marketing is a long-game business.
There are a number of terms and strategies awhen it comes to monetizing niche sites …
- New Niche – This has the advantage of little to no costs to you. You research a niche, build a site, add content, generate traffic and offer the traffic affiliate products. This is a minimum of six months until you have traffic and steady sales. But it is all sweat equity.
- Niche to Authority – Select a higher volume keyword for future growth. Start with a sub-niche of the bigger niche and keep adding silos of sub-niche. This way you rank for the sub-niche and as you gain authority in multiple sub-niches you can start to rank for the main niche. Ultimately you end up with an “authority site.”
- Built-for-you site – This will cut a few months off of the new site time and hopefully avoid major errors.
- Aged Sites – Same as above but no Google sandbox.
- Purchase revenue-producing site – This will let you have a going concern right away. If you can find a site that needs a push of content or back links to get to the next stage this is a great way to go. You need the capital and you need to understand how to buy sites.
- Paid ads driving CPA sales – Google and Bing ads are purchased and drive traffic to affiliate offers. You need to be careful as ad costs are sunken costs. They create no additional value to the company.
- Adsense sites – Flip around the niche selection process. You are looking for higher volume “information” keywords. You are after broad traffic not just buying intent traffic. Try to find trending topics. Google Trends is a good resource for trend watching. An ad-based revenue model also has affiliate opportunities with their high traffic. You need 100k visits per month to have ads start to work as your revenue source. I wouldn’t choose a niche that you could not plan for 1 million per month. This requires lots of content. Social outreach to Instagram, Pinterest etc. is needed.
- Build & Sell Sites – Some affiliate marketers set out with the goal to ramp a site up with the intent of selling it. At 20x trailing monthly revenues this can be an effective business model.
Myths & Misconceptions
There are a number of misconceptions, myths and outright BS in the affiliate marketing world. Many affiliates’ are new to Internet marketing and become easy targets for questionable sales pitches.
When I look through my emails I see many pitches like make money fast, set it and forget it passive income, automatic site builders, PLR content sites, etc. There is also a lot of misinformation and outdated advice.
Let’s try to cut through the noise and dispell the worst of these notions.
1 — It’s Fast Money
Affiliate marketing success does not happen overnight. The money is definitely there but you must first build an audience.
Since you are typically dependent on search for traffic, you must also gain Google’s trust and anointment as an authority. You must create content that helps visitors with buying intent to answer their questions. All of these things take time.
If you have an existing blog or another site with traffic you can monetize that quickly with affiliate marketing, otherwise patience and perseverance are critical to your success.
2 — You Must Use Only Amazon
While Amazon is still one of the best affiliate marketplaces for affiliate marketers there are many other options. Amazon is still a good foundation for your affiliate marketing. The reason is two-fold.
First, with over 600 million products, they have products for every possible niche you can be involved with. And secondly, they have a huge trust factor. No one thinks twice about buying at Amazon. When users are referred to Amazon by an affiliate they often make other purchases for which the affiliate is paid a commission.
But Amazon has its downsides: low commission rates, short cookie period to get sales credit, and terms of service that you can easily violate mistakenly. For this reason, it is best to look at other products to represent and spread your risk.
There are marketplaces like ClickBank and Share A Sale and thousand of independent offers. For most sites, the best course is to have multiple channels of revenue including multiple affiliate programs.
Check out our post about affiliates’ beyond Amazon. Take a look at this affiliate marketing education site for examples ideas and examples of successful affiliates’.
3 — You Need a Mentor, Coach or Course
Everything you want to learn about affiliate marketing is available for free online. However, I am a big believer in learning from others and there is certainly value in this. But it is not necessary to have a mentor or coach and there is a great risk that you are getting old information and are just a revenue source for someone. The same with the courses.
Some are great others are rehashed old ideas. There are many free Facebook groups as well. Must of what you need experiences and that is gained by taking action. One of the benefits of affiliate marketing is the low startup cost so there is no downside to learning on the job.
4 — You Don’t Need to be a Technical Whiz
The technical demands of affiliate marketing are not an obstacle for most people. In fact, sometimes people with a strong technical background get too bogged down in plugins, themes, WordPress performance, and other technical issues at the expense of content and marketing.
They also are prone to overspend on shiny objects and waste a lot of time testing and evaluating.
Best to start with a basic layout and free theme and start adding content. Build an audience.
5 — You Don’t have to Live in the USA, Canada, UK, or Australia
Affiliate marketing is location independent.
Most companies working with affiliate marketers have few if any limitations on your location. In fact, affiliate marketing is one of the best ways for someone living in a smaller country market to reach a larger market like the US or European countries.
