For well over a decade, affiliate marketing has been one of the most profitable ways to make money online. It’s also among the best methods for creating passive income.
Here’s how it works: You set up a website, join affiliate programs, and start creating content designed to refer your readers to online products. When someone follows one of your links and makes a purchase at a site you’re promoting, you receive a commission.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see much action right away. It takes some time to get off the ground, and many visitors don’t make purchases right away.
Most affiliate programs have cookie periods that last between 30 and 150 days, meaning that a visitor clicks on your link to land on the product you’re promoting, but they haven’t bought anything on that first visit. The good news is that this isn’t a lost cause.
If they return and make a purchase within the specified period of time (cookie period) you’ll still receive an affiliate commission. It’s a good idea to keep this in mind as you’re deciding which affiliate programs you’d like to work with.
The more work you put into promoting the products or services you’ve chosen, the higher your odds of earning handsome commissions. This means that you’ll want to share your links via multiple methods including social media, YouTube, and other channels that are available to you.
Making Money Through Affiliate Marketing
There are many ways to make money with affiliate marketing. In fact, entire books have been written on the subject. The most important thing to remember is that you’ve got to create value for your readers, viewers, or visitors.
Quality content is absolutely key to gaining trust, getting followers, and setting up a solid affiliate marketing income stream that grows over time. It’s worth noting that most successful affiliate marketing pros have multiple sites and multiple income streams. As a beginner, you’ll want to take small steps and build your sites one at a time.
Here’s a Quick Example of a Typical Route to Consider:
Think about a niche in a profitable industry. Choose something you’re familiar with, preferably something you enjoy and feel excited about promoting.
- Decide which affiliate product(s) you’d like to promote first. Keep a running list of opportunities to keep in mind for the future.
- Start a blog and create a YouTube channel.
- Set up social media for your blog.
- Choose an affiliate product or service and start to create promotional content, i.e. articles, reviews, or videos.
- Drive traffic to your content by using proven methods such as email marketing services and social media posts.
- Automate your funnel, focus on driving more traffic to your content, and continue to create more content.
- Repeat the process.
Once you’ve set up automated systems, you’ll find that everything flows faster. Just like any other venture or job, getting started with affiliate marketing requires time, effort, and dedication.
Don’t let this frighten you. Rome wasn’t built in a day! Just like a building that’s meant to stand the test of time, every successful affiliate marketer needs a strong foundation.
Getting Started: 15 Affiliate Marketing Tips
1. Learn the Ropes
Acquaint yourself with your country’s guidelines for affiliate marketing. For U.S. residents, begin by reading up on the Federal Trade Commission’s regulations.
You can go straight to the source, and you can easily find blogs that outline what to avoid. Research opportunities to ensure that you avoid promoting spammers or scammers.
2. Make Smart Choices
There’s no shortage of affiliate marketing products to choose from, and some are far more profitable than others. Additionally, some have better resources available. The time you spend researching will be well-spent.
Sleeping Culture, an affiliate site went from $0-$4,000 a month in less than 10 months and shares its strategy for choosing a niche:
Sleeping Culture says, “Based on experience, I use 50,000 monthly search volume is a benchmark for a new niche. The next thing to do is look at Google Trends to see if this is a niche with growing visibility in the online space. Let’s look at a few relevant phrases:
As you can see, there is a growing demand online for sleep-related products.
Now a quick look at monetization; most of the sleep products on Amazon belong to the “Home” category on Amazon which means an 8% commission rate which is one of the highest rates available on Amazon.”
Finally, don’t try to expand too far too fast. Limit your portfolio, particularly when you’re first starting out. This way, you’ll be able to focus on effective promotion, leading to higher returns.
3. Create Useful, Original Content
When you create content, do it with an eye toward offering visitors a helpful benefit, even if they never buy a thing. If your content is useful, entertaining, thought-provoking, or helpful in any way, you’ll build a devoted following faster and, eventually, this will lead to significant results.
