You’ve seen the word ‘affiliate marketing’ thrown around on the internet. You wonder what it is all about and if it’s a gateway to a stream of online passive income.
In 2016, I was in the same position, wondering what affiliate marketing is all about as I ventured into this seemingly lucrative industry.
Rather than the seemingly limitless earning potentials, I was attracted to the fact that the affiliate marketing model could produce consistent online income, even when you’ve stopped working on it.
I was a full-time freelancer before stepping into the affiliate marketing world. Being able to take a break AND still getting paid from affiliate marketing greatly reduces the stress and burden.
You’ll probably relate if you’re a fellow freelancer, solopreneur, or stuck in a job where you can’t afford time off.
Like many others, I started searching for ways to make money online and stumbled on this program. I signed up and started to build my first affiliate marketing business.
It doesn’t hit the ground for the first 2 years, as I was busy chasing every single shiny object. But once I’m able to focus, the growth is remarkable.
Here’s how it looks like in the first year when I start making money.
I’ll be lying if I say that you’re able to make money with affiliate marketing right from the start. Chances are, you won’t.
That’s because there are so many things to learn if you’re a newbie.
However, if you’re able to focus and have no qualms of making mistakes and learning from them, you’ll soon make your first affiliate sales and more.
Eventually, you’re able to take a few days off work without affecting your income.
Now that you’ve got an idea of how affiliate marketing can change your lifestyle, let’s dive into what it really is and how you can get started.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is simply a term that describes the process of promoting a vendor’s product to customers and earn commissions from the resulting sales.
Being an affiliate marketer, you’re not involved in inventory, production, fulfillment, or customer support.
All you need to do is to promote the product or services and earn commissions when they are sold.
Who’s Involved In Affiliate Marketing?
In affiliate marketing, there are generally 3 parties involved in the ecosystem.
- Publisher – Affiliate marketers are in this category. Some major publishers in affiliate marketing are TechRadar, T3, and Tom’s Guide.
- Merchants – They’re responsible for sourcing, stocking, fulfilling the orders, and supporting the customers. Amazon is a popular merchant to work with for newbie affiliate marketers.
- Customers – Obviously, they are people who’re buying the products.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
The success of the affiliate marketing model relies on tracking the conversions of leads you’ve sent to the merchant.
This is done on the affiliate marketing platform that the merchant is using. As an affiliate marketer, you need to be familiar with these two terminologies.
- Affiliate links
Affiliate links are URLs that are unique to the affiliate marketer. It is generated by the affiliate marketing platform and contains a unique identifier to the affiliate marketer’s account.
The merchant uses affiliate links to track leads brought in by their affiliates. Here’s an example of an affiliate link.
Meanwhile, cookies are files that are downloaded to the customer’s device when they visited the merchant’s site.
The cookies file contains the expiration period of when the commission will be attributed to the sale.
For example, Amazon has a 24 hours cookies period. If you’re promoting a product on Amazon and a customer clicked on the affiliate link, you’ll be paid for any transactions that were made within 24 hours.
Cookies period differs according to the merchants. Amazon is known to offer extremely short cookies duration, but it compensates with high conversions and cross-products commissions. This means if you’re promoting a $9.99 ceramic cup, you’ll also earn commissions when the customer bought a $200 air purifier.
Most merchants offer 30 days cookies period.
There are also extreme cases where the merchant offers a lifetime cookies period. As long as the customer has not cleared the cookies cache or clicked onto another marketer’s link, you’ll make a commission regardless of when the purchase is made.
How To Get Into Affiliate Marketing?
If you think that you’ll find success at affiliate marketing by placing affiliate links all over Facebook or forums, you’re wrong.
Most forums and social media have strict policies on promotions. It wouldn’t be long before you’re banned from the group.
There are, however, a few proven ways to build a sustainable affiliate marketing business. In this article, I’ll show you the method that I’m familiar with and will work in years to come.
