Updated February 3, 2020
Affiliate marketing is something practically every website owner should have a basic understanding of in today’s digital world. Even if you don’t personally use it in your monetization strategy, there may be a time when you want to. This guide to affiliate marketing can get you several steps closer to understanding one of the most popular forms of website monetization online businesses use today.
Don’t have a website yet? Learn how to use Facebook to drive your first affiliate sales!
Affiliate marketing has become a valid way to earn a passive income online. Sign up for an affiliate program, insert links on your website, and watch as you earn commissions from things people purchase with your links.
However, the details can get confusing as you delve into the world of being an affiliate. This simplified guide will break down the basics of affiliate marketing for newbies to give you a solid foundation with which to grow.
While this guide will suffice for some readers for their fix of affiliate marketing information, others will want more in-depth and actionable items to help them fully grasp how to make money from websites.
We’ve included programs below that provide the whole nine yards on affiliate marketing. These premium courses should serve as your one-stop-guide for profiting from affiliate programs with your site, and we’ve listed three of the best ones in this post.
Read on and learn how affiliate marketing helps you diversify your income stream to complement your online business.
Our favorite FREE Step by Step Video Guide for Affiliate Marketing (120 Videos!)
Affiliate Marketing For Newbies: What’s It All About?
Imagine creating an eBook but not having a large enough network to help market it. In this case, an affiliate marketing strategy can help your marketing abilities and generate more sales.
Affiliate marketing pulls together marketers who want to advertise and publishers, sometimes called influencers, who want to promote products and services and get paid to do so. Publishers place customized links to things they want to promote within their website or social media content. Then, they get a portion of the sales as a thank you for their promotion.
Fortunately, affiliate marketing isn’t particularly challenging to learn. You can set yourself up as an affiliate, start placing links, and jump on the path to earning money from affiliate commissions, all within a couple of hours. The trick is to understand how to do it all correctly so that you can maximize your profit.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Make You Money?
Now it’s time to learn how to make money with affiliate marketing. As a beginner, you may start out making a few dollars per month with affiliate marketing until you learn the ropes. As you learn what products and services your audience is most interested in, you can tweak your strategy to earn more.
When you place an affiliate link on your site and someone clicks on it and completes a required action, usually a purchase, you’ll make money from that action. Your earnings could be a percentage of the sale, a flat fee for generating a lead, or a large bonus for a subscription sign-up.
Some programs, like Google AdSense, are Pay-Per-Click (PPC), meaning that it will pay you money for each advertisement or link click. Each affiliate program is different, but the advertiser will let you know the amount you can make from each lead, conversion, or sale when you sign up.
How Much Can You Make With Affiliate Marketing?
The reality of affiliate marketing is that everyone earns money differently. While some are lucky enough to earn thousands of dollars per month, others struggle to earn $1 per day. Strategy is a significant part of your results, but even the best strategy in the world isn’t always predictable.
It’s important to remember that, even if you make $100 per day for a full week, month, or more, you shouldn’t expect always to earn that much per day. The products making you money could be trending now, but their popularity can dip without notice.
Although it’s possible to earn a full-time income when you become an established affiliate marketer, it’s not realistic to expect a full-time income as a beginner. Let’s talk more about the strategy behind affiliate marketing that can help you work your way up to the big leagues.
How To Be An Affiliate Marketer
First, you need to sign up for affiliate marketing programs. Here’s where to look:
Join Branded Affiliate Programs
You’ve probably heard of affiliate marketing with Amazon Associates, one of the most popular affiliate programs to join. Amazon Associates is an example of a branded affiliate program. In other words, you can look up your favorite companies and brands and sign up for their affiliate program to promote products and services they sell.
Often, brand websites will have a link in the site footer to get to their affiliate program’s signup page. Most of the time, you’ll get directed to an affiliate marketing network, through which you can sign up for that company’s program.
As an example, check out Apple’s Affiliate Program page, which gives you the details of the program and the benefits to you. When you sign up, you’ll be directed to an application via the Performance Horizon Group, an affiliate marketing company that handles Apple’s affiliate account.
