Ever since the 4-Hour Workweek was released, everyone seems to have the same goal.
To wake up in the morning, open their laptop, and look at something like this:
That’s the dream, right?
Make money while you sleep.
For 99% of people, affiliate marketing is how they get started.
The idea behind it is that you promote other people’s products, often through an affiliate network earning a commission if people actually end up buying thanks to your marketing.
It’s based on revenue sharing. If you have a product and want to sell more, you can offer promoters a financial incentive through an affiliate program. If you have no product and want to make money, then you can promote a product that you feel has value and earn an income from it as an affiliate marketer.
I’ve talked a little about it before but today I want to dive deeper into what affiliate marketing actually is, what sides there are to it, and how to get started. So, let’s dive into my affiliate marketing guide. Ready?
The best definition of what affiliate marketing is can be found on Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income :
“Affiliate marketing is the process of earning a commission by promoting other people’s (or company’s) products. You find a product you like, promote it to others and earn a piece of the profit for each sale that you make.“
Step #1: Decide on a platform
Theoretically, you can do affiliate marketing on any platform. Even Instagram works.
However, it’s much easier to build an audience and increase your affiliate sales via one of two channels: a blog or YouTube channel.
Starting a blog today is relatively easy and cheap. There are plenty of tutorials online that teach you how to get started. The best part? It’ll likely only cost you a few dollars per month.
Once your site is up, optimize it for search engines so that you have a better chance of Ranking From there, you’re free to add affiliate links in your content. (There is an art to doing this, which we’ll cover later in this guide.)
Step #2: Choose your niche
Let’s be honest: if you’re starting a blog today, you’re facing a ton of competition. statista estimates
that the number of bloggers in the U.S will reach 31.7 million by 2020.
To stand the best chance of success, niche down.
Choose a topic that focuses on a specific category. For example, the topic of “food” is an enormous category. Rather than tackling that, try something more specific, like grilling food.
Keeping your topics tight can help you build a more focused audience and potentially help you rank higher in search engines.
That’s what I did when I built my first site. Instead of talking about “dance” or “hip hop,” I decided to limit myself to just breakdancing. Despite not knowing anything about SEO back then, I managed to rank for a few key terms and generate ~3,000 organic visits per month.
Step #3: Find affiliate programs to join
There are three types of affiliate programs to choose from.
A. High-paying, low-volume affiliate programs
These are affiliate programs for niche products with high payouts.
For example, ConvertKit’s affiliate program pays almost $700 per month if you send just 80 customers their way. However, as they sell CRM software for small business owners, there’s a limited pool of buyers. There also tends to be more competition for programs with high commissions. Since you’re probably just starting, it’ll be quite challenging to make a meaningful amount of money competing against skilled marketers with deep pockets.
B. Low-paying, high-volume affiliate programs
These are affiliate programs for products with low payouts but mass appeal.
For example, take PS4 games. Lots of people play PS4, but the average cost of a game is only around $50, and affiliate commissions are usually in the single digits. This means you’ll earn $2–3 per sale if you’re lucky.
The redeeming quality of these types of programs is that they usually offer tons of products to sell. Take Amazon’s affiliate program, for example. You can earn up to 10% commissions on almost anything Amazon sells.
C. High-paying, high-volume affiliate programs
These are affiliate programs for products with mass appeal, which also pay high commissions.
One example is credit cards.
Everyone needs a credit card, and most people stay with company year (sometimes even decades!)
The downside of these types of products is that they attract affiliate marketers with lots of expertise and deep pockets. Some also use spammy tactics that you just can’t compete with.
And since this is a tutorial for beginners, I won’t go any deeper into this.
Just be aware that these programs exist.
Step #4: Create great content
If you want your affiliate site to succeed, you need to create high-quality content where your affiliate links fit naturally.
Judging by the comments, his fans loved it.
This is what you have to emulate when creating content for your affiliate site.
Don’t just blindly curate products from Amazon’s best sellers. Go the extra mile to make sure your content solves the visitor’s problem.