It’s about building an affiliate marketing website, like this.
A website has the potential to rank on search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. It will start getting organic traffic, (and sales), even when you’ve stopped building the site.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt to run advertisements if you’re promoting high-ticket products. But if you’re search traffic, you’re not dependent on ads.
Also, a website that makes money can be flipped (sold), for around 30 times its monthly earning. That’s something that sprinkling affiliate links over social media couldn’t do.
So, how do you get started with affiliate marketing?
1. Pick A Niche
First, you’ll need to identify a niche to focus on. Avoid creating a site that’s more of a ‘lifestyle blog’, where you cover travel, food, parenting, and everything under the roof.
It’s hard for such websites to rank and engage with the audience.
Instead, pick a topic that you’re knowledgeable and/or passionate about and narrow it down. For example:
- Mobile phones for seniors.
- Autoresponder apps for solopreneurs.
- Standing desks for back pain.
When you start, you’ll want to focus solely on a topic and established your site as the authority. It’s tempting to expand into verticals or horizontal niches but only does that after you’ve succeeded with the existing niche.
Are all niches profitable? Unfortunately, it’s not. Some niches are driven by trends and when it’s on a downhill slope, you won’t get much traction.
Some are too narrow to start with, that there are limited audiences and products to promote.
How do you find profitable niches? (Read this in-depth guide)
It’s simple. Search the money keyword on Google and find out if there are other affiliate sites on the search result.
For example, ‘best standing desks for back pain’ return results containing a few affiliate sites. Here’s one on the top.
Then, find out if people are buying the product or services. If you’re promoting products, go to Amazon and check if the products are getting reviews from users.
For apps, check out PlayStore or AppStore and you’ll find if people are buying into them. You’ll get a good idea if it’s a niche worth venturing into.
2. Build A Website
You need a website before you can start placing building content, place affiliate links, and generate traffic.
If you’ve never built a website, it may seem intimidating.
I’ll suggest sticking with WordPress. It’s a platform favored by affiliate marketers and it’s the best in terms of speed and SEO.
Before you can build a WordPress website, you’ll need to sign up for a domain. The website’s domain is the URL that customers key in to access the site.
You’ll want to pick a domain name that’s brandable and related to your niche. I use NameFlix to find brandable names.
Then, I check out if the names are available on domain registrars.
Once you’ve bought the domain, you’ll need to host the site. I’m hosting my sites at WealthyAffiliate, where they are automatically optimized for security and speed.
Else, you can check out SiteGround, which is a favorite among marketers.
Before you start building content, you’ll need to set up the following:
- WordPress theme (start with a free theme)
- Plugins (Yoast, Kraken.io, etc)
- Site title, tagline, logo, and other technical configurations.
There are many free resources on WordPress that will guide you to this. Here’s a good one by ThemeIsle.
You can also check out my guide on building an affiliate marketing website.
3. Join Affiliate Programs
You can find affiliate programs for practically every product, apps, and services. Just search the ‘[product name] + affiliate program’ on Google.
For physical products, you’ll usually sign up with the following:
- Retailers – Amazon, Walmart, Target
- Affiliate Network – ShareASale, Awin, CJ.com, RakutenMarketing
- Vendors with an affiliate program.
For digital products, you’ll need to sign up with the service provider.
Some affiliate programs are harder to get in for a new website. Often, popular affiliate networks and brands will require a site with established traffic before the application is approved.
If you’re promoting physical products, the easiest platform to start is Amazon Associates. It’s easy to sign up and get approved.
When approved, your account put on probation. You’ll need to get 3 affiliate sales within 90 days to prevent deactivation.
Once your application is approved, you’ll have access to affiliate links, which can be placed in the content.
4. Create Content
Many newbies got stuck in creating content for affiliate sites. What types of content do you need to create?
There are 3 types of content
- Sharable assets
If you want to generate commissions, you’ll need to create many review articles. You can write an in-depth review of a particular product and include the affiliate link.
