What is Affiliate Marketing?
“Affiliate marketing is a way of making money online by promoting someone else’s products,” according to Affilorama. Basically, you promote something for someone using a link and get a cut whenever someone buys something using that link.
For example, let’s say I’m promoting Poo-Pourri. If you were to click on that link and buy it, I would get a commission. Simple, right?
So where do you put these links? Well, there are a lot of options: social media, landing pages, squeeze pages, ads, your website, and emails, to name a few. I’ll be covering the basic steps to affiliate marketing using a website.
The Right Mindset
Approaching Your Market
There are all types of people in the world. I’ve found that while most people are at least decent, there are a few that are kinda scummy. Ahem.
Provide good content. Don’t lie to people. Don’t mislead people. Basically, don’t be that guy.
“But Katie, I don’t care about other people, I just want money.”
Alright fine, let’s look at this financially. If you promote something that just absolutely sucks, no one is going to come back. That means you have to figure out how to reach more and more people until eventually, there’s no one else to exploit. If you promote something that’s actually pretty great, people are more likely to come back to your site to check something else out. Makes sense, right?
Also, the internet has been around for a while now and I would like to think that people are a little more perceptive when it comes to ads and obvious scams. For example, there’s something called banner blindness, which describes the phenomenon where people tend to ignore banner ads. I know I do. And we all know now that these are fake.
And then, of course, if you scam people, there are ways for them to get their money back, like filing a complaint with the FTC. It’s one thing to not have money in the first place. It’s another to have it and then see it disappear.
What happens when you’re honest, open, and have solid content? People like you! Crazy. And if they like you, they’re more likely to come back for more, which means they’re more likely to click on things. You don’t have to worry as much about reaching new people because you already have people.
Money Money Money
We’re talking about affiliate marketing, so of course we’re going to talk about money. It’s probably the reason you’re here! Affiliate marketing is seen as an easy way to make money from the comfort of your home. What’s not to like?
But how much are you going to make realistically? Well, there’s no way for me to know because everyone’s experience will be different. But you shouldn’t be quitting your job just yet. Like a business, it will take time, effort, and possibly a financial investment for your new venture to take off. You could try it as a side business to see how it works and dive in once you’re sure you’re steady. It could take a while or it might not happen at all, but at least you could say you gave it a shot. And if you don’t have the time, it might not be for you.
That said, writing about things you find interesting is a lot more fun than writing for school. You can treat it as a hobby or you can treat it as a part-time job. The amount of time you put in is up to you!
Painless Affiliate Marketing
- Find your niche.
- Create your site.
- Write great content.
- Get visitors to your site.
- Make it rain, son. (How I Met Your Mother reference)
1) Find your niche
Your first step is to find your niche, or a specific topic. Your site won’t be about food, but it could be about pasta. “Travel” is too broad, but “travel hacks” could work. Instead of writing about books, you could write about mystery novels. Finding the right niche is important because it needs to be big enough to have an audience and have enough content for you to write about, but you don’t want to be buried under established competition. Another important factor to consider is making sure you would have products to sell to your audience.
Are you stuck? Pick a general topic, like food, and branch out from there. What’s your favorite food? I really like pizza. Do you have any questions about food? Like where did veganism come from? What’s a cuisine you’ve never tried before? I’ve had one Moroccan dish (tagine) and it’d be cool to try new recipes and share them.
If you take a look at the rest of my site, you’ll see that I don’t have a niche. This is more of an experimental hobby and learning experience for me than it is a way to make money. I tend to ramble on when I write reviews, so I figure I’d just do that in my own little space.
Also, I didn’t have Wealthy Affiliate to tell me I needed one until after I made my site so… yeah. Moving on…
Create your site
Now that we have our niche, we’ll need a site. There are ways to get free sites, but you’ll get something like yoursite.example.com instead of yoursite.com. Because of the way search engines do things, you might not see your site on search engines if you don’t have an actual domain. If you don’t mind that, you could check out WordPress, Blogger, or Wealthy Affiliate.
If you do mind, you’ll want to buy a domain name and find a hosting service. I used BlueHost for both. It uses WordPress, which makes creating posts, pages, and using themes really easy for beginners. The domain name comes with your hosting subscription and you have 30 days from signing up to get a refund. Keep in mind that if you do get a domain through BlueHost and ask for a refund, they will take out the cost of the domain from your refund. If you want to purchase your domain elsewhere and hook it up to BlueHost, that is also an option.
