How to Start Affiliate Marketing
One of the fastest and easiest ways to make money online is by launching an affiliate marketing business (or adding affiliate marketing to your existing business).
While not as easy as making money with ads on your website, it's still a relatively simple and more profitable way to generate income online.
Affiliate marketing allows you to make money online, even if you don’t have a blog, website, or any products of your own. Following a few simple steps can get you up and running within hours and earning your first commissions right away. Affiliate marketing really is one of the fastest and easiest ways to make money online and should be a part of every online business owner's portfolio.
The formula for affiliate marketing remains relatively constant no matter what your market or niche. Your main task will always be traffic generation (i.e. driving prospects to the merchant’s website via your unique “affiliate” link). You can start by finding ways to drive free traffic and then adding paid advertising methods to your traffic mix.
Writing good advertising sales copy (copywriting) is the other important skill for internet marketers. The good news is that when it comes to affiliate marketing, many vendors will provide you with copy to use for your blog posts, websites ads, etc. They'll give you the emails to send, the banner ads to display, and even posts you can use on social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.).
That being said, what are these essential steps for affiliate marketing success? Here, we focus on five critical steps to launching your own profitable affiliate marketing business quickly and easily.
Choosing the Right Affiliate Network
The fit must be right between you and the merchant who is going to benefit from your promotional efforts, or it simply won’t work. The easiest way to begin with affiliate marketing is to select an affiliate network. Many affiliate networks exist, some which are tied to well-known companies like Amazon, Google, and Apple, while others specialize in specific types of products and services.
You may have heard of ClickBank, one of the oldest and most popular affiliate networks. A billion-dollar company, ClickBank specializes in digital products like e-books and software, as well as membership sites. If you are comfortable selling information and don’t want the management and administration hassles of “real” businesses, this may be a good starting point. Its commissions can be anywhere from 10% all the way to 75%.
Sometimes, individual entrepreneurs with great products are worth a look, although you should check them out first and do some research. Entrepreneurs or companies may run their own affiliate program and you can apply directly to them to promote their products and services. Finally, Amazon is always an option as you can be an affiliate for just about any type of physical product on their network.
Research and Select the Right Affiliate Products
A sound product strategy is a must for new affiliate marketers. Ideally, you should choose a niche that you can make money online with and has a lot of product vendors. This will give you a wide selection of products to offer your online community. However, limit yourself to two or three products at a time, so that you become the expert others turn to and trust when reaching for their wallet.
As you become comfortable with the affiliate marketing process, you can consider both specialized (e.g. fly fishing) and broad (e.g. weight loss) niches. Don’t forget to track your marketing metrics! They are usually provided by your merchant and/or affiliate network.
This way you'll be able to know which products your audience is responding to and which ones aren't generating any profits for your business. This is especially important if you are investing in paid advertising to drive traffic and promote products as an affiliate... you need to know which campaigns are profitable and which ones are losing money.
You'll want to continually monitor the marketplace for new products, review and test promoting those products to your audience to see which ones resonate and convert.
Consider Buying the Product Before Promoting It
As a new affiliate marketer, you are not obligated to purchase every product you want to promote. However, it goes without saying that actually owning and using the products is huge for establishing credibility and trust. Intimate knowledge of the product can mean the difference between making the sale and having prospects move elsewhere.
Writing product reviews are an excellent way to enhance your credibility as an affiliate marketer. This is especially easy with information products like e-books which are relatively inexpensive. After establishing some steady income it may even be worth buying higher-end products, provided you get in touch with the product creator to work out a strategic marketing plan that takes you to the next level.
If you actually use the product and get results with it, then sharing a case study or your personal experience can be one of the most effective ways of selling those products to your audience. As you build a more responsive list of email subscribers and buyers and your reputation, merchants may offer you “free” samples of e-books or other products.
Note: in many cases, merchants will be happy to offer you a free copy/sample of the product even if you don't have an established business -- it never hurts to ask! If so, you'll want to include full disclosure that you were provided complimentary access to the product in addition to having a disclaimer disclosing your affiliate relationship.
Utilize Social Media Marketing to Get More Traffic
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, and other social media marketing methods are great vehicles for “word of mouth” or viral marketing. Video marketing, in particular, is a great way to demonstrate your expertise via commentary, screenshots, and live demonstrations if necessary.
Right now doing videos on Facebook and Facebook Live are extremely effective as well as utilizing YouTube for a more longer-term approach to video marketing.
While at first you may be focused on using social media as a free way to get traffic, keep in mind that there are powerful ways to use paid advertising on social media to reach your targeted audience and drive that traffic back to your site or your affiliate offers.
Consider Using Redirect / "Pretty" Links
Cloaking or using anchor links was a controversial issue in internet marketing circles, with some affiliate marketers swearing by it and others who feel it is unnecessary.
On one hand, long and ugly affiliate tracking links are a straight giveaway to people that you want to sell them a product (and people may be uncomfortable clicking on them). Therefore, making your link shorter and "nicer" looking will it give a more professional appearance. One of my favorite plugins for making links look "pretty" is the Pretty Links WordPress plugin.
This makes the link much shorter, more friendly, and easier to type in case they can't click the link for some reason and want to type it into their browser.