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How to make money with affiliate marketing: all you need to know

Affiliate marketing is one of the most financially rewarding ways to monetize your knowledge, skills and creativity. In this post, we’ll guide you through the money-making process of affiliate marketing and share valuable insider affiliate tips. You’ll learn what mistakes to avoid on your way and what courses can teach you the ins and outs of affiliate marketing.

How affiliate marketing works

Affiliate marketing is a performance-based marketing arrangement in which an affiliate gets a commission for marketing an advertiser’s company, service or product and driving traffic to their website. In other words, you, as an affiliate, promote a product and get rewarded for a desired action such as a purchase, signup, etc.

Affiliate marketing is a win-win marketing strategy both for advertisers and affiliates. The former manage to get increased exposure and reach out to audiences they can’t reach on their own. The latter get limitless opportunities to boost their revenue.

How can you get started? Usually, marketers create a website for promotional purposes. You can begin even without one, as making money with affiliate marketing is also possible via social media or email marketing.

Steps to make money with affiliate marketing

Though you don’t need a lot to get started, it’s still necessary to invest some time and effort to get business off the ground. Here are six basic steps you should take to start making money with affiliate programs.

1. Choose a niche

The right niche is the cornerstone of your affiliate marketing success, so consider various factors before you opt for one:

  1. Make sure the niche resonates with your interests. It’s all about establishing rapport with your audience and catering to their needs. It’s always easier to create compelling content and strike a chord with your readers if you are passionate about the subject.
  2. Find a lucrative niche in high demand. There are evergreen profitable niches such as health, finances, hobbies, travel, etc. You’ll easily find products to promote, and the demand is always high. Alternatively, find out what niche is a buzz on the market and try it out.
  3. Choose a niche with low competition. Narrower niches are likely to feature less competition, so it’ll be easier to stand out and attract visitors. But, if you pick a more general topic, try to address it from a new or different angle.
  4. Check affiliate programs in the niche. All the previous tips don’t really matter if your niche doesn’t offer trustworthy affiliate programs with high commissions.

2. Choose an affiliate program

What should you bear in mind when picking an affiliate program?

  1. Product. Make sure it’s in demand, top-notch quality, aligns with your website topic and content, and the advertiser’s reputation is impeccable.
  2. Payouts. Take a look at the affiliate reward, locking period, payment model, as well as conversion and average check.
  3. Rules and conditions. Pay close attention to offer traffic types. For instance, many programs don’t allow traffic from social media, which won’t suit affiliates who use Facebook as their main marketing platform.
  4. Promotional materials and training offered. If you’re starting from scratch, tutorials can prove incredibly useful. Besides, many affiliate programs offer ready-made promotional toolkits (including banners, widgets, etc.) which can help affiliates skyrocket their performance.
  5. Affiliate support. Pay attention to the support a program provides. A dedicated support team can mean a lot for the success of your campaign.

Where can you find a good affiliate program? For novices, choosing the most suitable and best-performing offer might be a daunting task. In such a case, joining an affiliate network can be the right solution. These are middlemen between advertisers (merchants) and affiliates, accumulating the best affiliate programs to make money online.

3. Build a website

Though you can run your affiliate business without a website, it’s still one of the most powerful tools in the affiliate toolkit. Setting up one is quite simple. To make it even easier, we’ll guide you through this process step by step.

  • Step 1. Get web hosting and register a domain name. You can do it using services such as Bluehost, FastComet, A2 Hosting, Hostwinds, GoDaddy, etc.
  • Step 2. Install WordPress. It’s one of the most popular blogging platforms, but naturally you can explore other website builders.
  • Step 3. Pick a WordPress theme. The right theme will make your site look sophisticated and easy to navigate.
  • Step 4. Develop your website structure and map out your content strategy. Start creating your content.
  • Step 5. Research keywords to embed in your content.
  • Step 6. Publish content on your website. Don’t forget to leverage photos, videos and graphics to make your website more visually appealing.

4. Optimize your content

To rank high on Google and reach your target audience, it’s vital to optimize your content for search engines. Here is what you can do:

  1. Build topic clusters. Create a pillar piece of content which covers all aspects of a topic and shorter, but more specific, supporting articles. This structure can result in a boost of organic traffic to your website.
  2. Focus your content on one or two long tail keywords matching a user’s query.
  3. Embed keywords into the title tag, meta description, headings, body, the  names of image files and URL of your web page.
  4. Make your content easy to read and scan by using bullets and lists, breaking content into meaningful chunks and leaving enough white space. Besides, don’t forget to use headings and subheadings and highlight the most important ideas in bold.
  5. Include a compelling CTA button.
  6. Vary content types and length. Search engines favor long reads as they consider such articles more informative and valuable for visitors. However, the attention spans of people online are constantly getting shorter. That is why the best way is to offer a mix of short posts and long reads.
  7. Leverage visuals and graphics to break up the text and back up ideas into it.
  8. Make the most of internal and external linking.
  9. Tailor content to your target audience to get the maximum traffic and response.

5. Drive traffic

Apart from the SEO optimisation of your content, there are many other ways to boost your website traffic. We’ll cover the most powerful ones.

