You may have heard about affiliate marketing in the press or on forums or on the news
But do you really understand what the affiliate marketing business model is and broadly how it works?
This article is a brief introduction to affiliate marketing – and what it could mean for you
Note: This post contains affiliate links. If you click on a link and buy something I may earn a commission (affiliate marketing in action!)
What is The Affiliate Marketing Business Model?
The long version is this:
“Affiliate marketing is the process of promoting third party products and services which earns the seller monetary payment for generating sales or leads”
In other words, an affiliate marketer is someone who promotes and sells other people’s products and in return gets some sort of commission
The good news is that anybody can become an affiliate marketer
All you need (in today’s modern technological world) is the power of the internet
Anybody can become an affiliate marketer – yes, even you!
You may be surprised how many companies and services run some sort of affiliate program
And how many people and websites worldwide do some sort of affiliate marketing
- Amazon, for instance, will give affiliates between 4% and 10% of any sales (though their commissions have reduced quite drastically lately)
- eBay also runs an affiliate program
- And if you are after a company that purely sell digital products (eBooks/software/videos) then Clickbank generally offer commissions of 50%, sometimes 75%
If you are looking to set up a small business, or even create a money-making business in your spare time, then you really should consider affiliate marketing
Think about it for a minute:
- You are selling other people’s products directly so there is no stock to be held
- Startup costs are really low – you really just need the cost of a domain name and somewhere to host it – you can genuinely get started for under $20
- You can run an affiliate marketing business in your spare time. Start small, and aim to grow as big as you want to go
- You can also speed up the process by paying for traffic
- You could eventually create your own products and have affiliates promoting your products (this is where the really big money can lie)
So How Does The Affiliate Marketing Business Model Work?
As an affiliate of a product, it is your job to send visitors through an “affiliate link”
This affiliate link will be specially provided to you by the vendor with your unique affiliate code inbuilt into it
The affiliate link is your unique affiliate identifier which tells the vendor which affiliate to pay commissions to.
And often the affiliate link contains a cookie so that if the customer buys in the future (usually up to 60 days) the affiliate will still get paid their commission
The good news is that most affiliate programs and affiliate networks offer free participation when you fill out the required forms and get approval.
The secret is to turn your knowledge into content and content will turn into income.
Affiliate marketing is rarely a get-rich-quick scheme, but you can start part-time requiring little money.
With proper planning, learning, and a little work you could develop a respectable income which could grow depending on the work you put in.
Affiliate marketing is really exciting because there are so many possibilities.- in fact, you can promote digital or physical products in your niche.
You can even promote services that others provide (for instance hosting services).
Many people worldwide make money from affiliate marketing – indeed, so-called “super affiliates” are those who are extremely successful affiliate marketers.
They can earn six figures a year and they do it all from the comfort of their home.
It can be a tremendously freeing lifestyle.
If you are still interested then the rest of this article is a brief overview as to how to get started in affiliate marketing
Most people overcomplicate things so for the purposes of this article I am going to make it a very simple 5 step process
5 Steps to Success in Affiliate Marketing
Here are the 5 steps to ultimate success in affiliate marketing!
- Step 1: Pick A Niche
- Step 2: Find Products You Want to Promote
- Step 3: Build a Website Promoting Those Products
- Step 4: Drive Traffic To Your Site
- Step 5: Make the Sale (and Get Paid!)
Step #1: Pick a Niche
Ideally, it’ll be a topic you enjoy because you’ll be writing and talking about your topic often.
There might be a trade-off between something you are “expert in” and something which you could be expert in with a little learning
For example, if you are a keen gardener and you enjoy discussing gardening tips you might choose to create a gardening website.
You can choose a tighter niche if there’s a lot of competition in your industry
For example greenhouse gardening, or lawn care.
Or something like hydroponics
Gardening is a great niche because as an affiliate you could promote physical products (tools, lawnmowers even greenhouses) or digital products (gardening guides as instant downloads)
Although there are hundreds of profitable niches out there to choose from – my recommendation is to pick one where people are actively looking to solve a problem.
Ideally, they would be actively searching for what you have to offer – and willing to spend money to get it.
Consequently, there are 2 schools of thought on this
- Find an untapped niche where there are loads of buyers but not much competition from other marketers. If you are lucky you may be able to find an emerging niches
- Operate in a “popular” niche where there is lots of competition but lots of buyers. I would go for this option (and potentially niche down) but keep an eye out for “hot trends” along the way
Consequently, health, wealth and romance/relationships will always be profitable, as will specific hobbies and pets (especially dogs!)
Here’s a little graphic to get you going:
Step #2: Find Products You Want to Promote
These products and services will be directly related to your website topic.
If your topic is dog training tips, then the products and services you become an affiliate for will be related to dogs and dog training
You can find these products and services by searching affiliate marketing networks and directories.
