Introduction to Affiliate Marketing
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Welcome to the exciting world of afﬁliate marketing!
Afﬁliate marketing is the practice of promoting a company’s prod- ucts to earn a commission either on the act of someone clicking on your link and/or of making a purchase. The beauty of afﬁliate marketing is that no inventory is required, no product develop- ment is necessary and you can get started very quickly with very little investment.
For example, you might have a link on your website to a book that is for sale on Amazon.com. Using Amazon Associates, if someone clicks on your link and purchases that book, you earn a commission based on a percentage of the sale price. This ranges from 4% – 6% and beyond depending on many factors.
Moreover, if that person buys anything else on Amazon over the course of the next 90 days, you may potentially earn a commission on those sales as well. In some cases, such as with Amazon, the more sales you produce in a given month through your afﬁliate links, the higher your commission rates.
Afﬁliate marketing is great for people that do not have a product of their own but still want to make money online. Furthermore, it’s a great way for you to learn more about the market potential within a given market niche to determine if it may be worth your time to eventually create your own product to sell online.
Afﬁliate marketing is not terribly difﬁcult if you invest the necessary time and effort required to research your market, ﬁnd good afﬁliate products, setup a website to promote products. Most af- ﬁliate programs are free to join and relatively intuitive to use with a bit of guidance.
Let’s get started!
Can I Really Make Money Online?
The fact is that 100,000’s of purchases take place online every- day. Many companies, both big & small are competing for that
business and need help driving trafﬁc to their online stores. They use ofﬂine promotions, search engine optimization, email marketing, social media and afﬁliate marketing.
Afﬁliate marketing is great for online merchants because for only a fraction of their overall cost they can have an entire army of afﬁliate marketers on the web promoting their products day and night.
Major corporations, such as Discover, WalMart, Apple, Target and Dell all have afﬁliate programs. They understand that it’s easier to pay afﬁliates to reach their target audience rather than try to do this themselves. In a sea of competition, they rely on us to drive targeted trafﬁc to their products and are willing to pay for it.
The degree at which you wish to participate in and earn commission from these e-commerce transactions is entirely up to you.
There is no guarantee that you will make any money. You may make no money at all. There is no get rich angle when it comes to afﬁliate marketing. It takes time and patience to study your mar- ket, learn the tools, pick the right products and build out your strategy.
If you do these things well, however, then there is potential to earn money online. Some folks start earning money right away. Some people takes weeks or months to earn their ﬁrst dollar and then leverage their newfound knowledge to increase their earn- ings on a regular basis. There are ways to improve your odds for success but no one can predict for sure how much money you will make with afﬁliate marketing.
Here’s something to consider …
Think about your favorite hobby for a minute. Do you think there are other people who are passionate about that same hobby? Do you think they buy products so they can enjoy or participate in that hobby? Is there a new product in that market that everyone is talking about? Could you write about that hobby and those products on a website? Do you think you could sell those people a product that reﬂects their interest in that hobby?
If you answered yes to those questions, then there is likely a product available to sell to these people through afﬁliate marketing. Later, I’ll show you how to do just that!
Do I Need to be a Expert?
Because you are promoting another company’s product, it is not necessary for you to be an expert in that industry or product. Personally, I think it’s good if you know more than the average person about these products, but you may, in fact, know nothing about the products you’re promoting.
How much you need to know about the products you promote will depend on a few circumstances.
If you’re promoting highly technical product, it’s important to at least convey in your web copy the critical information a potential buyer would need in order to make an informed decision.
For example, if you comparing two $2,500 DSLR cameras, you‘ll want to share as many specs about the competing products so
the buyer can make the best choice to meet their needs. But … you don’t have to be an expert on the subject. You just need to be reasonably good at writing web copy.
Some products require a bit of information but not nearly the level of detail we see in the camera example. A t-shirt for example, is a product that could practically sell itself based on the image alone. You might need to add a couple lines of text about fabric and washing instructions, but that about it.
… and yes, there is a huge market for t-shirt afﬁliate marketing.
A couple companies include CafePress and TeamFanShop. T- shirts are great because there is such a low barrier to entry. Eve- ryone wants a t-shirt for something. Find out what gets you ex- cited and ﬁnd a t-shirt to promote. Like I said, they pretty much sell themselves. Easy, huh?
The other big question most new afﬁliates have is about technical expertise. I understand that some of you may not understand HTML, URL forwarding or some of the more technical subjects and I’m here to tell you that this will not be a problem.
Everything from building a website to embedding product links and driving trafﬁc can be done with very little technical skill. Most of the afﬁliate programs understand this potential challenge and have created a wonderful set of user friendly applications and tools to make life easy as an afﬁliate.
… plus you have this book to help you should you get stuck!
How Do I Get Started?
As with any new initiate or project, you’ll need a certain level of commitment to get going with afﬁliate marketing. This is not a sprint … it’s more of a marathon. Spend a few minutes right now and decide how much time per week you can dedicate to afﬁliate marketing. I recommend an hour every few days to get started.