If you aren’t a good writer, work on your skills or hire a freelancer who can help you create core content for your blog. Do not plagiarize, ever. It’s the fastest way to find yourself in a downward spiral. Search engines will know, and you’ll be severely penalized. Additionally, you could find yourself in the midst of an ugly legal battle if you copy work that belongs to someone else.
4. Be Upfront With Readers and Viewers
Build trust by offering an honest approach. It’s best practice to offer full disclosure and doing so will keep you on the right side of the law. Credibility can take time to build, but it’s an important part of your long-term strategy for successful affiliate marketing.
5. Join an Affiliate Network
Joining an affiliate network is a fast, simple way to get ideas and information about which products and services are best for your niche.
Spend some time researching before joining your first affiliate network. There’s no rule that says you can’t join multiple networks but remember that you’re starting from square one. A gradual approach is best.
During your research, look to see what’s offered. Features like tracking, payment and refund processing, and reporting are desirable. You’ll also want to have access to a central database of affiliate programs. Clickbank, Amazon Associates, and PeerFly are a few popular options.
6. Choose Quality Products and Services
You’re going to be judged based on your recommendations. The easiest way to create a good reputation is to promote products and services that meet your standards.
Approximately 80 percent of brands offer affiliate marketing opportunities, so products and services you already use and like might be very easy to add to your portfolio. Just be sure that they’re in your niche. The easiest way to find out is to run a quick search for the name of the product or service plus “affiliate program.”
You’re going to gain more credibility if you can buy and test products and services for yourself. Video reviews are an excellent way to prove that you’re willing to put your money where your mouth is. In some cases, you’ll be given a free product or trial to test.
If a product or service has some “cons” along with some “pros,” be upfront about it. Even if you end up making no sales off certain items, you’ll build credibility and this is worth its weight in gold.
7. Create a Lead Page With a Free Offer
Most of us have seen these – when you first visit a site, you’re offered a free report, an ebook, or something else of value in exchange for a valid email address.
Make your offer exciting. It should be something that people feel curious or enthusiastic about. If, for example, your lifestyle blog promotes the latest cooking gadgets and people come to you for recipes, offering a free recipe ebook is a great way to build an email list with solid prospects who enjoy spending time in the kitchen.
8. Send Valuable Content to Your Email List Regularly, but Don’t Spam
Create more offers for email subscribers. Know what your readers value and give it to them. This will increase your traffic as well as visits to affiliate offers.
Know how often to send emails. A few times per week is usually enough unless you’ve got a great product with daily tips that people look forward to receiving. If you’re noticing lots of unsubscribes, then you’re probably sending too many emails with too little value.
9. Diversify Your Marketing Efforts
Knowing where to reach your target audience is key to achieving success with affiliate marketing, and it’s equally important to entice visitors to your site or places where your content is hosted, i.e. YouTube.
- Look for different ways to share and distribute affiliate links. Social media is a great start, but there are plenty of other ways to get traffic to your site.
- Never, ever allow your marketing tactics to descend into spam territory. Lots of affiliate marketers make this mistake and suffer as a result.
- Don’t duplicate your content, i.e. don’t plagiarize yourself. Search engines like uniqueness and will reward you for your efforts.
10. Use Top Affiliate Marketing Tools
There’s a lot to learn more about affiliate marketing tools, and there are quite a few good ones out there. Since using the right tools helps you earn money with affiliate marketing, it’s important to choose the best.
See what others recommend. Optimize Amazon affiliate links for international shopping, and ensure those banner ads are appropriately positioned. AdSanity, Genius Link, and ThirstyAffiliates are a few good affiliate marketing tools to consider depending on your needs.
11. Collaborate When You’re Ready
Collaborating leads to mutually beneficial partnerships that help both you and your brand reach a wider audience. Partner networks are ideal for beginning affiliate marketers as they can help create connections to major sites worth collaborating with.