Join An Affiliate Marketing Network
An affiliate marketing network, like ClickBank and Share-A-Sale, work as a middle man between advertisers and publishers. Advertisers sign up for the platform to find publishers who can promote their products. Publishers sign up to join programs and get links to promote.
As a publisher, you can apply for several programs and you’ll often find your favorite brands in one place. These networks usually have helpful tools that allow you to track your clicks, commissions, and more.
Contact Your Favorite Brands Directly
If you can’t find information about an affiliate program for your favorite brands, you can reach out to them directly. You might be able to set up a contract with the brand that outlines your commissions for promoting its products and services.
It’s in your best interest, though, to suggest that the brand sets up a program through a network so that you have access to tracking features and can evaluate your affiliate marketing performance.
Affiliate Marketing For Beginners: Know What Products To Promote
This affiliate marketing beginners guide wouldn’t be complete without pointing you in the right direction toward knowing how to find the right products for you to promote. The best products for promotion won’t be the same for everyone, but instead depend on your business and audience.
If you plan to promote your favorite brands, that’s great. However, you’ll want to make sure their products are something your audience will also love. Remember that affiliate marketing is about what your audience loves and will find helpful.
Joining an affiliate network can come in handy for finding the right products and services because it will offer tools to narrow down your program options. For example, if you want to promote office supplies on your website, you can filter programs by companies that sell office supplies and similar items.
Where Does Keyword Research Come In?
Keyword research is one of the most important tools when it comes to affiliate marketing done correctly. Why? Proper keyword research using a tool like Long Tail Pro will not only draw people into your content, making it more likely to generate commissions from your links, but it can also help you find the best products to promote.
Once you find a product you’re interested in, you can use a keyword research tool to find keywords that you can use within your content to see if that product can potentially draw in an audience from search engines. If you want to promote a weight loss shake, for example, you can research the term, ‘weight loss shake’, to find the best keywords.
Specifically, you’ll want to find keywords that have low to medium competition, high monthly search volume, and a high profitability score. If you find that the keywords related to the product you want to promote don’t meet these criteria, you may want to reconsider targeting that product.
Inserting And Tracking Affiliate Links
Have you found the products you want to promote? Great! Now, it’s time to insert your links. Fortunately, most affiliate networks make this as easy as possible, even for beginners, by providing copy-paste codes for you to place in your content.
Alternatively, your network or program might provide a unique URL for you to link to. In this case, insert your unique link the same way you would any other link on your site.
Once your links are in place, you’ll want to track their performance. Most affiliate networks and programs have tools that help you do this through your dashboard. Or, if you use WordPress, you can choose from several affiliate link plugins that give detailed insights of clicks, top-performing pages, and more.
Be careful not to click your own links, as this can trigger your removal from a program or network.
How Can I learn Affiliate Marketing?
It’s one thing to learn about affiliate marketing from lip service. It’s another to actually have someone who will show you how to set up a website or blog optimized for making money from your affiliate programs.
The tips mentioned above covers the bulk about how profitable affiliate sites are set up nowadays. If you’re familiar with building sites and a bit of SEO, then this affiliate marketing guide should put you on the right path. However, if you want a more comprehensive guide to affiliate marketing, then you will need more than just free resources online to get a website up and running.
Therefore, below are three of the best and tested affiliate programs that cover everything you need to know about setting up a profitable affiliate site.
The Authority Site System®
As one of the best resources about digital marketing, Authority Hacker is more than qualified to launch a program on how to build insanely profitable websites.
The Authority Site System® is the program for people with the burning question, “how can I learn affiliate marketing?” It serves as your one-stop guide for building sites that make you money.
Even if you neither have a website yet nor possess the marketing skills to drive traffic to it, the program holds your hand and guides you in a step-to-step tutorial that’s easy to understand even if you don’t know any marketing terms.
Unlike other programs, this one helps you build an authority site. You’re not just here to build a site and make money through unscrupulous means. An an authority site, you must produce quality content, reach out to your audience in the most effective ways, build backlinks to rank higher on Google organic search, and more.
