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A Concise Guide to Affiliate Marketing

Updated on January 10, 2018

What is Affiliate Marketing?

The process of earning an income or developing a career online through affiliate marketing is a relatively simple in concept, albeit a remarkably complex and variable process in execution. In short however, affiliate marketing is the process of promoting a product (most often sourced from an affiliate marketplace or an e-commerce website) online by whatever means are available to the affiliate in question. Anyone can become an affiliate online, it does not matter if you are an internet celebrity, a casual blogger, or are just an internet surfer. An affiliate earns his/her income through commissions that are paid based on how many sales the affiliate in question directly influences for the product that they choose to promote. There are a multitude of different methods and tactics that an affiliate can choose to promote a vendor's product, ranging from simple links placed on a blog or social media page, to entire domains/websites dedicated to the promotion of a product.

Plain and Simple, How Can You Get Started?

To get started with affiliate marketing, you first need to gain access to an affiliate program or create an account on an affiliate marketplace. Once you have that set up, you can start selecting products to promote. If you already have means available to you (a website, a YouTube channel, Instagram, etc); you can immediately expose anyone in your following to your affiliate links or you could utilize some more specific tactics I will discuss below. If you are a more casual internet surfer without a website or following, your priority is to start using tools on the internet to build web-pages, blogs, media, or any other means to host your affiliate links and/or opt-in forms to start driving sales to your product.

What is an Affiliate Marketplace?

An affiliate marketplace is an online retailer which purveys affiliate links. Vendors feature their products on an affiliate marketplace and then affiliates can spread the links and drive sales to earn commissions. Some examples of online affiliate marketplaces include Clickbank, ShareASale, Rakuten, and Avangate. It is also possible for a variety of online retailers or businesses to have their own unique affiliate programs such as Udemy and Walmart. It is also possible to become an affiliate on e-commerce websites such as Amazon.

Marketplace
Types of Products
Type
Clickbank
Mainly Intangible (Varied)
Specialized Affiliate Market
Rakuten
Primarily Tangible
Independent E-Commerce
Avangate
Mainly Intangible (Software)
Software E-Commerce

Tangible vs. Intangible Products

One element to consider when choosing an affiliate marketplace or program is the nature of the products themselves, and what you can expect to earn. One of the main elements that sets Avangate and Clickbank apart from the other marketplaces and the e-commerce sites, is how a large number of their products are intangible (software, betting systems, diet programs, etc). An intangible product will almost always pay off a higher commission rate as the costs to produce, copy, and distribute the said products are significantly lower by comparison.

Choosing a Niche

Choosing a niche is an important step in beginning the affiliate process, as the nature of the product you are marketing is clearly going to have to align with the audience you are marketing to and most ideally with your own passions/expertise. Choosing a niche is also essential as the more specific your product and your audience is, you will have more control and less competition compared to broad categories. For example, health and fitness is an extremely broad (albeit also extremely popular) category, and you would have trouble competing initially with well established networks and affiliate campaigns in such a broad context. However if you were to begin with a specific sub-category or niche within health and fitness such as "ketogenic diets," your marketing sphere and audience will become much more specific and marketable to (also benefited by the fact that it is a current diet craze).

Example Click Bank Categories

Example Rakuten Categories

Example Avangate Products

Do You Need Your Own Website to be an Affiliate?

No, albeit it can be a significant asset; especially if you want to build a brand/image around your business and use it to your advantage. If you choose to partake in email marketing and hope to build an auto-responder (which I will cover a few sections down), you do not need your own website however having a domain-name and a domain email is essentially a must to prevent any private email account from instantly being rendered as spam. Although having web-design and technical skills can help save you time and money if you wish to build a website from scratch, making small investments into free website builders is always an option.

Does One Need to Make Significant Investments to Start an Affiliate Marketing Business?

No, it is wholly possible to begin an online affiliate marketing business without spending any money at all. Although certain services such as email marketing platforms will inevitably cost money, I will list here some free strategies which can be used to jump start a simple affiliate income. The simplest method you can use is to use a service such as Google Blogger and write informative pages about a specific product/niche which intrigues you. Then place the affiliate link in question on the page. A passion and knowledge of the niche/product is especially desirable here, since a simple blog page and your language are the only factors which could potentially motivate a sale in this situation. It is also possible to add an email opt-in form to a Google Blogger Page. Another free tactic is to use Wix, and create a more specific and aesthetic web page centered around the product you wish to promote. After you have a free web page set up with your links prepared, it would all come down to how effectively you can drive traffic to that web page.

What is the Best/Proven Affiliate Strategy?

One of the most effective strategies to build a successful affiliate marketing business is to build an email subscriber list. To build an email list, you can use an autoresponder service such as Aweber, Get Response, MailChimp, etc. Building an email list and providing content with autoresponders is still at the end of the day dependent on how effectively you can drive traffic to your website, blog, or social media platform which is hosting your opt-in form.The reason why a subscriber list and email marketing in general is ideal for affiliate marketing is because the affiliate in question can retain customers and provide them with quality content and offers in the future. With the combination of quality and persuasive information/content pertaining to the product or niche, an email subscriber list, and an autoresponder, an affiliate can develop a "passive income."

What are Some Effective Methods to Drive Traffic to Your Links?

No matter where you have your links or opt-in forms hosted, there are a multitude of different methods which you can employ to generate traffic. Creating blog pages which provide useful information and of course a link to your affiliate pages is a good start. Another set of options (particularly for those building a brand/image) is to make use of social media and video websites. Although beneficial, you of course do not have to if you are not comfortable with using your personal image on the internet. What can truly matter in the end however, is that all of your blogs, social media pages, and other media are all linked together create more possibilities for discovery and natural traffic flow towards your links and/or opt in forms.

Organic Traffic vs. Paid Traffic

Organic Traffic refers to any online traffic to your: blog, site, links, etc. that is developed gradually by the means of blogs, articles, and other social/internet media.

Paid Traffic is any traffic that is paid for, for example, it is possible to buy email lists on some websites (such as Udimi) from other entrepreneurs at a pay per click rate.

How Can Building a Brand/Image Benefit You?

An example of an original and effective brand is Nerd Fitness. It is both a creative and original brand that the creators have benefited from significantly. Nerd Fitness is an active affiliate business for a variety of different fitness products that takes advantage of its unique image/content to augment their sales.


Is Affiliate Marketing Legal?

Yes, albeit you will need to be comfortable with providing tax identification to any affiliate marketplaces which you choose to use, and not every affiliate marketplace may support the currencies or languages of every nation. Laws may vary from country to country and you are generally supposed to be at least eighteen years old to be an affiliate. Many marketplaces have special pages which purvey specific information to international affiliates.


Ethics of Affiliate Marketing

Although every specialized affiliate marketplace will prevent vendors from trying to post and distribute potentially malicious or dishonest material, it is still always wise and simply good practice to research any product that you wish to promote. Take an extra step to ensure the safety of your potential customers.

Affiliate Application Pages

Many large websites/businesses have webpages where you can apply to become an affiliate for their products. The affiliate application process for larger organizations and businesses is naturally more competitive however, and spaces are often limited. You can generally perform a web search with tags such as "become an affiliate" to a particular website or brand (e.g Target), or alternatively you can often check the footer section of the websites of such businesses and check for affiliate program links.

Motivation Poll

How did you discover the opportunities of affiliate marketing?

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