Some affiliate managers will reach out to you with offers once you have made a few sales, but this isn’t likely to happen right away. Once you have created good content and are ready to move forward, reach out to affiliate managers and ask whether it’s possible to collaborate.
12. Create Relationships
As a consumer, you’re probably well-aware of the many demands for your attention. Which campaigns earn your focus? The truth is that those who put in the effort to create a relationship with you are clear winners. This doesn’t mean that you have to get to know every member of your target audience; instead, it means gaining the insight necessary to communicate on a level that feels personal.
- Nobody wants to waste time reading or watching boring content. Be unique, be creative, and inject your affiliate marketing campaigns with “plenty of personality.”
- Authentic communications are always relevant to your target audience. Make sure that your content is useful, informative, interesting, insightful, and suggestive but minus any overt sales pitches. This might sound like quite a feat but with practice and research, you can present yourself as a trustworthy friend or peer, instead of that pesky, bothersome salesperson everyone tries to avoid.
- Know that people like to interact. If you engage your audience by replying to comments, answering questions, running contests, going live on social media, etc., your followers will repay you with their loyalty. Keep sincerity and quality at the forefront and make sure that you keep on offering beneficial information that provides value. Your long-term success depends on the relationships you form with your audience.
13. Be Aware of Common Affiliate Marketing Mistakes
Don’t be afraid to try new things but do be aware of mistakes others have made so that you don’t inadvertently duplicate them. For example, spamming by bombarding subscribers with frequent emails is a huge mistake. Pushing too hard leads to annoyance and causes subscribers to remove themselves from your address book.
- Not having personal familiarity with the chosen niche, product or service is one of the worst affiliate marketing mistakes. Consumers are a savvy bunch, and they can tell the difference between a solid critique and a blasé recommendation based on what every other affiliate marketer out there has to say.
- There are tons of affiliate marketing mistakes to be aware of but we’re going to end our list here: Sending out nothing but offers is a surefire way to lose subscribers. You should be good to go if two out of three emails contain useful information and no affiliate links at all. Think about the lists you subscribe to and consider what factors make you pay attention to your favorites.
14. Treat Yourself to a Well-Rounded Education
Before you jump in with both feet, learn more about starting an affiliate marketing business. You don’t have to go back to school, but you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor by participating in webinars, watching helpful videos, and reading content produced by top affiliate marketing experts.
- Don’t be afraid to pay for products designed to help you achieve success with affiliate marketing. More than a few experts have great learning tools on offer, and most of them are well worth the small investment required to gain access.
- Watch others and learn from their success. Social media influencers and marketing bloggers can provide you with valuable insight even if you aren’t quite ready to invest in educational products.
15. Have a Plan and Follow it
Create a workable daily schedule that doesn’t feel like too much of a stretch. Trying to do too much too fast can lead to overwhelm, so make your time investment achievable. The daily effort pays off, even if you spend just an hour per day working on your affiliate marketing plan.
- If you’re having trouble fitting affiliate marketing efforts into your day, look for time-wasters to cut. If certain activities aren’t adding value to your life, do you really need to keep them?
Remember that slow and steady often wins the race. Successful affiliate marketing requires active participation but you don’t have to do everything at once. Planning, being methodical, and taking a thoughtful approach to your efforts are three simple ways to achieve success with affiliate marketing.
Lastly, remember to follow a roadmap. Everyone starts as a beginner, but by following a proven plan and steadily working to build an affiliate marketing business, you can achieve success.Opinions expressed here are the opinions of the author. Influencive does not endorse or review brands mentioned; does not and can not investigate relationships with brands, products, and people mentioned and is up to the author to disclose. VIP Contributors and Contributors, amongst other accounts and articles, are professional fee-based.
Luke Fitzpatrick is an academic speaker at Sydney University. He enjoys writing about tech, productivity, lifestyle, and is a contributor to Forbes.