. The affiliate marketing industry has grown exponentially over the years, with business spending expected to cap the $8.2 billion range in the United States by the year 2022 (according to a study performed by Statista). The idea of making money while you sleep has some obvious appeal. But still, many business owners aren’t sure about getting started with affiliate marketing because they don’t have a clear understanding of how it works. Additionally, many website owners don’t know how affiliate marketing might benefit their business or how to get started in the first place. The aim of this article is to answer these questions and more, so that by the end you should have a clear idea of whether implementing affiliate marketing into your business plan is worth it for you. Ready to dive in? Great, let’s start by making sure everybody understands exactly what affiliate marketing is.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
With affiliate marketing, you are able to generate additional income through an online platform by the promotion of another person or company’s products or services. There are a few different parties involved in this process:
Also known as the seller or creator, this is the business or individual offering the product or service. The merchant can be a large, well-known, multi-million-dollar company, a tiny mom and pop shop, or anything in between.
Often referred to as the publisher, the affiliate can also be a solo entrepreneur or a giant company. The affiliate is essentially in charge of the marketing aspect of the transaction. They are actively promoting the merchant’s products or services by reviewing them or otherwise convincing site visitors that purchasing them is worth their wild. The affiliate will use whatever channels necessary to reach the consumers that are relevant to the product or service they are trying to promote. This might be through blogs, social networking platforms, digital billboards, et cetera.
Also considered the buyer, this is the meat and potatoes of the entire cycle. Without the buyer, nobody receives a commission because no revenue has been generated.
Although not always used, an affiliate network often acts as the bridge between the merchant and the affiliate. This can help your affiliate marketing appear more professional (and may help you to broaden your access to a number of additional merchants, as many will only work within a network). In fact, most networks have large databases of merchants, helping you to hone in on the ones that most succinctly align with the values you’re already expressing on your website, blog, social media platforms, and more. Some of the more popular affiliate networks are ShareaSale, CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction), ClickBank, and Amazon Associates.
Based on the number of products and/or services sold due to a site visitor clicking on your affiliate link and making a purchase, you will receive a previously agreed upon commission.
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When to Start an Affiliate Marketing Campaign?
Making easy money for doing extremely little sounds pretty exciting, right? So why isn’t everybody doing it? There are definitely certain criteria you should meet before deciding to embark on a partnership with a merchant. Understand these general guidelines before you dive in too deep:
Make Sure You Have a Good Online Reputation with Your Audience
Put in the time and effort to first build a strong reputation with your audience. In other words, don’t jump into affiliate marketing simply for the sake of doing it. If you take the time to build trust and rapport with them, they will be far more likely to take your word down the line when you are suggesting other products for them to try.
Make Sure What You’re Promoting Adds Value to Your Audience
Additionally, once you’ve taken that time to build trust, don’t blow it! Anything that you are considering promoting should be something you can honestly stand behind.
- Have you tried the product or service with good results?
- Does the product make sense for your audience?
- Does it pertain to the other content you are putting forth?
- Will it add value to their lives?
If the answer to any of these questions is no, you may want to reconsider.
Don’t Expect to Get Rich Quickly
Affiliate marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. Can you make great money with affiliate marketing? Sure, you can, but it won’t likely happen overnight. You’ll need to first establish a large audience who wants to click on the links you are posting. Particularly, if you are trying to make an income you can survive on through affiliate marketing, you will likely need to sell hundreds (or thousands) of products to make ends meet.
Build a Strong Relationship with Your Vendors
It is so important to establish yourself as a leader in your niche because it will help you to build rapport, not only with your audience, but with vendors within the same field. If you are regularly using a product, reach out to those vendors first.
Commit to Understanding the Product(s) You’re Looking to Promote
In a similar vein, commit to learning ALL about the product you are looking to promote before jumping in. Even if it is something that you have used multiple times, study up on it, get to know the ins and outs and make sure that you can honestly answer any questions that come your way.
Steps to Getting Started With Affiliate Marketing
Next, it’s time to learn the step-by-step process that will get your journey started. Let’s go!
Choose a Platform
Although the easiest channels to both build an audience and increase your affiliate sales are YouTube or a blog, you can really do it on any platform (Facebook, Instagram, your website, et cetera). If you’re doing it on YouTube, you’ll need to optimize your videos for SEO and also list your affiliate links within your video description. Blogging will also require you to optimize your site and then to create a single page or footer on your entire site that discloses that you are involved in an affiliate advertising program.
Determine Your Niche
If you already have an active blog or YouTube channel, stick with what you know. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. In fact, your audience will likely become a little suspect if you start switching up your content to align with a certain product. That being said, try to narrow your niche down as much as possible, to attract the right site visitors. The more focused you can get on your own content, the easier it will be to partner up with the right merchants.
Find Affiliate Programs You Want to Join
All affiliate programs are not created equal. In fact, there are three main types with glaring differences. For starters, you have high-paying affiliate programs that boast very low volume. These are reserved for extremely niche products, but yield an extremely high payout. While these have obvious benefits, be prepared to contend with a lot of competition from other affiliates.