How? If you’re doing reviews, actually purchase the product and test it. This is what the Wirecutter did, which explains their success.
If you don’t have money to buy every single product, you can always start with what you have at home. For example, if you had a tech blog, you could create reviews on the gadgets you own.
Step #5: Drive traffic to your affiliate site
You’ve created great content. The next step is to get more people to read it, so they will click on your affiliate links.
Here are three traffic strategies to consider:
A. Paid traffic
This is where you pay for traffic to your site. You can do this using PPC ads.
The advantage of paid traffic is that the moment you start paying, you get traffic.
However, there are some downsides.
First, running ads will dig into your profits. It’s quite normal for advertisers to lose money before they make it… if they ever do.
You need to be realistic about how long it takes to optimize a paid traffic campaign.
Secondly, once you stop paying for ads, your traffic will stop.
Generally speaking, ads are a great traffic strategy if you’re part of a high-paying affiliate program and can make the numbers work.
But if you’re completely new to paid marketing and have no marketing budget (or are working with lower commission programs like Amazon Associates), then it might not be such a great idea.
B. Search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO is the practice of optimizing pages to rank high in search engines like Google.
For as long as you can rank high in the search engines for your target keywords, you’ll get consistent and passive traffic.
On The Most Basic Level, SEO Is about
- Understanding what your target customers are searching for;
- Creating content around those topics (blog posts, product pages, etc.);
- Taking care of the “technical” stuff to push these pages higher in the search engines (which includes link Building)
C. Build an email list
Email lists allow you to communicate with your readers anytime.
Use them to tell fans about new content and keep them coming back to your site for more. This leads to more affiliate clicks and sales.
You can even send affiliate email promotions to your list directly:
To build an email list, you need to persuade the readers on your site to sign up. That means offering something valuable.
At Ahrefs, we show a slide-in box at the end of every article:
But there are plenty of ways to do this. You can also offer a free eBook, an email course, etc.
All you need is some creativity.
Step #6: Get clicks on your affiliate links
Just because you have an amazing piece of content doesn’t mean people will click on your affiliate links.
There are a few things you need to consider.
A. Link placement
If all your affiliate links are at the bottom of the page where people rarely scroll, clicks will be few and far between.
On the other hand, make every other word a link in your introduction, and your content will look spammy.
You need to balance link placement with the other factors below.
Let’s say you were writing an article on the best kitchen knives for under $50.
Your introduction probably shouldn’t look like this:
The links look out of context and spammy.
This would make more sense:
Today, I’m reviewing three different chef knives you can buy on Amazon for under $50. These are Product 1, Product 2, Product 3.
Using callouts like buttons, tables, and boxes can help attract your readers’ attention and make the post more skimmable.
For example, the Wirecutter uses eye-catching boxes with product links anytime they share a top pick.
Step #7: Convert clicks to sales
In affiliate marketing, two conversions need to take place for you to make money.
The first conversion is the click to the product page.
You’re 100% in control of this action. Use the tactics above to improve your chances of getting that click.
The second conversion is the visitor purchasing the product. In the case of affiliate marketing, the merchant controls the checkout, and their conversion rates are out of your control.
The trick is to play the game to your advantage and look for merchants with programs that convert well.
Here are a few ways to find them:
A. Public income reports
If people are making decent money from an affiliate program, then it’s likely that the product converts well.
How do you know if people are making money?
Look at public income reports where bloggers publicly reveal how much money they’re making from their affiliate deals.
You can find these reports on Google.
For example, if you search for “income report amazon affiliate”, you’ll see a few blog posts showing how bloggers have made money from Amazon Affiliates.
B. Ask questions
If there isn’t much information available about an affiliate program you want to join, sign up and ask questions.
For example, you might want to find out what their average conversion rates are, or a ballpark figure of their top earners’ monthly commissions.
This can help you figure out if the affiliate program is worth promoting.
C. Use your intuition
Sometimes, it’s best to go with your gut feeling.
If the program or product you’re checking out feels “off,” or if you would personally never recommend the product to a friend or family member, then don’t promote it.