What is Affiliate Marketing? The ULTIMATE NEWBIE GUIDE!

Getting Started with Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a subject that many are talking about these days, and the reason is simple: the opportunity to earn passive income.

Over the last couple years, passive income has become a big talking point among many bloggers and entrepreneurs. Passive income requires work, of course, when you’re getting started, but once you’ve built a website or a source of passive income, it requires little upkeep to maintain its efficacy.

But what is affiliate marketing? How does it provide passive income? How do you get started? We’ll answer all those questions in this article – the revenue model, the basics, and what websites and platforms you should be looking at if you’re interested in getting into affiliate marketing.

Affiliate Marketing – The Basics

Affiliate marketing is a form of revenue sharing. Brands and companies who wish to sell products create programs that incentivize the selling of those products – and when a marketer successfully promotes a product and makes a sale, they earn a percentage of that sale.

The affiliate model involves 4 different parties – the merchant, the network, the publisher, and the consumer.

The 4 Parties Involved In Affiliate Marketing

The Merchant is the marketplace that’s responsible for actually selling the items that are going to be promoted – organizing, packing, and shipping the items to customers once the items are purchased.

Amazon is a great example of a merchant – they boast one of the biggest online marketplaces in the world, and not only do they host third party sellers, but they also pack and ship plenty of products themselves.

The Network is the actual affiliate network that takes care of what products to promote and payments for successful conversions. Often times these programs are run by the companies that sell the goods themselves – bringing both programs under one roof. Amazon is a great example of a platform that not only sells the products but also provides the affiliate network.

However, there are also third-party affiliate marketing programs such as Rakuten and others, who operate across numerous platforms and have partnerships with dozens, or even hundreds of merchants.

The Publisher (Affiliate) is you! At least, this is you if you’re interested in affiliate marketing. This is where the “marketing” part of affiliate marketing comes into play – you have to “publish” some kind of content that refers a user to the merchant that wants to purchase a product – and do it in a way that gives you a piece of the profit.

In the world of drones and quadcopters, a very popular way to do this is to buy drones and review them on YouTube – many interested parties view the videos, and the person who is doing affiliate marketing can and creating the video can include their link in the video and description so that interested customers can have a look – and possibly turn into conversions.

Social media channels are also popular for affiliate marketers – though some affiliate programs disallow the use of these channels. Anyone with a large following on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter can leverage having a large audience for their content from the outset, making these a very popular place to post affiliate links and drive affiliate marketing sales.

These two outlets are pretty small compared to the primary method of driving sales – blogs.

There are many hugely popular affiliate blogs out there, such as This Is Why I’m Broke and PC Mech.

The content used on affiliate blogs can vary – including product reviews, top 10 lists, and other similar content – basically anything that can drive engagement and convince buyers that the products they’re looking at are worth buying.

That is the prime goal of the affiliate – using quality content to persuade a customer to purchase a particular product or to purchase products from a specific merchant. The affiliate drives the traffic to the merchant and earns a cut of those sales for their referral.

The Consumer is whoever you’re trying to sell to. If you’re running an affiliate site for a shoe company, for example, your customer is whoever is going to buy shoes from that company – and you should target your content accordingly.

Often, the consumer is totally unaware of the fact that they’re on an affiliate marketing site – even affiliate programs like Amazon only require a simple statement about your affiliation with their program – and that’s how most affiliate marketers like it.

 Affiliate Marketing Diagram

How To Get Started

Now you know the basics – a merchant needs to sell an item, an affiliate network lets marketers know that, and then marketers create content to drive sales, and consumers buy the items.

Then the merchant pays the affiliate network for the sales it drove, and the network pays the individuals responsible for the sales.

Join An Affiliate Network

If you’re trying to get started in affiliate marketing, the first thing you need to do is find an affiliate network.

Amazon.com is a great affiliate network for beginning marketers, as you can promote any item on the site and get paid for it – giving you a wide variety of niches that you can choose from when starting an affiliate website.

BangGood is a popular program for drone enthusiasts, and there are plenty of other networks like ClickBank and Rakuten, among others. Find a program you like and apply.

Find Your Niche

An ideal “niche” – the type of products and items that you will produce content about to appeal to a particular audience – is one that you already know something about.

Do you know about video games? A game or gaming hardware review blog would be a good idea if you’re starting out on your affiliate journey. Are you outdoorsy? Perhaps camping products, backpacks, and things of that sort would be your ideal first niche.

There aren’t any niches that are truly “better” than others – some are more crowded and have higher competition, but if you write good content and have a high-quality website, you’re sure to succeed.

So pick something you love – whatever that may be, and get ready to write about it – a lot.

Build Your Website

Your affiliate site doesn’t have to be complicated – most affiliate sites use a service like WordPress. We recommend going this route as you’ll have the easiest time working on your site, as well as finding help for anything you need.