The Authority Site System® is not for people who want to make a quick buck because all these tactics take time and effort. However, once you establish your site as an authority, you can sustain the profit for as long as you can. You can then build another using the tactics from the program to further diversify your income stream!
The program costs a one-time payment of $997. You will gain access to five comprehensive modules containing over 70+ videos, case studies, email outreach templates, and 40,000 words of support content.
There’s also a 30-day money back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with the program. To help expedite your learning, you can join the private Facebook group for questions about the different parts of the programs or share quick wins with the community.
Affilorama has been in the affiliate marketing game for more than a decade. It has the experience, knowledge, and clout to inform people on how to build a profitable website the right way.
In fact, Affiloblueprint is the program they’ve developed to help people looking for answers on how to learn affiliate marketing and those who have tried their hand at making money from affiliate programs but failed.
It provides the blueprint on how to be free from the 9-5 prison so you can have more time with your family and loved ones and do the things you love while making even more money that ever before.
Affiloblueprint covers everything you need to know to build a website that generates passive income after a few months. The program is divided into three parts: research and build, marketing, and monetization.
The parts contain over 90 videos and complementary PDF files and notes to help you grasp the concepts that the program is trying to impart. The program is regularly updated for the past nine years to keep the tactics in line with the changes in the digital marketing landscape. It ensures that the guide teaches you the best practices and prevent your site from incurring potential penalties.
As mentioned, you don’t need to know the intricacies of digital marketing – the program will break it down for you in digestible chunks. What you should focus on is following the program to a tee and make money from your website soon.
Affilorama costs a one-time payment of $197. You can get a refund for your payment within 60 days after purchase if you’re unhappy with it.
Along with the program, you can download and use the AffiloTheme Website Builder theme for WordPress to help you design a beautiful website with no technical experience.
You will also gain access for a one-month trial of the AffiloTools for market research, competitor analysis, and other tasks to help you track and monitor your site’s performance. Lastly, you will receive a free 1-year hosting package that supports one website so you can build your website right out the gate!
Wealthy Affiliate is another platform that helps you how to learn affiliate marketing online. It offers identical services and supports as the ones above. However, it has unique features that make it ideal for some people who want to learn affiliate marketing.
What stands out with this program is the ability to create a free account on the platform. Once signed up, you can gain access to its training resources and video walkthroughs. Choose from the ones that interest you and join in the fun to help build on your knowledge about affiliate marketing.
Another factor that makes Wealthy Affiliate different from other affiliate marketing programs is how community-driven it is. While there are training modules you can do at your own pace, the value of your paid membership comes from chatting with premium members.
For a free account, you can talk to them for a limited time to help you learn more about the program from them. You can read these success stories and get inspired to start your own affiliate marketing journey.
Wealthy Affiliate also lets you create two free website using the SiteRubix website builder. If you want to put the training your learned from the platform to the test, you can build a free site and run your ideas from there.
To help you find ideas for a website to create, yo can use its proprietary keyword research tool for 30 queries in a day. Keep in mind you gain access to all these just by creating an account and not making any payments yet!
If the program hooks you to pony up for a monthly subscription at $49/month, you can create over 50 websites from the platform so you don’t have to look for a separate hosting provider for your website needs.
You will also gain access to all seven phases of the Affiliate Bootcamp Training and the complete 12 training classrooms guaranteed to fortify your knowledge on affiliate marketing. The subscription will also unlock unlimited keyword research queries, live chat with premium members, and 1-on-1 coaching, just to name a few!
5 Best Strategies To Grow Your Affiliate Site
Once you’ve decided to try running an affiliate site, you’ll have to put the time and effort into figuring out the best ways to make it grow. Without growth, your profits and success will remain stagnant, so this learning investment is a must.
Thankfully, there is a lot of guidance available to help you to grow your affiliate site. Experts that work in the industry have offered some advice that can be used in tangent with these top growth strategies:
1. Balance Trends With Evergreen Products
One of the things that you will need to determine is the type of products that will come through your site and how you will go about marketing them.
