In the first part of our series on affiliate marketing, we looked at what it actually is, what it is used for and how it works. If this has inspired you into a new career but you don’t know where to start, do read the nitty-gritty of setting things up.
One thing it is important to understand from the outset is that affiliate marketing isn’t a get-rich-quick scheme. To be successful, you need to be willing to invest time into learning and mastering its techniques, think medium to long term and be perseverant.
If this is you, then this guide is just what you need to get started.
Do you need a website?
It is true that you can dispense with a website and do affiliate marketing simply by using social media sites. However, you shouldn’t completely dependent on them alone.
Imagine that you are incredibly successful and build a lucrative affiliate marketing business through, say, a Facebook page. What happens if Facebook changes their terms and conditions suddenly and takes your page down? Yep, your income stream vanishes instantly, your audience doesn’t know where you have gone and you have wasted years’ worth of work.
This is why we would always recommend that you don’t rely on third parties but invest in setting up your website.
How to set up a website
You will find many outlets offering packages including domain names, websites builder software and hosting. While some of them are very cheap, you have to exert due diligence when choosing a hosting company and make sure you are getting what you need.
To build a website, you need a domain name, i.e. a unique website address. You can buy one through most hosting companies, like Crazy Domains NZ.
Then you need to choose hosting.
Some hosting companies offer proprietary website builders, i.e. content management systems (CMS) with template layouts that you customise. The issue with that is that their CMS is unlikely to be supported by anyone else and should you wish to leave them, your website may break when imported somewhere else. Try to find a hosting company using well-known CMSs such as WordPress which can be migrated easily.
You also need to check that you have access to some of the code of the website, as you need to be able to optimise your site through the meta-information as well as ad tracking codes for your affiliate marketing programs.
We would also advise that you choose a company that offers phone support and has their customer service in New Zealand. If something goes wrong, you need to be able to talk to someone rather than wait for an email response; and if they are abroad, your phone bill will feel it.
How to decide on what to promote
This is obviously one of the most crucial aspects of affiliate marketing. Choose the wrong niche and you will simply not make any money.
A very important rule is to stick to what you know and love. To be successful, you will need to get up every day and write about your niche so if you don’t absolutely love it, your endeavour will soon become torture. On the other hand, your enthusiasm will come across and your expertise will help you identify the right products and evaluate them accurately.
But it’s not all about the heart, you need to do the research to make sure that there is a market for the products you are thinking of promoting.
The best place to start is with good old Google and its keyword planner. Type in keywords related to what you want to sell and see what Google returns. It will give you an accurate picture of what people are actually looking for and in which volume, which is a good indication about the commercial potential.
Competition research is also essential. If your market is completely saturated and you find other websites that offer fantastic content, there is little point going against them and it may be time to re-think your strategy.
A common myth is that only large markets, such as beauty or pets, can turn a profit. But it isn’t true at all. Niche markets may have smaller numbers, but they may also be less competitive or yield higher profits so don’t discard them out of hand. Whatever you may think about model trains, for example, there is a passionate crowd out there who is always on the lookout for good products and specialised knowledge.
Once you have identified a niche, you will need to select the specific products and services you would like to sell and this is when expertise is particularly useful. The golden rule is that every item you select should be solving a customer’s problem. In addition, the best way to promote a product is often to use it yourself, so ask yourself whether you would be willing to try out what you would be advertising.
You also need to think about positioning and brand. If you decide to target high-end products, choosing products of questionable quality will damage your reputation.
Where to Find Affiliate Products
This is the less glamorous part: you’ll need to sift through a vast amount of websites offering affiliate products even after you have lost the will to live.
You can do so through affiliate networks, which are websites where all affiliate products for specific merchants are displayed, such as R.O.EYE, Commission Factory or LinkShare. There are hundreds of different affiliate networks and you need to research which networks carry the most suitable programs for your affiliate marketing business.
Some companies manage their affiliate programmes themselves so you can also find affiliate products on merchants’ websites. To find them, do some competition research and when you come across a relevant advertised product, go to the merchant’s website where a link to their affiliate programme will no doubt be available.
A word of caution: although most merchants are honest, some have been known not to pay commissions when due so always go with well-known companies or reputable affiliate networks who run the programs of major brands.
