Affiliate Marketing For Dummies To Succeed
The previous blog post detailed some success stories with individuals making money promoting affiliate programs. So, it’s only right to discuss the basics of affiliate marketing for dummies.
Now, this in no way implies anyone reading this is ‘dumb’. It’s just that this entry will attempt to explain this market in such a way that even this guy could understand:
Make Money, Money!
Of course, there are several ways to earn an online income, some of which have been detailed previously. Of the 12 listed, online investing, blogging and affiliate opportunities have been a topic of great interest to me.
Yet, affiliate marketing should personally receive another post because of it’s growth and potential.
Why Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is an opportunity for website owners to earn passive income. There are several ways to become an affiliate marketer as well as implement the marketing process.
There are two important aspects of affiliate marketing, and both require research.
First, you need to develop a marketing plan that works for your audience, and then you will need to decide on the best ways to execute your plan.
Affiliate marketing does not have a one-size-fits-all formula, but everyone has the opportunity to develop the skills to perform well in this field.
How Do I Get Started?
Avoid The Scams
As one can see, success is possible, especially for those willing to put in time to learn the nuts and bolts of this industry. You owe it to yourself to invest a lot in becoming educated on this subject.
In fact, there’s a lot of scams out there, and that’s why it’s imperative for “newbies” to stay alert of vultures seeking hard earned money while offering nothing of value in return.
Trust me, I’ve seen the videos from Clickbank and YouTube where the guy pulls up to a big house in a luxury ride. They (allegedly) make $10,000-20,000 a month with minimum effort.
Some would have you believe you’re able to earn large profits in no time if you follow this simple system. (And it’s not lost on me that most of them love using the words “profits” and “systems” often!)
You may also wish to stay on alert in regards to online courses.
I’m not knocking paid training nor am I against the purchase of a simple to follow e-book. I actually own a course I had printed from Staples with an actual cover and binding spines.
Just know that there are several options out there to learn and benefit from to avoid being ripped off.
In my early days of learning about affiliate marketing, I ran across lot’s of programs to join for a small fee, initially. From my understanding, browsing a popular online forum, most are nothing more than pyramid schemes with ridiculously priced upsells.
Your best bet would be to use Google and YouTube at your convenience to find as many useful tips on this subject. Because, most of the resources to help you are already available (and in most cases free).
View video (1:07:45 long):
In the past, I’ve written about taking advantage of the free and premium resources from Affilorama.
With access to their quick-start guide, members are no in obligation to purchase anything as it’s free to join.
With an online community forum and over 120 video lessons, that’s more than enough to get anyone started.
Finding A Niche
If there’s a subject matter you’re well informed about (or at least willing to research) , then affiliate marketing may be the place for you.
For instance, if one has an interest in gold investments, traveling, shoes, etc., it would make sense to create a blog site around this topic. You’re goal as a blogger would be to provide value to readers by educating them in this area.
You would then compare and review products and services in that particular niche, including the affiliate link of the advertisers website.
The process would be the same for those interested in creating a social media page (more on that below), although it’s still recommended to own a website.
Affiliate marketing companies work as a middleman between the company requesting advertising, the advertiser, and the website applying to advertise on behalf of the business called the publisher.
As a publisher, you may create a space on your website for an ad. Every reader who clicks on the ad earns a few cents.
If you prefer a subtle marketing technique, you can include referral links in blog posts or via social media. In these cases, if a person arrives at the advertiser’s website and completes a purchase a percentage of the sale goes to the publisher.
The great thing about working with an affiliate marketing company is the opportunity to have a broad variety of products and services to host. A diverse list of partnerships increases the number of opportunities to advertise. On the downside, three parties dividing a sales profit results in less income. It can take a lot of clicks each month to earn a passive income as a publisher through affiliate marketing programs if you don’t choose the right ones.
Blogging & SEO
The larger your network, the more people you are communicating with that may click on a well-placed link or ad. When it comes to developing a blog for your business website the statistics are clear the average company that has a blog receives:
Hubspot explains their stats by pointing out, “Companies that blog have far better marketing results.” But just having a blog isn’t going to be enough to drive in traffic. You will need to make sure your blog is publishing great content frequently.
Most companies publish posts more 2-3 times a week. Consistent publishing is a benefit to affiliate marketing because it gives you many chances to feature links on your blog.
SEO (search engine optimization) is important to pay attention to with all blog posts. If you write a post that includes irrelevant links, broken links or too many links the search engines will identify your post as SPAM, and it won’t rank high (or at all) on search engine pages.
Additionally, with the presence of Google, many now know and understand keywords are important to driving traffic to a website. But it’s not just any keywords.