  1. Paid advertising. This is the fastest way to increase your website traffic. You can advertise through various channels including social media, paid search, retargeting ads, etc.
  2. Online communities. Present yourself to existing online communities in your niche and/or build a new one. This is a proven way to raise your brand awareness, establish your authority and build trust with the audience. For example, platforms like Quora can easily help you make a name for yourself as an authority.
  3. Social media. If you manage to create content resonating with your audience, social media can bring a never-ending stream of traffic to your website.
  4. Influencer marketing can drive loads of traffic to your website, as people value personal recommendations over standard advertising.
  5. Guest blogging. You can either host a guest post to offer your readers a fresh perspective and voice or write a post yourself to reach a new audience.
  6. Email marketing can also increase your traffic considerably.
  7. Educational content. A free hands-on course or webinar can also attract new users.
  8. Content repurposing. Bring new life into old well-performing content by putting it in another form. For example, write a blog post using content from a video or the other way round.

6. Add affiliate links

This is a key component of affiliate marketing. But, what are affiliate links? Basically, it’s a URL with a unique ID assigned to an affiliate that helps track the traffic sent to the merchant’s website. Here is how you can embed an affiliate link on your website:

  1. Get an affiliate link. Novices in affiliate marketing may be confused about how to get affiliate links. To do so, you need to sign up for an affiliate program. Once approved, you’ll get a link with your unique ID.
  2. Cloak your affiliate link. Cloaking helps hide your affiliate ID and make the link more memorable and visually appealing. These tutorials will guide you through the process of cloaking affiliate links with and without a plugin.
  3. Copy the cloaked link and embed it on your website. In WordPress, you have to highlight the text you want to use as an anchor and click on the Insert/Add a link button.
  4. Paste your affiliate link into the Destination URL text box in the dropdown box.
  5. Check the Open in a New Window box if you want your link to open in a new window. This is recommended if your link leads to a different website.
  6. Click the Add Link button.

What else should you remember when adding affiliate links to your website?

  • Use anchors instead of bare links. It will make your link more visually appealing and user friendly.
  • Don’t overload your website with affiliate links. Use them sparingly.
  • Only embed affiliate links in relevant contexts.
  • Insert links in a sidebar.
  • Embed links into visuals to make them clickable, especially when reviewing a product you’re promoting. By clicking on such an image, the user will be redirected to the product page.
  • Always add an affiliate disclaimer. This is a statement in which you inform your audience that you get a commission whenever they click through affiliate links or make a purchase on the website they are redirected to. Also, add disclosures to every post with affiliate links. Here is why:
  1. The Federal Trade Commission requires disclosing affiliate links. Otherwise, it might get you into legal trouble.
  2. Many affiliate programs require a disclosure as well.
  3. Keeping your affiliate relationships secret can spell disaster for your credibility and reputation.

Best practices and tips

These were the first steps when joining affiliate marketing. Now we’d like to share some valuable insider tips and best practices to boost your affiliate performance after the launch of the campaign.

Increase conversions

Your conversion rate is the key metric of campaign success. It is a percentage of website visitors who completed the desired action. The higher the conversion rate, the bigger your revenue.

What can you do to boost your conversions?

  1. Promote only top-notch products that you are sure about. The more your audience trusts you, the more sales you make. Don’t ruin your credibility by recommending products of dubious quality.
  2. Only recommend products and services that resonate with your audience and provide solutions to their problems.
  3. Provide additional value in your content.
  4. Leverage visuals. Demonstrate how a product or service is being used in a video or a series of images. This can help your audience understand the benefits of what you are promoting. Create video reviews and tutorials.
  5. Compare different products or services.
  6. Make the most of email marketing.
  7. Create an enticing CTA for your content and newsletter.
  8. Get social. Attract more visitors to your website by establishing relationships on social media.
  9. Offer your audience coupons and promotions. Run contests and giveaways.

Analyze competitors

To make money online with affiliate marketing, you have to outperform your competitors. Competitive analysis is the key. It allows you to identify gaps to fill in and pitfalls to avoid when reaching your audience. We recommend you to take the so-called SWOTT approach:

  • Strengths. Find the best practices of your rivals and deploy them in your campaign.
  • Weaknesses. Explore practices that proved ineffective and make sure to avoid them.
  • Opportunities. Identify what gaps there are to fill in and what unaddressed problems you can provide solutions to.
  • Threats. Pay attention to the setbacks your competitors have to overcome, the most common customer complaints, etc. Keep an eye on competitors’ actions that could pose a threat to your business, such as discounts, promotions, etc.
  • Trends. Find out what’s trending in your niche and what cutting-edge strategies of your competitors you can take advantage of.

Competitor analysis may seem like a tall order, especially in most profitable and evergreen niches. Luckily, there are numerous tools which provide easy solutions to this task, including SemRush, Alexa, BuzzSumo, Ahrefs, etc.

Use a persona-based approach

To build a loyal following, it’s crucial to make your content resonate with your audience. Developing insightful user personas is the best way to build tailored affiliate campaigns that will relate to your customers.

