The affiliate marketing business is booming. It's estimated to be worth over $8 billion by 2022 in the US alone!
While the exact number of affiliate marketers can’t be determined, it’s safe to say that the number of people using this marketing tactic is growing rapidly. So if you're interested in starting affiliate marketing for yourself, this post will teach you everything you need to know about affiliate marketing in 2021 - from how it works to how much money affiliate marketers make.
Let’s get started.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based online marketing in which advertisers reward one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate’s (that’s you) own marketing efforts.
Affiliates are paid via a variety of methods, including direct deposit into their bank account, PayPal payment that can be linked back to an affiliate tracking account, or commission of a sale on the advertiser's website.
Affiliate marketing has grown quickly in popularity due to the increased potential for large profits. The Internet makes it possible for advertisers to reach their target market directly through affiliate networks, without having to go through any intermediary publishing channel or media buying agency.
Whether you are a big fan of email software and want to become an email marketing program affiliate and share how easy it is to use, or simply want to recommend a product related to ecommerce to your audience, this is now easy to do.
Before we get into how affiliate marketing works, let’s take a look at some of the definitions first.
The merchant in affiliate marketing is the entity that owns a product or service being sold. The affiliate has no control over decisions made by merchants and there are certain rules they must follow. These rules ensure their compensation does not fall into jeopardy if something goes wrong with a transaction for reasons beyond their control. Merchants can be individuals, companies, trusts, or even other affiliates.
The Affiliate Marketer
The affiliate marketer is the person or online business that promotes a merchant's product and receives compensation when an order is placed through its promotion. Affiliates will often use banner ads, text links, or simply written reviews to promote affiliate products in which they have no ownership interest. The commission rate can vary from several percent up to 100% of the total sale price depending on many factors.
Affiliates are required to ensure their promotion is unique and not misleading so as not to cause any harm or offense on the part of the consumer. If an affiliate uses another merchant’s trademarked terms in their marketing messages, they must include a statement that indicates they have no affiliation with the owner of these trademarks. The use of such trademarked terms is often referred to as ‘astroturfing’ and if done without following these rules, the affiliate runs a high risk of being banned from further participation in the program.
The consumer is the person who purchases a product or service after clicking on an affiliate’s link. Merchants are required to ensure that affiliates promote products in which they have no ownership interest, thus ensuring there will be no conflict of interest between the advertiser and advertiser's customers.
The Affiliate Network
An affiliate network is a company that acts as an intermediary between the merchant and the affiliate by bringing them together and providing support in areas such as payment processing, tracking technology, reporting, and website tools.
The advertiser will provide each of their affiliates with a unique referral URL or link to promote their product on various websites or social media platforms.
Each time a consumer clicks on their affiliate link and purchases the advertised product, the merchant will credit the commission to the affiliate’s account. The network is responsible for keeping track of each account and crediting the correct amount to ensure affiliates are compensated fairly.One such example of an affiliate network is Clickbank. However, if you’re more into promoting consumer products then the largest affiliate network is Amazon Associates which lets you promote any item on their marketplace.
Steps To Get Started With Affiliate Marketing
As a whole I know it might look daunting, so to make it easier, let’s break the process down into 7 simple steps which we will expand on further. These are the steps involved in the process:
Then rinse and repeat.
Step 1: Choose Where You’re Going to Promote Your Products.
While technically it’s possible to promote on any kind of social media platform including podcasts, I would recommend the easiest way to start is to promote via your website or YouTube channel.
Getting started with your site is fairly straightforward and you can do so with just a few dollars per month.
Once you have your website established, it’s important to make sure it is optimized for Google search. You could have the best product in the world but if no one can find you how can they purchase from you?
The other preferred method is via YouTube. This makes it extremely attractive for people on a tight budget because signing up for an account is free! Again it works similarly to your blog. Optimize it as much as you can and then add the affiliate link in the description.