Another form of reviews, which happens to be my favorite, is to create ‘Best of’ lists like this:
It’s easier to write a Best Of article than an in-depth 2,000 words review of a single product.
The idea of writing many of these review articles is because people who are searching for them are at the end of the purchase cycle.
In other words, the readers are likely to make a purchase even if they have not visited your website. You’re helping them to make an informed decision, which nudges them to the sale.
While review articles are the money pages, you shouldn’t only focus on a single type of content. You’ll need to balance with informational articles and shareable assets.
Informational articles are non-promotional. They focus on helping the users to answer questions or solve problems.
If you’re promoting standing desks, you can create informational articles like these:
- How to choose a standing desk for back pain.
- How to use a standing desk correctly
- What are the benefits of standing desks
Occasionally, you’ll want to create content that is highly sharable. These articles are written in a manner that attracts shares and engagements on social media.
You’ll need to get creative when writing such articles. Tap into current trends or create an ‘ultimate list’ to get the crowd going.
5. Generate Traffic
You can have the best website and content but if you’re not getting traffic, you aren’t going to generate sales.
There are a few ways to generate traffic. My favorite? Organic search traffic.
In order to rank on search engines like Google, you’ll need to optimize your website for SEO. This means you’ll need to do keyword research, on-page SEO, technical SEO, and off-page SEO.
I picked up most of the SEO skills needed to rank affiliate sites from this affliate training academy.
Here’s how I ranked a 1-year-old site with only 30+ articles on the first page of Google.
SEO is a huge discipline and it’s constantly evolving. If there’s anything that you need to pick up as a beginner, it’s keyword research.
Your content strategy needs to be based on keywords that people are searching on Google. You need to get the right balance between traffic and competitors for a particular keyword.
If it’s too competitive, it will take longer to rank.
I use Jaaxy Lite, which is provided for free on the platform where I host my affiliate sites.
If you’re good at engaging crowds at social media, you can use it to channel traffic to your website.
Facebook used to have a good organic reach, but its algorithm now favors paid ads. If you can take the effort in creating an engaged group, it’s still a good option.
Else, I’ll suggest checking out Youtube and Pinterest for your traffic strategy. Both social media platforms have a search engine built-in, which you can leverage for increased visibility.
The quickest way to get traffic is to pay for it. Whether it’s on Google, Facebook, Youtube, or other platforms, you can run ads to drive traffic to your site.
If you know what you’re doing, you’ll get a positive ROI. Else, you’ll be losing money with low conversions.
How Do Affiliates Get Paid?
Most affiliate programs pay through Paypal, Payoneer, or direct bank transfer. Usually, you’ll need to wait 30 to 60 days before the funds are released. Some vendors may need manual requests for payment release.
How Long Does It Take To Make Money With Affiliate Marketing?
Here’s the question that every affiliate marketing newbie longed to ask. And I bet you’re sick with “It depends”.
After building 4 affiliate sites, I can say that it takes 3-6 months to make your first affiliate sales with only search traffic. Of course, this is assuming that you’re spending enough time and follow the course in this program.
If you get distracted, or just chipping in 30 minutes a week, you won’t be making money that fast.
How Can I Start Affiliate Marketing With No Money?
The bad news is, you can’t. Not if you’re going to build a sustainable affiliate site that keeps generating income for years, even if you’ve stopped working on it.
You’ll need to pay for the domain and hosting, which will cost around $9.99/month or more.
Besides, you’ll need more in-depth training than this article to guide you in a systematic manner. You have the option to scour through the web and put together the free resources but doing so is very time-consuming.
And time, for me, is more important than money.
The good news is, you don’t have to pay thousands of dollars just to learn affiliate marketing. It will be too costly and will take a long time before you break even.
How much does it cost?
Less than $2 a day, for an extensive affiliate marketing course, resources, tools, web hosting, and a buzzing community.