Long-tail keyword phrases are much more specific and targeted terms searchers type in the search engines. The intent used are either for decisions on purchasing or details on a subject. It’s the duty of bloggers to provide valuable content around these terms (Neil Patel recommends long form content).
Take the example of an affiliate who blogs about gold investment. Because the phrase “gold” is too broad and comes with a lot of competition, it would make more sense to create content around terms like:
- Best Gold Investment For Retirement
- Gold Investment Companies
- Gold 401k Rollover
- Buy Gold Bars Online
- Best (Company name) Review
- Gold Affiliate Program
Take time to develop excellent blog content with each post, but especially with those that include affiliate links. If you are going to feature a product or explain why someone should purchase a particular customer relationship software, write “how-to” content.
Go through a tutorial of the product and describe a unique feature. Blog posts that teach someone how to use a program may give them the confidence to take the next step towards purchasing.
Helpful content has another important aspect to consider. Readers that trust you will come back, they will share your posts with their friends, and they are more likely to take your recommendations on purchases.
Even Matt Cutts of Google, who uses WordPress, stated pros and cons of the platform:
Do not become intimidated by the idea of setting up self hosting. There are plenty of free resources available online to lean from.
Below, here’s an example of how one can create a WordPress website (1:46:30 long):
The video tutorial included a PDF website checklist which one could access here.
Social Media Marketing
Obviously, social media platforms have become huge areas of affiliate marketing. Companies have jumped onto social to push their brands, and it’s well-received when done properly.
A 2017 Sprout Social consumer survey:
“found that three-quarters of consumers surveyed believe there’s value in brands exhibiting humor on social but only one-third actually want brands to bring on the snark full force. This pales in comparison to the majority of consumers, who buy from brands that are honest (86%), helpful (78%) and friendly (83%). It turns out that at the end of the day, consumers want brands to use social as a customer care channel.”
Honesty goes beyond the legal obligation of identifying an affiliate link. If someone purchases an item because you raved about it and decided the quality is subpar, they are likely to distrust your future reviews.
There are several ways to promote affiliate links through social. You can share a link directly, share a blog post that has a link already embedded, or you can use a program like linktree on Instagram connect a photo to a website through your affiliate link.
For example, someone wears a t-shirt, talks about how amazing it is and then mentions if someone would like to purchase the shirt they can click on the photo.
An important part of social media marketing is enabling sharing options on posts. Social accounts need to be set publicly and include options to share. Blog posts and marketing emails should also have social sharing buttons enabled.
As with all marketing content, there is a balance between bombarding those who follow you and maintaining a relationship. Be mindful of how many posts are sales focused.
To avoid appearing as a spammer or “snake oil salesman”, consider using your social media page to engage with you followers.
Perry Marshall, author of Ultimate Guide to Facebook Advertising, offers great advice and tips which include:
- Understanding the “80/20 Principle”.
- Types of images to use for ad.
- Finding targeted audience.
- What to offer for free in exchange of potential customer opt-ins.
If interested, you may also read up on How To Set Up A Facebook Page.
Joining Programs and Networks
Once you’ve identified a niche, or a purpose for your blog site, it’s time to join an affiliate network or independent program.
Examples of most popular network companies are:
- MaxBounty – You can earn commissions as a result of Cost Per Action, or CPA. MaxBounty just happens to be the most recognizable of them all. If interested, check out the previous review of this website.
- ClickBank – Popular network among many affiliates. Many of the digital products are easy to join. For WordPress users, it’s recommended to use the Pretty Link plug-in to cloak their ugly links.
- ShareASale – Product based network. Good for blogging, e-mail, PPC and SEO campaigns.
- ClickSure – Similar to Clickbank with digital products. Many of the programs include (but not exclusive to) forex, make money online and binary options.
Independent programs are different from a network in that they’re separate from networks like ClickBank or Commission Junction. Based on the specific niche, you can easily perform a search of a program on Google or Bing.
Of course, while commissions are smaller, there’s been a lot of talk on joining Amazon Associates. And building a niche site around Amazon products definitely has a lot of potential of bringing passive income.
I’ve done a lot of research from blogs on successful Amazon Affiliate sites, and here’s a few things discovered:
- Content Is Still King – While it’s an uphill battle attempting to outrank Amazon in the search engines, many marketers work around this. Don’t believe me? Just study the examples of these sites.
- Amazon Affiliates Provide Value – Potential customers type keywords into Google and Bing using phrases considered Commercial, Transactional or Informational. Commercial Intent obviously are phrases like “Review”, “Best” or “Compare”. Like any affiliate program, Amazon affiliates provide value by helping readers understand more about the items they’re interested in purchasing.
- The Concept Is Pretty Simple – While there’s still competition with Amazon Associates, the concept seems simple. Find a niche, research the keywords of that market and products, write blog posts for targeted audience.