A word of caution. If you plan on promoting products you must disclose this somewhere on the page. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is very strict on this rule. Don’t get caught out.
You could have a stand-alone affiliate policy as I do here.
Or on YouTube.
Because you’re more likely to get clicks on a website than a YouTube description, we’ll just focus on that from here.
Step 2: Select Your Niche
Seeing as we’re concentrating on blogging as a medium for our affiliate marketing tactics, we need to select an appropriate niche to target.
Now on the face of it, it may look like there’s a ton of competition in every niche with millions of blog posts already. But here’s the good news, competition is good.
Yes! As weird as it may seem, having plenty of competition means that there is actual demand within the niche.
So how do you compete? The answer lies with niching down within your broad niche. As an example, if your niche was health and fitness, that term is massive with plenty of search volume but if you’re just starting it’s going to be tough.
To niche down, look for a subcategory. Ultimately it should look something like this.
Health & Fitness > Fitness for Adults > Fitness for Men under 50
If you go too far into the sub-niches then the demand starts to drop off too much and you find there won’t be enough people searching for the products you want to promote. This is not a good thing.
Step 3: Find an Affiliate Marketing Program or Network
A lot of marketers new to affiliate marketing think that just because they can join every program under the sun means that they should. I disagree with this.
To get the most affiliate sales, you need to provide value. To do that, you need to promote relevant products to your audience. Just because you’re in the health and fitness niche doesn’t mean you can try and sell eCommerce software to your audience.
They just won’t be interested because it’s not relevant to them. In the end, you’ll most likely end up losing readers because you’re pitching things they don’t even want.
Most companies will have some sort of affiliate program to join. If we stick to our health and fitness niche you can see below that Champs Sports allows people to join their affiliate program, through a link in the footer.
However, it may not be as easy to find these links on every website. If you can’t find an affiliate link, you can search for it in Google itself.
But what if there’s a company you really want to promote products for and you can’t find them anywhere? Then simply reach out to them and ask. Companies love having people want to promote their products for them.
It’s a way of free advertising for them and all they have to do is give the referrer a commission for it if (and when) they make them any sales.
Of course, if you’re still struggling to find an affiliate partner in your niche then you could always join an affiliate marketing system such as Clickbank or Shareasale. These guys are a giant marketing platform of merchants looking for successful entrepreneurs to promote their affiliate products.
Step 4: Create Awesome Content to Review Your Selected Product
In simple terms, your content needs to solve a pain point for your readers.
Awesome content is defined as content that forms a well-structured blog post. This will have an introduction, the main body, and a conclusion. You can improve its readability by using special marks to indicate lists or bullets in your text as well as making it short enough so that readers don't get lost during their journey through each section of content you are providing them with.
It is important for every paragraph to contain one main idea but make logical connections between other sentences too if possible because this helps create clarity within any given sentence.
Using images instead of having walls of text, adding in videos, or infographics is a great way to differentiate yourself when creating awesome content.
There are also two subpoints to consider.
Don’t Neglect the Data
Data is the new currency of advertising. If you want to be successful in affiliate marketing, then your website needs statistics on it. Data can draw attention from people who are interested in what they see and read about so make sure there's plenty for all tastes (even if most won't be yours).
The increasing popularity of infographics is a great way to display the data in an easy-to-read format. This is beneficial for affiliate marketing as you’re trying to tell the reader exactly what is on offer. Infographics also make it much easier to share on other platforms such as social media which can add brand awareness and boost click-through rates.
To Buy? Or Not to Buy?
A big question that I get asked is, do I need to buy all of the products I want to review?
The answer is, no. While it is obviously going to be much more beneficial to your readers if you have had experience with using the products because it will actually be first-hand experience, just know that it won’t necessarily be a deal-breaker if you haven’t bought it but you can still make an unbiased and in-depth review of the product.
Step 5: Promote that content to drive traffic
Now that you’ve created the best article out there it’s time to put your affiliate marketing strategy to work so that interested people will, lick the links and you start building your affiliate income.