6 — All Traffic is Good Traffic
High volumes of traffic may generate a few dollars in advertising revenue on your site but for traffic to convert to affiliate sales, you want traffic from visitors with buying intent.
Consider someone whose search at Google is “acoustic guitar”. Most likely they are looking for information about guitars, different sizes, how to tune, how to string, etc. Sure some may go on to buy one from this search – but not many. Compare that to those searching for, “best guitar for beginners” or “acoustic guitar sale”. These searches have buying intent.
Google also now understands the intent difference and will direct the users to other sites with more general information, not your site with reviews of guitars and articles on how to select a guitar to purchase, etc.
7 — Google Hates Affiliates
Check out the top results for most buying searches like “best xyz product”. You will find these are dominated by affiliate marketers big and small. If Google really hated affiliates’ you would not see these companies so high in the rankings.
What Google hates is spammy affiliates’ with low-quality content. Google does not want to direct a user to a site with ads above the fold and hundreds of affiliate links all over the content.
They want their users to get valuable information which should include where to purchase a product if the search was one with buying intent.
8 — You Must Have a Website
Many successful affiliates’ are promoting there products on YouTube and social media channels like Pinterest and Facebook. You can start with your Facebook page, create some Facebook videos, email offers to your list, or redirect to single landing pages vs a full-blown website.
There are many options and types of ways to reach affiliates’. Most people will eventually have an affiliate website but that does not need to come first.
9 — Passive Automated Income
It takes effort and activity to be successful. New content, back-link outreach, and other tasks are required.
This passive automated income myth is usually suggested by someone trying to sell you something. It should be a red flag when you come across these suggestions and offers.
Certainly, successful sites have stages of effort and building the initial site, content, email res-ponders etc. is a larger effort than the ongoing requirements to find new products and post new content.
But it is never passive. If you are getting sales from a passive website you would be getting many more sales with activity.
10 — You Must Use Dedicated Plugins and Themes
We make sites in one of the most popular and feature reach plugins hosting for Amazon and eBay affiliates’. So we would love to have you use our tools. But you don’t need these tools to get started. They are best for affiliates’ with larger sites and many products.
New users are better off to focus on selecting their niche and creating content. The same applies to dedicated themes. Again we make some great ones at Ready Themes but you are better to just start with a site focused on your audience and make great content. You can easily change themes and add premium plugins later.
If you have the budget it is better to spend money on creating great content with outsourced writers and build up the keywords that Google send traffic to.
Ready … Set … Go
One of the great things about affiliate marketing is it is very accessible. The skills you develop developing your site and executing your content management plan are directly transferable to all other online businesses.
The biggest step you can make is to simply take action.
Unlike other ways to make money online, there are little to no startup costs.
You can get started for under $50 with a hosting company and a free WordPress theme.
Affiliate marketing is a great way to earn money online from your blog, Facebook pages, YouTube video, email list and more. But don’t be fooled into believing there is any magic path to success. It takes time and effort or money to create a successful site.
You must build an audience and authority with Google – this will take some time. Like any business there are definitely skills to acquire, terms to learn, productive and unproductive methods.
The good news is that all of this information is available online. Affiliate Marketing is perfect for beginners and continues to be one of the best starting points for bloggers and marketers to monetize a website.
FAQ for Affiliate Marketing
Is there a glossary of affiliate terms
Yes. We have an in-depth glossary of terms for the affiliate industry.
Is affiliate marketing worth it?
It is for many. SEO affiliate marketing is like investing. You get rich slowly. In the case of content marketing and SEO every new article is an investment that keeps growing and returning dividends over time.
Is affiliate marketing dead?
Hardly. In fact, it is growing every year. Affiliate marketing also is gaining in legitimacy. Almost all large retailers have an affiliate program now.
Can affiliate marketing be done without a website?
Yes. Many marketers use funnels, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest and other non-websites for affiliate marketing. Many affiliate programs do like to see you have a website. As much as a way to check your credibility as anything. Amazon’s affiliate program will accept marketers with websites, YouTube Channels or an IOS or Android app.
Is affiliate marketing profitable?
For many yes. For some no. It is very easy to give up on affiliate marketing since the revenue starts slowly. This is a result of Google’s sandbox period not ranking new sites and new sites having little content and therefore little authority. As your quantity of content grows so does your authority and search traffic.
Thank you for reading my reviews, if you do have any questions about this type of traffic, or you have any other questions relating to website creation and building or selling on online though to affiliate marketing, please leave them below and I will be more than happy helping you out!
John J J