It actually lets you make money while you sleep.
Affiliate marketing is the method of earning a commission by advertising other people’s (or company’s) products. Simply, you find a product you like, promote it to others & earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.
- 15% of the entire digital media advertising revenue is associated with affiliate marketing.
- 81% of marketers & 84% of publishers leverage the potential of affiliate marketing.
Basically, it’s based on revenue sharing. If you have a product & want to sell it, you can offer promoters a financial incentive through an affiliate program. If you have no product and still want to make real money, then you can promote a product that you feel has value & earn an income from it as an affiliate marketer.
Affiliate marketing channels include:
- Hosting video ads through the YouTube Partner Program.
- Posting affiliate links from your social media accounts.
If you’d like to make passive income with affiliate marketing, this blog is going to be really interesting for you. So keep reading…
Let’s start with a (somewhat long-winded) definition:
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is the latest version of a very old concept — getting a commission on a sale. You introduce your readers to products or services from trusted companies or individuals & get a commission on sales from customers you send their way.
You must have heard that bloggers make money by building an audience that trusts them & then offering products or services that genuinely helps that particular audience.
Affiliate marketing is a quicker way to offer products & services without creating them yourself.
Bloggers can include links in blog posts, emails, social media posts & much more. We’ll get into all the possibilities later.
Below are a few terms that you must know before opting for Affiliate Marketing:-
Affiliate — a person who promotes the merchant’s products for a commission. Also termed as the publisher.
Affiliate agreement — an informal agreement specifying the rules that both parties agree to, responsibilities, rates to be paid & other legalities.
Affiliate link — a trackable URL link that classifies the affiliate as the source of targeted traffic to a merchant’s site. (A single click on an affiliate link scores as a “referral”.)
Affiliate network — an online marketplace where merchants register their company’s products & where affiliates can find products to sell.
Affiliate program — a program established by merchants to handle commissions when affiliates transfer traffic to their products.
Affiliate commission — a percentage of the total sale that is given to the affiliate for transferring/referring the sale.
Cookies — in affiliate marketing, cookies are employed to assign a unique ID to the buyer to tag the purchase as being referred by you. Cookies normally have a predetermined lifespan, so that even if the buyer doesn’t buy right away, you will still get credit for the sale if it occurs within that “predetermined” time-frame (often 60 days or more).
Customer — the end-user or buyer of the merchant’s product or service.
Merchant — the owner or producer of the product or service. Can also be referred to as a retailer or brand.
Referral — credit for a click or a sale that happens when the affiliate redirects traffic to the merchant’s site.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Works?
Here’s a quick look behind the scenes:
- When an affiliate ties up with the merchant’s program, he or she is given a unique ID & a specific URL to use while promoting the product.
- The affiliate inserts the link in their blog content &/or subscriber emails & encourages/attracts readers to click it to find out more.
- When a possible buyer clicks on the link, a cookie identifying the affiliate is located on their computer. The cookie assures that the publisher is credited with the referral sale even if it occurs days or even weeks later.
- Whenever a buyer fully completes the sale process, the merchant reviews the sales record for a cookie recognizing the source of the referral.
- If the merchant detects a cookie with an affiliate ID, the particular affiliate is credited with the sale.
- The merchant also makes reports available so that the affiliate can see their referrals (clicks) & sales.
- The merchant gives the affiliate their commission at the end of each payment period.
Here is a graphical sketch to help you better understand the process:
The flow is somewhat straightforward, once you understand it & it operates the same, no matter what kind of product you’re promoting or how established you are as an affiliate marketer.
If you are a blogger & damn serious about making affiliate marketing a major source of your income, very carefully look & analyze these steps which are surely going to benefit you in the long run: –
How to Start Affiliate Marketing – 5 Steps
Here’s the key point you need to understand if you want to become an affiliate marketer:
You’re earning a commission in exchange for giving readers valuable insights on products or services they were already thinking about purchasing.
The hard part is, could you help them make a quicker plus smarter decision than they could alone?
Because that’s where you add value. You earn a commission in exchange for helping people make smarter decisions & you use your blog & the Internet to systemize that process, providing valuable advice to thousands of people.
Here’s a step-by-step process for doing exactly that:
Step 1: Understand What Your Audience is Already Buying
Looks a bit basic yet a very important question you need to ask yourself is:
What types of products & services is your audience already buying?
For example, Agreed Technologies readers all need Digital Marketing eBooks, Services. So, we carefully research all the products in those categories & make recommendations.
Here’s a very important question for your audience:
WHAT TYPES OF PRODUCTS OR SERVICES DO THEY BUY?
Initially, you might not know exactly what products to promote, but if you think about it for a bit, you can probably guess the major categories.
For instance, moms of toddlers spend a lot of money on which products?
My guess: childcare, cleaning supplies, snacks, gas, toys. Many of them are probably Amazon products.
How about aspiring freelance photographers?
Cameras, other photography equipment (lighting, lenses, etc.), photography courses, photo editing software & so on.