Here are some strategies to consider:
Let your current email list know
If you’ve already got some sort of email list (even if your website is new I highly recommend you start building one) then the easiest way to get some easy traffic is by letting your fans know about your new blog article.
This is probably the easiest, quickest, and fastest way to get traffic in the early stages because you’re already reviewing products your audience may need or want. This will make it highly relevant to them.
Even with a small number of subscribers, you can still get some significant sales. But don’t make the mistake of making it a sales pitch. Just let them know that you have a new review and why it would be beneficial for them to go check it out.
Known as pay per click (PPC) advertising, this is where you put up your ad on a social media platform or Google itself, and then every time someone clicks on the ad you’ll get charged for it.
The obvious benefit to this is that you get instant traffic to your website. The downside is that it will eat into your profits if you’re not careful.
A great benefit though is that you can directly target your competition and sit above all of the organic results on page one.
Of course one of the big disadvantages is that once you stop paying for ads then your traffic also stops.
So it might make sense to pay for your advertising if you’re part of a high volume, high commission affiliate program to make it work, but if you’re just going to be part of the Amazon Associates program (where the commissions are just a few bucks) then it might not make sense for you to use this tactic.
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) can be an excellent way to increase website traffic, leads and sales. With the right keywords and value-added content, you can get your business seen by a whole new audience.
The main objective with SEO is to rank as high as possible within the search engine pages to get the most amount of traffic back to your website.
What’s good about SEO is that there’s no real secret sauce. The main fundamentals you need to understand with SEO are:
Because this is the free way to try and gain traffic it can also take the longest amount of time before you start seeing any real results.
This might be a different approach to others, but if you were in the market for an electric scooter, rather than just read about it, why not get on a webinar and see how awesome it is?
The power of video and seeing it in action has the potential to increase the number of sales because you’re providing more value by showing exactly how it works. Think about YouTube. How often have you used that giant social platform to check out a review on a product before you bought it?
Step 6: Get Clicks From Your Unique Affiliate Links
Just because you have the best content doesn’t guarantee clicks. However, using a few of these tips can help you make affiliate marketing work.
Use Affiliate Link Cloaking
Affiliate links aren’t very aesthetically pleasing. They’re usually just a bunch of letters and numbers jumbled together. This is what makes them unique to you.
To help make these links much more professional you can use plugins such as Pretty Links to help with that.
They will take an affiliate link that looks like this:
And turn it into this:
It can also help manage your affiliate links in the backend of your favorite CMS platform by grouping them into categories.
It’s OK to Promote More Than One Product
Many new marketers think they need to stick to one program or product but this is absolutely false. There is no restriction to the number of programs or products you can sell to your audience.
If you run that fitness blog we have been talking about, then you can promote supplements, weights, nutrition plans, weight loss plans, the possibilities are endless! This allows you to create multiple streams of income through different blog posts.
Of course, don’t overdo it. Keep it relevant and stay within your niche. It’s going to be tough to promote travel accessories to a gardening audience.
By link placement, what I mean is that It’sseveralit matters where you add affiliate links. If you put them right down the bottom where no one will ever see them, then your chances of making a sale reduce drastically.
On the other hand, if every second word is a link, this will make your content look spammy and again will dilute your chances of someone clicking a link to make a purchase.
So to get the best chance of success, diversify your link placement. Add them into your blog posts, product tutorials, YouTube videos, banner ads, social media posts, emails to your audience, and any digital products you might own such as eBooks or courses.
Talk to Your Affiliate Manager For More Help
Most programs will assign you to an affiliate manager to help you promote their product. Most of the time they will even give you email templates you can use in your email newsletter to your audience.
So if you do get stuck don’t be afraid to build up a relationship with each of your affiliate managers. Who knows, they might even be able to give you a raise!