E-mail List Building
Building a list of e-mails is a common practice of businesses and bloggers. At one time it was considered an industry norm to purchase records of e-mails and then send “cold-call” style sales e-mails. Google has changed their algorithms to protect their e-mail users. Mass e-mails that go to lists can now be identified and labeled as SPAM before they enter an inbox.
The best option for e-mail list building is to ask your readers for their address.
Asking can be done by just requesting someone sign-up to receive e-mails from you, or you can create a free offer that they’ll receive in exchange for providing you their email for future use.
A free offer could consist of any incentive pertaining to the niche market of your choice. You want to give potential subscribers a reason to opt in
Some clean ways to incentivise sign-ups:
Whenever possible, create an offer around a future affiliate marketing promotion. The content will allow you to identify best which of your readers are most likely to purchase the item you are promoting. If you are partnering with a stock photo company, a webinar on how to use digital photo editing software would be a relevant offer.
E-mail list segmentation is essential for list retainment. Hubspot research discovered 63% of people who responded to their email marketing survey indicating they unsubscribe from e-mails with content they consider irrelevant (source).
Marketing e-mails are a great conversation tool for your blog readers. An e-mail can remind a reader of an important blog post published a few weeks ago.
Sometimes a second review of information will encourage a reader to become a buyer.
E-mails can also follow up on offers and further promote an exclusive product.
“Email marketing databases naturally degrade by about 22.5% every year. So it’s important to have a strategy to make up for these lost contacts.” Hotspot.com
Obviously, relevant content sent to segmented lists as well as continued development of free content keeps databases growing.
Affiliate Marketing Tips And Book Recommendations
There is a lot of information about affiliate marketing. Just For Websites has compiled an updated list of the top affiliate marketing books.
What’s ideal about this list is the way they highlighted variety. Additionally, you may purchase most of these books from Amazon.
- Explore passive income further reading: Types Of Passive Income Generated Online and What To Expect From Each: The Beginners Guide For The Smart Digital Entrepreneur (The Smart Digital Entrepreneur Guide Book 1)
- For learning how to set up e-mail marketing campaigns: Check out Matthew Paulson’s book.
- Considering becoming an Amazon Affiliate? Read How to Make Money as an Amazon Associate.
- Save your money and sharpen SEO skill by reading the Yoast SEO blog.
Best Practices For Blog Content and Social Media
Follow industry standards at all times. There are strict regulations for both link disclosure and e-mail marketing. If broken you could be required to pay huge fines. Lawyer and Blogger Trisha Meyer lays out the basics for FTC guidelines and how to apply laws to affiliate marketing.
Following the law cannot be emphasized enough. Trisha wrote up a summary of a lawsuit that is worth your time to read.
“Blogger Involved in FTC Lawsuit for Failure to Disclose: This is one of the biggest applications of the Guidelines so far. Both merchants and bloggers need to read my post on this case because it reiterates in practice much of what I said above. The merchant and the agency were held liable for the blogger’s failure to disclose. This was a paid placement rather than an affiliate relationship, but the principles are the same.”
The lawsuit verdict resulted in a $40 million penalty.
Also, to fully disclosing partnerships, write evergreen blog content. Affiliate links don’t have short expiration dates; your content shouldn’t either.
Engage with people who comment. If someone comments on a post you need to comment back. If you were trying to promote a product in person and someone asked a question you would answer it. The same should be true online.
Most importantly, to the Just For Websites list, the FTC guidelines on affiliate links is a valuable resource Disclosures: How to Make Effective Disclosures in Digital Advertising.
E-mail Marketing Consideration
Write marketing e-mails for the reader. What information will they find helpful? Treat the person receiving your e-mails how you prefer receiving treatment. Marketing e-mails must follow the CAN-SPAM Act. Every individual email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $40,654. Read the entire law before sending emails, but the rules are straightforward. E-mails must be truthful both in content and without a misleading subject line. Your email address needs to be accurate, and you have to honor opt-out requests promptly.
Companies can set up additional rules around affiliate links in emails. Amazon affiliates are not allowed to embed links in emails. You need to make sure you know the specifics of every agreement you enter. You also need to make sure to optimize email for mobile. You cannot ignore statistics from Hubspot on the importance of e-mail optimization for smartphones:
- 48% of emails are opened on mobile devices
- 69% of mobile users delete emails that aren’t optimized for mobile
- 89% of email marketers are losing leads and opportunities because they’re not optimizing their emails
Of course, Affiliate marketing is an ever-evolving industry that is available to anyone. Adding an ad or link to a website is not enough.
Lastly, do your research, partner with companies that your niche audience will be interested in, and develop honest and transparent content. Successful affiliate marketing that sets you apart will evolve in the details. Don’t stop learning and trying new things.