I’m guessing on both, but there’s a good chance my guesses are pretty spot on. When in doubt, you can also email your audience and just ask them.
HOW TO CONDUCT A MINIATURE SURVEY
There are lots of tools out there for conducting surveys, but the simplest one is good old-fashioned email. Assuming you have an email list, just to send out an email like this:
Readers will reply with answers and give you all kinds of interesting insights because it’s through email, you can also reply to ask them follow-up questions if you like.
And then you just need to…
Step 2: Pick a Product to Promote as an Affiliate
As an ethical blogger, you’ll always be stifled in the products you decide to represent in one of the two ways mentioned below:
- Either you’re a bit limited by your experience to products that you’ve used & liked, that have affiliate programs & that may be a good fit for your audience, or
- You’re constrained by the products you can get access to evaluate them, either by buying them outright or getting a free sample or trial.
No matter which approach you take, expect yourself to invest time & money into researching the best products for your audience.
Here are your two main options (with your best option listed first):
OPTION #1: PROMOTE PRODUCTS YOU ALREADY KNOW AND LOVE
This is the most common way to get started with affiliate offers.
You opt to become an affiliate for something that you’ve used yourself, had a good experience with, completely tested & feel good recommending. You should be fairly confident that others will get the same results you did (or better), as long as they do the work.
For instance: If you’ve found great success from a course, mastermind, or ebook that your readers could also benefit from, it only makes sense for you to spread the word & share your results.
Make a record of the products, services & courses you already have experience with. You might end up having a list of a dozen or more.
Which of these would you be thrilled to promote? Cross out any that don’t fit the bill.
Now simply check to see if the merchant has an affiliate program (some won’t but you’ll probably be surprised at how many do).
Employing a search engine like Google, search for “affiliate program” + [product name], or simply email the merchant & ask.
Then operate your remaining options through this, maybe the best Affiliate Product checklist:
- You’ve previewed the product so you know its quality.
- They have a solid refund policy that you trust they’ll honor.
- They provide good customer support (and you’ve tested it).
- You have a good story to share about your experience with the product.
- The offer fits your audience’s needs & won’t abuse the trust you’ve built with them.
At the end the products that ticks all the checkboxes are your best opportunities for affiliate income. As time goes on, add as many of these products to your mix as you like.
You’ve found your first product! Apply using the merchant’s process & start promoting.
If you’re just dipping your toe in the affiliate marketing channels, this first option may be enough to get you started.
However, most bloggers will want to try the next one, too.
OPTION #2: FIND PRODUCTS VIA AN AFFILIATE NETWORK
If you don’t have any direct experience with or knowledge of products in your niche that could help your readers, you can often find good affiliate products on affiliate networks.
But be careful — this approach requires that you invest time into research & money into purchasing products to try out, more so than the first option.
That’s because there is less trust & prior knowledge involved from the outset. You have to do your due diligence to protect your reputation & the credibility you’ve built with your readers.
When you work through a network, you typically won’t know the merchant ahead of time & usually won’t build a relationship with them (your business relationship is with the network).
The list of popular & reliable affiliate networks includes Clickbank, CJ Affiliate, ShareASale & the Amazon Associates program.
Step 3: Set up yourself as an Affiliate
Whether you work directly with a merchant or through a network, you’ll have to apply, be approved & provide certain information so that you can be paid.
At a minimum you’ll need to provide:
- Your personal/business contact information for tax & reporting purposes.
- Your bank account where commissions will be sent. In turn, the merchant must provide you with:
- An affiliate link:- Whenever you post about the product, you’ll use this trackable link. It will hold a long tag at the end of each link that carries your affiliate ID.
Here’s what some typical affiliate links look like.
EXAMPLE LINK THAT DIRECTS TO THE MERCHANT’S HOME PAGE
EXAMPLE LINK TO ANOTHER PAGE ON THE MERCHANT’S SITE
You’ll also get some tips & useful assets for marketing the product (often found in a welcome guide or on the affiliate reporting site).
These could include:
- An affiliate guide as well as for instructions on how to use the platform & summary of policies such as payment.
- Online marketing tools like banners & sidebar graphics.
- Sample email/webpage swipe copy.
- Regular communications from the merchant related to promotions, new products, etc.
If you work on a network like Amazon, you’ll get your own link for each of the specific products you promote.
Be sure to check your specific network’s help or support pages for more information.
Tip: If your audience is global, you might want to check out the genius link for tracking overseas sales through Amazon, iTunes & Microsoft Store.
Step 4: Start Promoting Your Chosen Affiliate Offers
Ultimately, all your hard work finding & evaluating products only pays off if somebody takes your advice & make the purchase, right?
For that to happen, you need to put your recommendation in front of your audience. Even more importantly, you need to make your recommendation trustworthy.
This is where a lot of affiliate marketers slip up. They think to slap some banners up on their blog that links to affiliate products is all they need to do.