Pick out a theme you like, customize it a bit, and make sure that its appearance and design reflects your intended niche – no flowery backgrounds for a PC gaming blog, and no war gaming themes for a kitchen blog.

Beyond that, design choices are mostly a matter of taste – the content is what your readers will be looking for, not a fancy theme or CSS customization.

Start Writing Your Content

Once you’ve got your site set up, you need to write some content. As mentioned above, some of the most popular styles of affiliate content are “top 10”-style comparison articles and product reviews.

This is because lots of the time, people who are looking for a product in a particular niche just Google it – and if they look for “The Best Tent for Car Camping 2017” and you’ve written an article about that, you give yourself an excellent chance to be found – these sorts of pages are easy to SEO optimize, especially with a few links.

In addition, reviewing multiple products or comparing them allows you to get more affiliate links on each page – which can be helpful, as you generally must incorporate a tracking link from whatever affiliate program you’re using for each product. More products mean more tracking links, and that means more opportunities for your readers to click and convert to a sale. Don’t go overboard, though. Too many products can make users confused, and also can work against you, as having too many outbound affiliate links on your page is a bad thing in the eyes of Google.

Comparison and review style articles are easy to rank for multiple keywords when properly optimized. Focus on long-tail keywords throughout your content, and utilize easy to consume formatting, like subheadings, and lists. One reason why this kind of content ranks so well is because it’s actually useful to the reader. Useful, well-formatted content gets clicks and conversions.

You may not have personal experience with every product you review, but it’s pretty easy to get an idea of what products are great in each niche, and which ones aren’t so good. And when your content is packed with that kind of information-dense, rich material, customers respond by purchasing the products that you promote.

Build a Readership

If you’ve built a great blog and you’re putting out quality content, it shouldn’t take too long to get some readers. It’s helpful to try to get these users to connect to your website – if your platform has a subscription feature, there should be a clear way for them to subscribe so that new posts are sent to their email when they are published.

Email is actually quite important when it comes to affiliate marketing – your site should have at least one method of capturing emails. A good way to do this is with some kind of special promotion or offer – some niche affiliate sites offer more in-depth reviews in a PDF format, or some other kind of downloadable CTA (Call-To-Action) to drive engagement.

And remember, if the niche you’re working in is highly specialized, you don’t need a gigantic email list to drive sales – a list of 500 interested readers with money to spend who are kept interested with weekly updates can be enough to drive lots of traffic to your blog, and give you plenty of sales. As the old saying goes, the money is in the list.

One of the worst things you can do while running a content blog is – stop. If you stop reviewing new items, stop creating content, or stop paying attention to the niche that you’re writing in, you run the risk of alienating the readers who previously trusted you, and losing a lot of sales.

Once you start running an affiliate blog, it’s important that you keep and maintain it for as long as you plan on remaining an affiliate marketer. Don’t let your blog stagnate – all of your time and investment will be wasted.

If you don’t have the time to continue creating content but are making enough money to justify it, you may want to consider hiring someone else to do it for you – platforms like Upwork or other freelance online marketplaces often have many writers who specialize in creating affiliate content for reasonable prices.

However, since long content pieces and high-quality writing can be expensive, you should only consider this if you’re very short on time, or are unable to write your own affiliate content and don’t mind paying for it.

Once You Can Pay for It – Consider Advertising

Pay-Per-Click advertising with platforms like Facebook or Google Ads can be a great way to drive engagement to your blog and continue to expand your audience. You can also target leaders in your specific niche by paying for your blog to appear next to them as a sponsored page on various social platforms, leading more traffic to your site – and away from the competition.

However, these services aren’t cheap – you should only do this once you’ve started making back your investment and have money to spend on increasing the size of your audience.

Also be aware of your particular affiliate program’s policies about PPC advertising – some affiliate programs, like Amazon Affiliate, technically don’t allow you to do any advertising of your blog – though many Amazon Affiliate blogs ignore this rule, it can be a reason for a permanent ban, so be aware of the specific guidelines of the affiliate program that you’re working with.

Keep Growing

Once you’ve built one successful affiliate site, there’s nothing to stop you from reinvesting your profits in another. Many people operate networks of dozens – and some companies operate hundreds – of affiliate marketing sites. If you enjoyed the experience of creating your own affiliate site, consider creating another in a different niche, and continuing to grow your own affiliate site network.

Wrap-Up

That’s pretty much all there is to know about the basics of affiliate marketing, but this is a huge industry, and there’s a lot to learn. If you’re looking for further information about affiliate marketing, there are dozens of blogs you can turn to for advice.

Affiliate marketing is not magic. You won’t be bringing in thousands of dollars in passive income overnight. With time, care, and attention, you may just be able to build a blog that will bring in a good amount of income with just a little updating and pruning – and if you’re interested, you can reinvest the profits in other blogs, and continue to expand.

So if all of this sounds good to you, don’t delay. Find an affiliate program, find a niche, and get started. What are you waiting for?

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