If you’ve ever looked into digital marketing platforms, chances are that you’ve heard about affiliate marketing. It is insanely popular right now thanks to the earning potential and the fact “anyone can try it”. The numbers speak for themselves — affiliate marketing is a $12 billion industry, and it has a higher growth rate than the GDP of many countries.
Do you want a piece of this huge industry?
Hosting Tribunal, a website that operates in the web hosting affiliate marketing niche, created a helpful infographic with key facts and stats about affiliate marketing which can help you figure out important aspects of becoming an affiliate marketing pro. (
Using that resource, here, we’ll explain the basics for new affiliates.
Read this and get started with your affiliate marketing career.
The infographic identifies 4 roles in the affiliate marketing model:
- Affiliate network
Let’s start by explaining those.
An Affiliate (marketer or publisher or promoter) is the person marketing the product. If you’re reading this article, this is most likely the role you’re aiming for.
Think of the affiliates as the salespeople for a company. They don’t own the product, but they market it to customers.
As an affiliate, your job is to direct customers to the merchant’s website. If they buy something, you earn a commission. Neat, right?
The simplest way to do this is through affiliate hyperlinks. You can post them on a web page like any other link. Just be mindful that internet users are good at recognizing affiliate links. Trying to trick them into clicking is usually more of a hassle than it’s worth. Being transparent about your status as an affiliate can be much more productive.
The merchant owns the product. Once you direct traffic to the merchant, it’s up to them to sell it. That’s why it’s good to do your research on the merchant and the product itself. When you promote products, it’s your reputation that is on the line.
The affiliate network connects affiliates to merchants. It helps affiliates find the product suitable for their needs. Finding the right affiliate network is one of the most important steps. Remember this, as we will talk more about it.
The role of the customer is self-explanatory. It is important not to forget that customers are humans. Designing your website to appeal to search engines is great, but ultimately it should attract humans if you want to succeed.
The Things You Need To Become an Affiliate Marketer
A thing that attracts many people to affiliate marketing is that you need nothing to start. Well, almost nothing. You need time and internet access, but that’s a given with any online business.
You don’t need any starting capital. Most affiliate networks let you sign up for free. Affiliate marketing is one of the few business models that require no or minimal initial investment.
You don’t need office space. Unlike traditional businesses, you can do affiliate marketing from anywhere. Heck, you can take a laptop to the park and write content there.
All you need is web presence. If you already have a website, vlog, or anything of the sort, it’s a bonus.
If not, it is a good idea to start with creating a website. With the help of CMS like WordPress and step by step guides on making a website with WordPress, it is quite an easy task.
Picking Your Niche
Deciding on a niche is one of the most important things when starting out as a marketer. It determines who you attract and what your content is about.
Our first tip for picking your niche is to do what you know. Do you have a hobby? It could be a good thing to write about. If you’re a golfer, you can write golf club reviews.
The reason behind this is that you need quality content. Prior knowledge about whatever you promote means a lot less time spent on research.
Being knowledgeable reflects on content and adds credibility. So, if you’re handy around the house, you’re probably better off reviewing hand tools than skiing equipment.
The second thing to consider is whether people are interested in a niche. You can promote anything – global retail commerce is nearly $3 trillion already – but if there are no buyers, your profit potential won’t look too great.
A simple Google Ads keyword research gives an estimate of how many searches each keyword gets. Pick popular keywords and try to rank for them. Also, keep an eye on long-tail keywords that get good conversions. Ranking for “best [product name] under $50” searches can be worthwhile.
But also be mindful of the competition. You don’t want to pick a niche with too many competitors. A simple Google search for “shoe blog” reveals almost a billion results. A search for “shoe review” gets 1.76 billion results.
Imagine trying to rank for that!
So, don’t pick a niche that’s too competitive, especially when you are just starting out. If the competition is too strong, it’s best to narrow down your scope. This means focusing on a smaller part of a broader niche.
You could start by reviewing a particular kind of product, e.g. toasters. If your affiliate business takes off, you can branch out into reviewing other kitchen appliances. Being adaptable is often the best policy.
Picking an Affiliate Network
We touched upon this already. Once you know your niche, you need an affiliate program that fits the bill.
Signing up with an affiliate program that matches your niche is obvious. Picking a network like CJ Affiliate that specializes in digital products is good if you want to market software. However, if your niche is lawnmowers, consider a network that deals with physical tools.
The second thing is the commission. Obviously, you want a good commission. Don’t just sign up with the first network that fits your niche. Compare their commissions with a similar network. Perhaps a competitor offers a better deal.
In contrast, you shouldn’t always go with the highest commission. Now, you might think a higher percentage equals more money, right? Sure, if you sell the same number of products.
But selling a hundred items for a 1% commission is better than selling nothing at 99% commission. Check if a product actually sells before signing up, but keep in mind that merchants sometimes offer more money for unpopular products.
Also, some merchants have better conversion rate. For instance, eBay Network offers lower commissions but is great at getting visitors to buy. So, research well and even interview a couple of established affiliates to find out where you’d earn the most.
If you can’t decide, there’s no rule against working with two competing companies. You can sign up with more networks if you can keep track of everything. Your audience might appreciate the product diversity.
Speaking of merchants, make sure you pick a reputable company and a reputable affiliate network. There’s nothing worse than getting a bad reputation because of a merchant’s mistake.
Apart from CJ Affiliate and eBay Network that we’ve already mentioned, ShareASale, Rakuten Linkshare, and Avangate are all good networks. Of course, you can always do your own research and find a network that suits you best.
Finally, you need to write content. Quality content is essential for building an audience and keeping it. Loyal followers are more likely to click on links than new visitors.
We already said you’d be better off with a website. That’s because content that ranks well with search engines gets a great click-through rate. Product reviews often are the most direct way to market something because when users search for reviews of a specific product, they are itching to buy.
You shouldn’t forget about vlogs and podcasts. Audio and video content is great for building rapport with the audience. But, unless you specifically want to be a vlogger, use them to supplement a website.
Don’t focus solely on the website, though. Use social media for posting snippets of content to keep your viewership updated about new materials on your website. Leveraging social media and mailing lists has to be a part of your content strategy as a successful marketer.
Affiliate marketing is a great way for earning an income from the comfort of your home. If you’re thinking about taking up entrepreneurship, being an affiliate might be the ideal choice.
Just remember that the audience, not sales, should be the primary focus. Apart from that, everything comes down to informed choices and hard work.
Now you know the basics of affiliate marketing. For more info, don’t miss out on the infographic that follows. It contains all the key stats and facts about affiliate marketing.