If you spend 3-4 hours per week on afﬁliate marketing on a regular basis you can really accomplish a lot. I understand you’ll be excited at ﬁrst and want to spend more time up front so let’s take a look at what the entire process includes.
Deﬁne your marketing In this exercise you will explore which products you want to promote. It may be something you love or already have a website for … or it may be something completely new.
Find products to Now that you have a market in mind, it’s time to ﬁnd products that have afﬁliate program so you can make some money. Don’t worry, there are tons of options out there!
Setup your Now we take a moment to register your domain and purchase a web hosting package. It’s not as scary as it sounds and I’ll explain exactly what to do and why you need to do it.
Drive trafﬁc. You have products on your website and now it’s time to learn how to actually get people to visit your We don’t want just any old random people though. We want people who might be interested in buying your afﬁliate products.
Track In an ongoing effort to improve your afﬁliate marketing performance, you’ll learn how to track visitor behavior and measure results within speciﬁc afﬁliate marketing programs.
This 5-step process is outlined in detail in the chapters that follow, so don’t feel too overwhelmed. Depending on where you starting from, you might want to skip ahead. I would encourage you, how- ever, to read this book from start to ﬁnish, so as to maximize any chance for additional learning.
So, I’m curious … how many hours a week did you decide to dedicate to afﬁliate marketing?
Choose a Niche
Brainstorming Market Ideas
There are several ways to brainstorm potential markets for afﬁliate marketing. I highly recommend you keep a notebook with you at all times as you go through this stage, because once your mind starts rolling, you’ll have plenty of ideas. Here are a few sources for market ideas:
Personal Hobbies & Interests
Think about what hobbies and interests you and your friends or family have. Are there any particular products or product categories in those hobbies that stand out as potentially interesting to pursue for afﬁliate marketing?
For example, maybe you’re a golfer. Every golfer needs a glove, shoes, balls, tees, a bag and of course new gloves. Plus they want to learn new strategies, improve their skills and play great courses. Each of these is an afﬁliate marketing opportunity and I guarantee you there are companies with afﬁliate programs for each of these products or services.
Choosing a product or market that you already know something about and has already proven itself interesting is a great path to explore. Afﬁliate marketing is hard work, but if you ﬁnd the subject interesting, it will seem more like fun than anything else.
Another great way to explore potential markets is with the use of Google Trends. Visit google.com/trends to get started.
With Google Trends you can enter any search phrase and see a graphical representation of the trafﬁc for that phrase over time.
This is especially meaningful if you suspect that your market may
be cyclical or likely to ﬂuctuate based on current events.
If there’s enough historical data, Google Trends also provides links to relevant news stories for the given phrase to provide
some context the the search trends graph. You can also compare two searches phrases to see how they differ and to what degree one search term is more popular than another.
For, example, do a search for golf shirt and you see that the phrase is rather cyclical with trafﬁc spikes in late Spring and early Summer. You’ll also notice that a majority of the trafﬁc is in South Carolina and Alabama – not surprising since these are big golf states.
Now add a comma to your search and include a comparison with polo shirts. The most obvious take-away is that searches for polo shirts are twice and much as those for golf shirts. You will also see that there is a second spike for polo shirts in late Summer, when weather is still hot yet golf season is deﬁnitely waning.
This type of analysis is a fun exercise to get your head around the relative trafﬁc volume for a given phrase. It’s also great to help you brainstorm other variations on that phrase or product as a re- sult of the information Google Trends provides.
With one of the largest collections of products for sale online, Amazon is a great place to research potential products to pro- mote. Yes, Amazon has it’s own afﬁliate marketing program, Amazon Associates, but more than that, it has a ratings system and product reviews.
These ratings and reviews can help you justify promoting one product over another based on actual customer feedback. They
can also help you learn what’s important to customers when they are buying that product or buying anything with the broader category … both tangible and intangible.
Of course, the simplest way to see what’s selling on Amazon is to search for a product or category and order the results by Best Selling or Most Popular. This is a dead giveaway, right?
Take note, that other afﬁliate marketers will also be attracted to the top product. It may make sense for you to focus on the 2nd or 3rd products and sell them as an alternative to the #1 product.
People often like to buy alternatives if you can spell out why it’s equal to or better than the competition.
Major Afﬁliate Networks
LinkShare, Commission Junction or ShareASale all have there own list products available for afﬁliate marketers. Products searchable by category and you can also sort programs by performance.
This is a really great advantage over Amazon, because you can see which products perform well from an afﬁliate’s perspective. Also, an individual product’s performance can be measured across all categories, so you know if it performs well within it’s category and how it compares to products in different categories.
Again, because everything is so well organized and easy to navigate, these afﬁliate networks are a great place to brainstorm ideas.
When you search on Google (or any search engine), the phrase you put into the search form is called a keyword phrase. If you search for something very speciﬁc, we call that a long-tail keyword phrase. The search results you see have been indexed by Google because Google thinks they are relevant to your query.