It’s easy to fall prey to the idea that you need to keep up with the latest trends and promote the products that are hot right now, but that strategy can actually burn a bigger hole in your pocket than you might think.
Trendy products can drive quick conversions, but the long-term conversion rate of the content and affiliate links will not be as good as the products that are longer lasting. These products, often called evergreen products, can consistently pull in conversions regardless of how trends change.
When choosing what content, keywords, and affiliate products to focus on, create a strategy on how you will balance promoting what’s trending with what’s going to be a consistent performer. By employing a little bit of both, you can boost your profit margins.
2. Consistent, Quality Content Matters
The only way to make affiliate marketing really work is to put the right amount of effort into the content on your site.
As Amit Ahuja puts it,
“Content. You have to post consistently if you want to gain traction in Google. Post regularly, consistently, and of good quality.”
Without the right content bringing in conversions of those with purchase intent, an affiliate marketing strategy will never succeed. And Ahuja isn’t the only one who has found success in the industry that knows this to be true.
Asser Christensen of Coffee Chronicler has learned that covering topics with real depth and value ensures that readers stay on the page for longer. Covering each topic comprehensively and with a focus on quality creates a better page.
3. Build Backlinks
While it’s great to generate your own traffic through smart keyword use and marketing efforts, it’s even better when another site creates traffic and conversions for you.
If your affiliate site is full of high-quality content that can help you to build backlinks without any additional effort. Higher quality content is more likely to be naturally linked to and that will help to improve your affiliate marketing conversions.
You can also build backlinks to your site by doing guest posts or interviews with other websites in the niche that will help your page to rank more effectively in its niche.
4. Simplify Your Keyword Strategy
While there is always going to be the right time and place to spend time doing extensive keyword research, Jacob Cass of Just Creative shared that you can make keyword research a lot easier on yourself.
In his case, he starts by thinking about what he would type into a search engine if he was looking to buy the product. From there, keyword research can take off more quickly because you aren’t starting from scratch.
Once it’s time to choose a keyword, his rule is simple: choose the keywords with the highest buyer intent. These keywords are the most likely to create a conversion and thus a profit.
If you aren’t comfortable starting your research with the same amount of intuitive as Cass just yet, remember that tools like Long Tail Pro will always be able to help simplify your keyword process as well.
5. Choose Trustworthy Retailers
This final point may seem like an obvious one, but it is still worth saying that you must choose to work with trustworthy retailers when setting up your affiliate marketing strategy. If you convert visitors to buy products from a retailer that ends up being a scammer, the customer isn’t the only one who is going to be negatively affected.
Make sure that every affiliated company that you work with is reliable and that the products they create are not knock-offs, either. Any negative reputation they present will reflect back on your site, and that is the last thing that you want to happen.
How To Start Your Own Affiliate Program
Are you more interested in being on the other side of the ropes and want to start your own affiliate program instead of making passive income off someone else’s sales?
While you will need to do a different set of work to achieve this, it is possible to set up your own affiliate program so that you are the one paying out commissions as affiliate link marketers drive traffic to your site.
Step 1: Decide On Your Product
The first thing that you need to do is determine what your primary product will be if you don’t already have that lined up.
Consider whether focusing on a hard product or a soft product will be better for your overall business strength:
- Hard products are physical products that will need to be bought, produced, and shipped out to customers.
- Soft products are non-physical products such as ebooks, internet courses, or access to certain types of online content that only exist in the digital world.
Both types of products have their benefits and difficulties; the decision comes down to which type of product you feel most excited about selling. Additionally, think about what type of product is missing from the market right now.
Affiliate marketing is most effective for unique products with specific audiences, and your product should line up with this mentality.
Step 2: Analyze The Competition
As with many things in marketing, the next thing that you need to do is study your competition.
Make a list of companies that are working in a similar vertical or overlapping niche with where your product will fall.
- What are they doing that works?