You can also look to see if your favorite companies have an affiliate program.
Most companies today recognize the benefit of having affiliates promoting them online.
Affiliate marketing is exciting because there are so many possibilities.
You can promote digital or physical products in your niche.
You can even promote services and memberships.
That opens up a lot of opportunities to earn a fantastic income as an affiliate.
It also opens up the need to make some decisions.
If you had your way, you’d be able to promote anything and everything.
People would be buying from your links left and right.
Well, it just doesn’t work that way.
It’s important to be strategic about the things you promote.
You can’t and shouldn’t just promote anything and everything.
You should only promote the things you know your audience will need and want, are of high quality, and suit the way you want people to view your business.
You only want to align yourself with certain products and/or merchants.
It’s not a good idea to promote something that’s of low quality just because it will potentially earn you a good commission.
You might end up with a lot of refunds on your hands.
More importantly, people will have a lowered perception of you and might not put much (or any) stock into your future product recommendations.
Things are so different, so much better, when you apply a certain set of criteria to the things you choose to promote.
- Will this product solve a problem or delight my customers?
- Is this product of high quality, so as to have a low refund rate?
- Is this product priced fairly to the customer, even considering my affiliate commission?
- Is this product, and the creator of the product, something and someone I’m proud to associate myself with?
Personally, I would also buy (and if appropriate also use) the product myself so you can give a fair recommendation.
In addition to those questions, you have to find the product in the first place.
For physical products, I would simply start with Amazon
For digital products somewhere like JVZoo or Clickbank
Step #3: Build a Website.
Building a website is much more simple than it used to be thanks to a content management system called WordPress
This website (for instance) is built on WordPress and I knew nothing about it when I started out
Indeed anybody now has the potential to put a professional-looking website online (including myself)
As an affiliate marketer, your primary value to any prospect or potential customer is to provide information.
It’s how they’ll learn to trust your opinion and is what will bring them back to your website
And it’s what will motivate them to click on your affiliate links and adverts to make a purchase.
Much of your content will also pre-sell the products and services you represent.
For example, you might write an article or a report on “10 ways to look after your rabbit” which you give away on your website.
When relevant you might link to a product or service that you’re discussing.
For example, if you say that you need to invest in a weatherproof and sturdy rabbit hutch you might want to include an Amazon link to a page selling rabbit hutches.
If your reader clicks through and makes a purchase, you earn a commission.
There are many ways you can create content for your website and keep your reader engaged and “coming back for more”.
Here are a few ideas
- “How to” Articles
- Product reviews
- Comparison charts comparing the benefits of different products
- “How to” videos
- Short reports you give away (or charge a small fee) concentrating on specific issues
- Online courses and membership site
Here is a guide to starting your first website
Step#4: Drive Traffic To Your Website
The fourth step – driving traffic to your website – is possibly the most difficult step, and here is where you need to be creative.
Here are 11 ways to drive traffic to your site
- Use social media – Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and the like
- Create a video and submit it to YouTube (and other video submission sites) and link back to your site
- Comment on other blogs in your niche and link back to your site
- Actively participate in forums with a link back. Note that by linking back to your site and not directly to the product you are not spamming the forum with affiliate links
- Guest post for other blogs in your niche (with a link back to your site)
- Comment on other blogs in your niche .. with a link back of course
- Aim for search engine rankings – initially for “long-tail keywords” (search terms of 3 words or more)
- Include your site in your email profile – set up a newsletter and drive subscribers back to your site in your emails
- Start a podcast related to your niche and drive traffic back to your site
- Set up a profile on LinkedIn with a link back to your site
- Pay for your traffic using Facebook Ads or Google Ads
I could go on, there are many many more ways to get traffic to your website.
And sending traffic to your website (as opposed to directly to an affiliate link) will mean you come across as credible and “not a spammer”
Step #5 – Make the Sale (and Get Paid!)
If you have carried out all the steps above then you will make some sales
And the vendor’s affiliate marketing program you have signed up to will make sure you do
Of course, you won’t make a sale with every visitor, which is why it is really important to capture your visitor’s email address
So you can send them their newsletter and maybe promote some other product!
Getting your first pay cheque or notification payment is a big moment in any affiliate marketer’s life
No matter how small that payment is, it is proof that you as an affiliate marketer can generate a sale and be paid a commission
Affiliate Marketing – In Summary
This article is intended to be a fairly brief introduction to affiliate marketing
To give you a flavor as to what affiliate marketing is all about and to see whether it captures your imagination
It may seem daunting to get started, but please do not let that put you off
All you need to do is work through the steps one at a time with a dogged determination and perseverance
I really do recommend affiliate marketing to anybody who is just setting out setting up a home business or looking to make money online
Give affiliate marketing a go and comment below if it has worked for you.