But take a look at this:
Does that look trustworthy to you? Nowhere close, right?
Well, here’s a little secret:
The most successful affiliate offers to look nothing like that. No PPC or veiled recommendations on social media.
Here’s what to do instead (and what marketing channels to use):
OPTION #1: CREATE A RESOURCE PAGE ON YOUR BLOG
Resource Page promotes lots of different products, but it also organizes them according to different types of readers & what they might need at the time. It also explains why those products would be helpful to them.
In other words, it’s not just a sales pitch. It’s educational. Because it contains a lot of content, plus it is well optimized for SEO, it also ranks well on Google & gets organic traffic.
Chances are, you can put together a landing page within a few hours. Your readers will also appreciate you putting all of your recommendations in one place for easy reference.
OPTION #2: CREATE AND PROMOTE CUSTOM CONTENT
This content marketing strategy will be the backbone of your affiliate promotional efforts.
Use as many of the following different techniques as make sense for your blog & audience.
Note: All of these strategies assume that you are already sending traffic to the latest content you’re creating by emailing your list regularly (at least two to four times per month) to let them know what’s new.
A) Write Reviews
You can write comprehensive reviews of products, courses, books or software products you promote as an affiliate.
Your reviews can focus on a single product or compare competing for products side-by-side.
The second approach arguably builds more trust, but it also distracts people by giving them a lot of different recommendations.
If you would like to review multiple products, one option is to create a review site where all the content is simply related to reviews & affiliate offers. It becomes a “one-stop-shop” for your niche.
B) Write Definitive Content on a Related Topic
You can also write a definitive, comprehensive post on your site to educate your readers & “soft sell” your products & then work to get it rank higher in the search engines.
For instance, you could write an ultimate guide to set up a WordPress blog & include your affiliate links to your favorite hosting providers.
Whatever the topic, make sure that it’s evergreen content — (information that’s likely to be useful & valuable for years to come). You can compose blog posts, videos, infographics or anything similar — but whatever you do, it should not be a sales page. Focus on building trust & authority.
Finally, you should pay a lot of attention to SEO — make sure to optimize for the right keywords, keep WordPress running fast & build links to your content to get a constant flow of traffic from Google.
C) Create Valuable Bonus Content
Considering it’s allowed by your affiliate agreement (sometimes it’s not), you can create bonus content, exclusive to your readers, that helps people get even more value from the affiliate product.
People love bonuses! You can create many types of bonuses quite easily while still giving your readers excellent value. By the way, this is a fantastic way to differentiate yourself from other bloggers representing the same products.
Here are some example bonuses you could offer:
- Step-by-step checklists
- Quick-start guides
- Video overviews or demos
- Complimentary or discounted services (e.g., coaching calls)
OPTION #3: CRAFT PROMOTIONAL EMAILS FOR YOUR SUBSCRIBERS
Your email list is your biggest asset when it comes to driving traffic to your offers.
Assuming you’re already emailing your list regularly — for example, every Tuesday, every two weeks, etc. — you can also run occasional promotions where you email your readers more frequently.
If your email marketing software permits it, you can segment interested readers onto a separate interest list, so that only people who raise their hands will receive your free informational & promotional emails.
But even if you can’t segment your list, you’ll want to provide lots of valuable content & build anticipation for your product offers.
Here are some quick ideas:
- Promote your offers indirectly by sending emails linking to your free content (blog posts, reviews, etc.).
- Offer occasional special deals exclusive to your readers (discounts, bonuses, etc.).
- Run “social proof” giveaways — ask your readers to share their experience with your process or product in return for a chance to win.
If you’re sponsoring a low-priced product like an eBook, digital download or hosted service on an ongoing basis, you might do something as simple as using a P.S. or signature link in your routine emails, with occasional emailed links to custom content.
For courses, masterminds, services or higher-earning products, you might do something closer to an official launch once per year with softer launches per quarter.
And of course, always follow your merchants lead. If they run major launches twice a year, for example, you can participate in those & take advantage of the natural momentum these launches often create.
You may have a different sponsoring plan for each product. The important thing here is to try different approaches for each product, see what your audience responds to best & don’t give up!
Step 5: Comply with Legal Requirements (and Best Practices)
In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that you let people know you’ll earn a commission.
But even if it isn’t required by law where you’re located, we recommend it. It’s just a good business.
Don’t be afraid to be transparent. People will appreciate your honesty & support you to repay you for making their lives better.
So, wherever you share an affiliate link, whether it’s in blog posts, web pages, or emails, let your readers know that you stand to earn a small commission if they buy through you — & if they choose not to use your link, no worries. Assure them that you wouldn’t recommend them any product that you hadn’t used it yourself, this can help you build trust among them & can benefit you in the long run.
Now you know how to kick start Affiliate Marketing but wait!
You need to know a little more about the selection of the types of products to be promoted before you put in the gear & accelerate the speed.
In our next blog, we will be discussing the “4 Types of Products to Promote”.
So, keep reading.