- What are they wasting their time on?
- How does their page rank in different areas?
- What are there conversions like?
- What do you find most interesting about their site or commission terms?
- How much are they paying for commissions to affiliates?
Take time to really work through these details as you get to know your competition, and you will come out with a better idea of what you want to do with your own business strategy.
The goal here is not to steal their ideas but to set up standards and expectations for yourself in this new industry.
Step 3: In-house vs Management Company
Do you want to manage the affiliate outreach in-house, or do you plan to higher an affiliate marketing management company to do that legwork instead?
There isn’t a right or wrong answer; it’s all about what makes you feel the most comfortable. Many people are not comfortable with doing their own affiliate outreach, so they higher a more experienced company to do this for them.
Working With Affiliate Management Companies
If you do consider an affiliate company as you work on your own affiliate program, it can be hard to decide whether or not your business would benefit from connecting with a good management company that has a lot of expertise and audience access.
Stephen Robinson, the Director of Marketing at Jeb Commerce, shares that partnering with an affiliate management company can help ensure that you choose the right commission structure for your product.
If the structure isn’t balanced properly, you’ll end up paying out too much for each sale conversion, and you’ll find that your bottom line is shrinking faster than it is growing despite having sales. Larger affiliate companies have years of experience, and they can help to prevent this issue from happening.
The Director of Affiliate Marketing at Versa Marketing, Johnny Geiss, knows that having connections with large audiences is a sure-fire way to be able to get the product in front of the right audience.
The only way they can do that according to Geiss, however, is if the team at your affiliate program management partner knows your product as well as you do. If they don’t understand your product, they cannot find the right audience for it.
Make sure that any affiliate management company that you choose to work with is willing and excited to put time into personally learning your product.
Step 4: Payment Plan
The type of payment or commission program that your affiliate program is going to use should be solidified before you begin any type of outreach. You can always change your strategy, but it is best to keep this as consistent as possible to prevent any confusion with affiliates.
Whether you are handling the marketing in-house or working with an affiliate management company, it’s time to break down the different types of commissions and determine what makes sense for your product.
Some companies choose to pay a percentage for every sale; others have a flat-rate amount that is paid for each conversion. Others pay-by-view and hope that they will achieve enough conversions for this to be monetarily feasible. There are also companies that choose to pay continuously on a lead-generation basis.
Step 5: Outreach: Do It Right (Or Not At All)
Once you have down the foundation work and are ready to start finding good partners to work with, you’ll need to start doing affiliate outreach. Your goal should be to connect with partners that will be able to effectively promote your product to their audience.
To secure good partners, you need to ensure that you go about your outreach approach the right way!
Joe Cardillo of Jungle Scout aims to make his business model easy and approachable from day one:
“For someone new, I send friendly emails, comment on their YouTube channel, DMs on Instagram and LinkedIn. I’m very casual [and friendly] in my speech. In the outreach, I include a link that I created with resources – right off the bat, it shows them resources, templates, reviews, summaries, infographics, screenshots; everything they need to make this as easy as possible.”
The key point here is not just that he is friendly but also that he makes the partnership feel like a beneficial relationship as opposed to a chore. By providing resources upfront, the partner will feel more confident in the potential of the program.
Outreach is an essential step in the process because affiliates are necessary for your plan to succeed. If you can’t negotiate the right commission deal with an affiliate or persuade them to try a product that you know they’ll love, you’ll never make it to the sale stage.
Marketers that struggle with this step when attempting to do in-house outreach may benefit from working with an affiliate marketing company on an as-needed basis to get conversions and learn more about how to make this business work.
Conclusion: Affiliate Marketing Beginners Guide
We hope that this guide helped you learn the basics of affiliate marketing and set you up for future success in the programs of your choosing.
Remember that the key to affiliate marketing success is finding the best products to promote within your niche. You can do that by taking time to research the best keywords for each of the products and services you want to promote so that you can create targeted content that pulls in the right audience.
Long Tail Pro can also help you find the best products to promote based on the competition and performance of related keywords.