This price is for 36 months. I’m not sure exactly how long I’ll be doing this, so I currently have a 12 month subscription w/ domain privacy which comes out to a cheaper total ($71.28) for a higher cost per month. Choose your time frame and price depending on your confidence level and time commitment.
Important warnings with domain names:
- Do NOT type your domain into the URL bar to check if it’s available!
- Do NOT check domain availability using domain registrars, like GoDaddy, until you are ready to purchase the domain.
There’s something called Domain Name Front Running where people or companies keep track of recent domain searches, take it if it’s not immediately purchased, and hope to resell it at a drastically higher price. I think I read that it’s not allowed, but it’s so hard to prove that it’s done anyways. I believe it has happened to me twice now: first when I was looking for a domain for this site (which is why I’m .net instead of .com), and second when I was looking for a domain for my dad’s store. Technically, could this have been coincidence? Sure. But when the domain that was available is suddenly taken within days or even hours from when I checked, you start wondering. And then a quick Google search turned up the term “domain name front running” so yeah, I’m pretty sure.
There’s some way to check a domain’s availability with WHOIS, but I couldn’t figure it out (You have to install something and then type something, I don’t remember exactly). I did find something called Instant Domain Search that helped me choose my dad’s domain when I eventually create a site for him. Type in the name you’re interested in, but don’t actually search for it. If you type in “eyyyy,” the site will instantly show you that “eyyyy.com” is taken while “eyyyy.us” is not even without clicking the search button.
Write great content
Obviously. Fill your site with great pages and blog posts. If your niche is homemade pasta, you can share recipes, techniques, and kitchen tools you use. If your niche is golf, you could write about the clubs you’re using or have used in the past, different balls, or what makes a great course. If your niche is dirt bikes, you could write about… well, I actually have no idea. But you get the idea. The more content you have, the more likely people are to come back, and the more affiliate links your visitors are exposed to. If you don’t like writing, you can find people to do it for you somewhere like Fiverr or Reddit.
Get visitors to your site
This is arguably the hardest part. You have your links, you’ve got your site, and it is filled with amazing posts. But no one’s coming in to read your work. What do you do? Whatever works for you. You can use SEO, Facebook, Twitter, forums, email marketing, guest blogging, whatever. Just make sure you don’t spam. If I could write a general summary about this topic I would, but I’m an amateur, so I can’t. SEO’s such a weird thing to write about because no one knows exactly how it works and the way it works changes so often. Some people don’t even worry about search engine optimization and focus on social media. Others rely on SEO to get traffic and crumble when Google removes their site from search results.
Good luck, have fun with this part. Here are some of the resources I use for basic SEO.
You’ve read a lot here, so here’s a quick summary.
- Join affiliate programs.
- Get your affiliate link(s).
- Get your site.
- Get people to your site..
- Profit. Hopefully.
As you can see, you’re not just sitting back and waiting for money to come in. You do need to be a bit proactive. Like any business, you can probably get away with putting less time in once you’ve established your presence in your corner of the internet. And if something’s not working, don’t give up too quickly! Experiment a bit: you could be using the wrong words, catering to the wrong audience, or even promoting the wrong product.
I use or have used all of these resources and absolutely love them. This post is kind of long so I’ll do super quick summaries, but you can find a more detailed list here. That’s the master list that I’ll continuously update as I continue on in my journey into affiliate marketing. For updates to the list, posts and reviews on what I’ve discovered, and random tidbits about my life, subscribe to my newsletter.
- Wealthy Affiliate: Two FREE sites to get you started along with a free lesson to get you through the basics and more. Read my review here.
- Affilorama: Great free lessons and really useful blog posts. If you’re going to purchase one of their products, make sure you read up reviews. I personally have not yet. Their free membership is amazing so far.
- BlueHost: The hosting service I use that makes managing your site really simple. Domain name free w/ purchase of subscription, along with 24/7 support.
- Yoast: Yoast’s slogan is “SEO for everyone.” Don’t understand SEO? Use Yoast.
- Google Analytics: Keep track of real-time users, session duration,
where your visitors are coming from, their behavior, demographics, and more.
- Google Search Console: Use Google Search Console to “monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google Search results.”
- Bing Webmaster: Use Bing Webmaster to make sure your site shows up on Bing and check your top keywords from organic search, check your page traffic, site activity, and more.