User personas are data-driven generalized, fictional characters. When building a user persona, carry out detailed audience research and keep the following metrics in mind:

  • Demographics
  • Pain points
  • Priorities
  • Internet and research habits
  • Interests
  • Budget, etc.

Learn how to create a user persona and boost your traffic in our guide.

A/B Testing

A/B testing (or Split testing) is a testing method which allows you to compare the performance of two or more web elements. It can be a banner, a CTA button, an email subject line, etc. Such techniques help identify the best-performing option and improve marketing strategy. Why not test different offers to find the ones that drive the most traffic and bring conversions? Besides, A/B testing provides you with insights on the approaches your target audience better responds to.

To launch an A/B test, you should:

  1. Select the elements you’re going to test
  2. Split traffic between your sample groups equally
  3. Launch the test and wait for at least two or three weeks to get accurate results
  4. Analyze each element’s efficiency

Track your results

Tracking affiliate campaigns helps adjust the strategy along the way. Let’s take a look at the most important ones.

  • Return on investment (ROI) shows how profitable your campaigns are and how much money you’ve managed to return for each dollar invested.
  • Bounce rate reveals how engaged visitors are on your website. It demonstrates how your website manages to live up to your promises in the search results. A high bounce rate might show that your content is irrelevant to visitors’ query or that user experience on your website needs improvement.
  • Conversion rate indicates the percentage of website visitors who completed the desired action, most often, made a purchase.

Tracking these and other metrics can help you identify things to tweak and optimize in your affiliate campaigns to boost their performance.

9 most common affiliate mistakes to avoid

Cashing in on affiliate marketing takes some doing and there are numerous pitfalls you should avoid on your way.

  1. Underestimating what it takes to make money with affiliate marketing. Even though it might seem like an easy task, affiliate marketing still requires time and effort. So, many novice publishers get discouraged and give up when their business doesn’t get off to a brilliant start immediately.
  2. Prioritizing monetization over value. Driving conversions shouldn’t be your main priority. Instead, focus on bringing value to your audience first. If you manage to provide seamless user experience and content that strikes a chord with your audience, you’ll have no problem monetizing it.
  3. Choosing the wrong offer. It’s vital to pick up a high-profile program or network to start making money. Pay attention to the quality of products you’ll be promoting, the commissions you’ll get, the support and tools offered.
  4. Not gaining trust. Affiliate marketing is based on trust. Building it and establishing authority should be your main priority right from the very beginning. To do so, promote only top-of-the-line products and services you’ve tested yourself and be honest with your audience by disclosing affiliate links.
  5. Neglecting the terms and conditions of the offer. Follow the rules of your affiliate agreement, otherwise, you might get banned and lose income.
  6. Failing to analyze the competition. Competitor analysis is one of the key components of your affiliate success. It helps you avoid the mistakes your competitors are making and discover their best-performing strategies and tools.
  7. Ignoring SEO. Help search engines discover your content faster by implementing the best SEO techniques we’ve shared.
  8. Relying solely on organic traffic. To make your campaign take off quicker, explore as many traffic sources as possible: social media, paid search, referrals, etc.
  9. Failing to track the performance of your campaign. Many affiliates feel directionless simply because they fail to monitor their performance. Campaign analysis can help identify what strategies and tools work perfectly and where there is room for improvement.

Where to learn about affiliate marketing

Following an expert’s blog or taking an educational course in affiliate marketing will help you find the right strategy much faster and help you avoid common mistakes. Below are some of the most worthwhile sources in the niche:

  1. Affiliate Marketing Side Hustle: a New Entrepreneur’s Guide by SkillShare teaches you how to make affiliate marketing your lucrative side hustle.
  2. Affiliate Marketing in 1 Day: Home Business Success 2020 by Udemy provides insights on how to run an affiliate business on Amazon and ClickBank without a website.
  3. Affilorama Affiliate Marketing Training offers an affiliate marketing quick-start guide, downloadable infographics  and over 120 video tutorials to help you get your affiliate business off the ground.
  4. Learn how to Build High-Quality Affiliate Websites is a step-by-step Udemy video training course that covers building websites to promote affiliate programs, ways to make money on them and turn them into a lucrative income stream.
  5. The Affiliate Bootcamp by Wealthy Affiliate offers a 70-lesson training on getting started in the affiliate marketing niche.
  6. Mobidea Academy is a blog offering insights on how to make affiliate marketing your lucrative pursuit.
  7. AffiliateTip is an affiliate marketing blog by Shawn Collins providing numerous insider tips both for novices and experienced affiliate marketers.
  8. On the Zacjohnson blog, the owner shares hands-on secrets for making money with affiliate marketing and offers a comprehensive affiliate marketing video course.

These are just a few marketing courses and blogs, but you can find more online courses about affiliate marketing in this article.

Isn’t it too late to join affiliate marketing?

The idea that affiliate marketing is over competitive and it’s too late to join might have crossed your mind. Don’t let it fool you. Indeed, the competition is strong, but the industry still provides almost limitless opportunities for those who want to make money with it. Follow our tips and affiliate marketing might start bringing you income not long after.

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