There are also low-paying, high-volume options, reserved for products that have a very broad appeal. The product price point will not be extremely high. This results in lower commission rate, but your chance of selling more will be higher.
Finally, there are high-paying, high-volume programs that have the best of both worlds; high payouts for products with lots of appeal. An example of this is credit cards. The downside of this category is that there will be a lot of competition from seasoned affiliate marketers.
Which affiliate program you choose will depend on your goals, your particular niche and your experience. Affiliates targeting consumers will probably opt for low-commission, high-demand programs, while those targeting businesses may opt for high-paying, low volume programs.
Keep Creating Incredible Content
If you’ve already built an audience, don’t stop now! Continually contributing high-quality content to your site is the absolute best way to have success in an affiliate marketing program. It doesn’t hurt to build some of your content around the products that you are marketing if it can be done authentically. (If it can’t, you’re probably working with the wrong products). Nobody likes a sales pitch. But, if you’ve used the product and can speak to it’s benefit in an honest way, let your audience know.
Direct Traffic to Your Affiliate Site
Whether you choose to get more traffic through PPC ads or other paid options, through implementing SEO strategies, building an email list, or something else, it’s going to be imperative to get more traffic to your affiliate site if you want it to pay off.
Get Clicks on Affiliate Links
Once you’ve gotten visitors over to your site, you need to get them clicking on your links. How will you do that? Link placement, for one thing. If you can place your link in a visually appealing place (rather than tucked at the bottom of your content), you will be much more likely to get clicks. You’ll also want to make sure that your link makes sense within the context of your content. If you blog about shoes, for example, and toss in a link for computers, it’s going to confuse your audience. It will also appear spammy. You can also use buttons, boxes and tables to draw your audience’s eyes to your links.
Converting Clicks to Sales
Now that they’ve left your page, how do you get your audience to follow through with a purchase? Well, you don’t! This part of the process is largely out of your control, but you can do research to ensure that the products you are working with convert well. You can do this by searching public income reports for paid affiliates on Google. Also, ask questions of your existing audience and listening to your own personal hunches.
That’s it! It’s literally that simple!
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Commonly Asked Questions
There are, however, a few commonly asked questions that we haven’t yet touched upon.
How Much Can I Expect to Make With Affiliate Marketing?
Of course, this is an important question to ask to determine whether or not affiliate marketing is going to be worth it for you. A recent poll conducted by STM Forum asked 117 affiliates about their annual income. The results showed that just under 20% were making less than $20K per year, around 47% fell anywhere in between $21K and $200K, another 17% (give or take) landed in the $201K – $1 Million range, and the final 17% were making upwards of $1 Million. This showcases the huge range of income that you could be making.
How much you make will be determined by the time you are able to put into affiliate marketing, the type of program you choose, your niche, your audience and the products that you choose to represent. Software affiliate programs, for example, are among the highest payouts, offering up to 30% on payments (with higher priced products). Travel pays out around 1-3% for flights, 3-12% for accommodations and 4-15% on car rentals. There are also e-commerce affiliate programs, dating affiliate programs, and fitness affiliate programs, to name just a few.
Will Affiliate Marketing Affect My Online Reputation or Website Performance?
If you choose the right affiliate marketing programs and products to work with, affiliate marketing can increase your audience trust. However, partnering with a bad vendor or promoting a product that is of poor quality can absolutely have a detrimental affect on your reputation. This is why it is so important to understand both the product you are promoting and what the vendor represents.
Affiliate links do not help or hurt your website performance, for the most part. Sometimes they can even help, simply by increasing your visibility and site traffic.
How Do I Find Vendors That Are a Good Fit for My Niche?
The short answer here is research. Consider looking to see if products you already use have affiliate programs or see what other content creators in your field are promoting and learn more about those things. Whatever you choose to market, make sure that it follows the guidelines outlined earlier and has been test-driven by you and found to offer value to your audience.
Can Affiliate Marketing be Individually Applied to Specific Pages on My Website or Blog?
Although there does not necessarily have to be a devoted page for you to apply your affiliate links, it is important to remember that full disclosure is key. In fact, the Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) requires that affiliate marketers show transparency when receiving income in return for an endorsement.
Armed with the knowledge of what, why and how, it is now in your hands to determine whether affiliate marketing is right for you. If you can follow these basic steps and show some patience while your affiliate marketing campaign builds, it could prove to be a valuable addition to your income stream down the line.
Joshua Lyons Marketing, LLC was established in 2015. Since that time we have provided digital marketing services to business and professionals. We help our clients increase their online exposure as a means to increase sales and revenue. Our core services include search engine optimization (SEO), website development and content creation. We also provide other online marketing services, such as email marketing, marketing consultations and various types of advertising. Our team is based in the Milton, Pace and Pensacola, Florida area. However, we work with clients throughout the United States. Read More