While the fundamentals of affiliate marketing are very basic, it’s not as simple as just having someone click a link and you get paid. In fact, it’s almost like converting your customer twice before you’ll even see a cent of commission.
The first part is getting the customer to click the link on your page. This is all you. You have the most control of it and you need to put your best sales tactic forward to entice the reader to click the link that takes them to the next part of the funnel.
The second part is when the customer lands on the actual company’s landing page. Unfortunately, you have no control over this and it’s now up to the company to lay it all out on the line for the customer to pull out their credit card and make the purchase.
The best way to get the most clicks is to see which programs are converting the most.
A great way is to look at income reports from other bloggers within your niche. Some will even put which programs brought in the most amount of money within a particular month.Here is an example from Pat Flynn’s income report.
By looking at which affiliate programs your competitors are promoting, you can see which ones make the most for them and potentially sign up and promote them as well.
Of course, do your own research on whether it’s a product you would be willing to stand behind. It doesn’t look good if what you’re promoting is absolute rubbish just because it pays you the highest commission.
Keep your readers in the back of your mind, and if it’s not something that you wouldn’t give to your mom, then don’t promote it.
How to Track Your Affiliate Marketing Success
Tracking your data will give you a sense of how your affiliate marketing efforts are going and where you could do better. But staying on top of all your sales can be a big ask and a huge time waster especially if you’re in a large number of programs.
It certainly isn’t fun spending an entire day going through each of the program dashboards. Luckily there’s a product called AffJet that will allow you to track your metrics across a number of different networks all from one dashboard.
Metrics that you would want to really hone in on are:
These are important to pay attention to because they show you which programs are doing better than others. You can then reverse engineer that to the piece of content that is the cause of all the sales and double down on that content.
Affiliate Marketing FAQs
Yes. If you're new to affiliate marketing, one of the best ways to start is by finding a quality product with stellar reviews that represents your brand well.
Beginners can do affiliate marketing, but they might need to take a little more time to find their niche.
Affiliate Marketing is a business that lends itself well to anyone who enjoys blogging or vlogging because it requires that content creators spend some time creating engaging and informative blog posts and videos for a given product before earning any payments from it.
This can be something as simple as writing about the best ice cream flavor of the summer or finding an awesome company with products you know your audience would love. Like most other jobs these days, skills only translate into success after being refined over many hours of practice. It won't get easier if you spend less time on it!
The amount of money someone can make with affiliate marketing depends heavily on two factors. The first factor is the business' commission structure. Some companies offer 30% commissions to their affiliates while others like Amazon Associates offer less than 10%. The second factor is what type of traffic you're marketing. If it's high-quality, targeted traffic then the marketer who has this type of traffic will often generate more revenue than someone without an optimized list.
I would say no. Affiliate marketing often requires a lot of extra time to get it up and running, you are relying on others to do what they are supposed to do, and while it can be profitable, if you're not careful you could lose out.
I've encountered affiliate marketing where there was little advertisement done about an affiliate company's products or services, so customers were unlikely to come in the door to buy the product just by visiting the website.
Getting people's attention is usually done through SEO optimization for keywords or ads that readers will believe are sponsored by other users rather than affiliates. When customers purchase something from an affiliate company without being solicited by email or text message with promotional materials, there’s a good chance they’re less likely to purchase again.
Affiliate Marketing FAQs
The affiliate marketing industry is a great way to make passive income. All you have to do is set up an affiliate website, find some relevant products, and then just promote them on your site.
You then need to drive traffic to your site and you will earn a profit from every sale that is generated, it's as simple as that.
However, if you decide to start affiliate marketing don’t expect overnight riches.
Understanding that means that your journey will go much smoother. This will take time and depending on the niche, a lot of time.
To help speed up the process you can also use social media sites like Facebook or Twitter to get the word out about what you're promoting.
I hope this post has helped you understand how simple it can be to get started with your affiliate marketing business and become a successful affiliate marketer.
Which program will you get started with? Let me know by commenting below.