The different types of affiliate marketing agreements
There are many types of affiliate marketing agreements, most of them paying when a visitor has performed a specific action. You can find more information about this topic in our previous blog, What is Affiliate Marketing?
Live website – Check.
Affiliate products – Check.
What’s next? Well, people have to find your website to see your content, but they won’t know about it unless you tell them.
Optimisation is the cornerstone of driving traffic to your website organically, but you can also make yourself visible through other techniques:
• Identify forums or other websites where your target audience may be and guest post with a link to your website.
• Share your content on Social Media sites.
• Create downloadable content which links back to your website.
• Once you have subscribers, send them emails to notify them of new published content.
What is the best place to put affiliate links and banners on a webpage?
Although sidebar affiliate banners have had some success in the past, they are no longer are very lucrative so it is best not to add links or banners there, especially because a lot of internet browsing is done on mobile devices with limited screen size nowadays
The best-performing location for affiliate links and banners is directly into the content. It is quite logical if you think about it: if someone is taking the time to read your article, they are clearly interested in the information it provides and therefore are more likely to purchase the product you are promoting.
But even more important than where you place your ad, make sure that you are marketing a product which is highly relevant to the content it is in. This is what will make a visitor click on the link – and earn you money.
Trials and errors are often the best way to learn, but we want to spare you some pain and guide through rookie mistakes.
• Selling too loudly
Yes, you are into affiliate marketing to make money, but you don’t need to shout about it on your website.
Potential customers respond better to a ‘Pull’ approach than a ‘Push’ approach nowadays, as there are so many claims to our attention and money. In the Push approach, you aggressively go after customers with content and banners screaming ‘Buy Me’; in the Pull approach you get your customers to come to you.
How do you do that? By creating relevant, useful content. The primary aim is not to sell, but to establish yourself as an authoritative voice, one that visitors will come to trust and whose advice they will follow. This is why peer reviews are so successful at influencing people’s buying decisions, as they are perceived as impartial and born from knowledge of a product.
• Less is more
As overused as this phrase is, it is still very true. Spreading yourself too thin could be counter-productive and end up being not profitable. Choose your products carefully and keep your portfolio manageable.
• Always test
Your success depends on your visitors trusting you so imagine that your link takes them to a promotion that blows up their email inbox. They won’t thank you for it.
When you sign up for an affiliate programme, you can opt to test the ad and experience it as your visitors will. Always do to make sure that nothing untoward will happen to them.
• Not monitoring your links’ performance
As a business owner, the basic information you should know about your company is what your unique selling point is, who your competitors are, who your customers are and how they found you. Yet, as obvious as it may sound, it is always surprising to see how few businesses actually know how their clients heard about them.
This data is as relevant to you as if you were selling your own products and you need to track where your sales are coming from so don’t forget to add the unique code attached to each promotion on your webpages or you won’t have any visibility on which work and which are not worth investing time. Then, make sure that you monitor your links’ performance regularly.
• Not Comparing
You don’t want to overload your website pages with affiliate links and banners, but there is a clever way to increase your revenue in a way that is actually useful to your readers: comparing products.
After the initial research phase, people usually shortlist 2 or 3 items they are considering, so by offering the main product as well as a couple of alternatives and comparing “the 3 Best xxx….”, you increase your chances of readers clicking on one of the links – and therefore you being remunerated – as well as helping them make a choice. It’s a win-win situation!
• Getting distracted
Even the most seasoned affiliate marketer will confess to getting side-tracked occasionally, and it happens more easily than you think. Suddenly, you come across the latest best thing, it’s shiny and new, so how could you possibly resist chasing it?
As we saw above, not spreading yourself too thin is crucial. There are only so many hours in the day, and one completed, successful campaign is better than twenty-five half-finished campaigns languishing on your computer.
The best way to not get distracted is to set yourself clear goals and stick to them.
Affiliate marketing can be a rewarding business, promoting and advertising products in an area you are interested in, but like all self-employed jobs, it requires self-discipline, motivation, and patience. It isn’t a quick-fix scheme as it takes time to build up a following and to learn the skills to be truly successful.
But the question remains: can you really make money out of affiliate marketing or is it all a myth? If you want to find out, then don’t miss our next article and find out whether it will allow you to buy your own private island or just a couple of parasols.