As an online marketer, it is your goal is to ﬁnd keyword phrases that are related to your product and highly relevant to people searching for your product. This is called keyword research. You want your website and your products to show up in the search engine results when people search for speciﬁc keyword phrases
… which millions of people do all day long.
The challenge is to ﬁnd out what these keywords are. It’s pretty easy to rank in search results for random phrases, but the key is to rank for phrases that will drive potential customers seeking your help.
More speciﬁcally, you want to ﬁnd keyword phrases that have relatively high trafﬁc and relatively low competition. Don’t fall into the trap of trying to compete on major phrases within your industry. In most cases that will lead to disappointment because your competing for search engine rankings against major businesses and well-established websites. It’s easier and more effective to go after the lower competition phrases to drive trafﬁc to your website.
There are a number of free tools to conduct keyword research. Unfortunately, they don’t speak to one another and you’ll spend a great deal of time jumping from one tool to the next.
Instead, I recommend you use Market Samurai. I’ve been using Market Samurai since 2008 and it’s highly regarded as the best keyword research tool.
- Download a free trial of Market Samurai.
- Create a new project with a keyword phrase you think people would use to search online for your
- Use the Keyword Research tab to generate 100’s of keywords and ﬁlter out those that don’t meet your minimum
- Use the SEO Competition tab to uncover search engine rank- ing
Introduction to Affiliate Programs
As an afﬁliate you will promote another company’s products by joining their afﬁliate program. The afﬁliate program includes guidelines for promoting their products and the links you’ll use to drive trafﬁc to their product to earn your commission.
Some companies have their own afﬁliate programs but most companies use an afﬁliate program network, such as LinkShare, Commission Junction or ShareASale. There are dozens of other networks … these are just three of the most popular networks.
They are free to join.
When you apply to become an afﬁliate, you usually ﬁll out a brief application. Not all networks require this but it’s pretty standard. Once accepted, you get access to an afﬁliate dashboard where you can ﬁnd all the links, banner ads, and other forms of link crea- tion services the program offers.
Most afﬁliate programs track activity and transactions your afﬁliate links produce. Once you embed some the links on your website and drive trafﬁc to a merchants website through these links, you’ll have access to the details surrounding such activity. For example, what page on your site they came from, what product they clicked on, what they eventually purchased and how much they spent.
This information is used to calculate your commissions.
Most afﬁliate programs track returns or cancelled sales so you can expect a small percentage of commissions to be retracted within a predetermined window of time – 60 days, for example. This varies by program is usually covered in the afﬁliate agreement when you sign up. It’s normal procedure.
I encourage you to join multiple afﬁliate program networks, so that you can familiarize yourself with the various programs and have everything setup should you ﬁnd a product in their catalog to pro- mote in the future. In most cases, afﬁliates promote products from
multiple programs at once based on commission rates, promotions and the functionality of tools within the network to easily deploy new links.
Using afﬁliate programs to create links is pretty straightforward. They provide with a line or two of html code or a script that you then copy and paste into your website. This may be a banner advertisement in the header section of your site or an individual text link within a blog post. It’s really up to you and the possibilities are seemingly endless. There’s plenty of room to get creative.
What is Adsense?
Adsense is a pay-per-click advertising program owned by Google and is by far one of the most popular afﬁliate programs out there. Advertisers setup and pay for ads using Google Adwords, and marketers or publishers such as yourself use Adsense to display these ads. Every time someone clicks on one of your Adsense links, you get paid.
What makes Adsense a good choice?
Adsense is a great choice as an afﬁliate program for beginners because Google does most of the work. When setting up Adsense you only need to really select size and color of the Adsense block and Google will determine based on the content on your site, which speciﬁc ads to display. With other afﬁliate programs, you normally have to specify the exact products you want to promote.
Adsense is also a great choice because the application process is fairly simple using your Google account. There are a few ques- tions you need to answer, including the website on which you’ll use to display ads.
Some other afﬁliate programs require you to apply to certain pro- grams based on the products you want to promote, the content you have on your website, and the promotional methods you plan to use. Adsense is not as particular on these issues, though they will reject your application if you don’t meet accept the policies outlined in the application process.
How do I set up Adsense?
To apply to Adsense and begin the setup process, visit http://www.google.com/adsense.
How do I display Adsense links?
Adsense links are typically displayed in one of two formats: text or image banners. Text links include 4 or 5 links to participating Ad- words merchants including a title, description and link. A banner add is a single image that links to the merchant’s website.
With both text and banner ads, there are several options, includ- ing size, # of ads to display, and color. These are required options you must select – pretty much everything beyond that is optional.
Choosing the right format and layout for your marketing will re- quire some trial and error mixed with good taste and good luck. Some experts suggest that you should design your Adsense ads
to blend in with your text because people psychologically ignore anything that looks like an advertisement. Other folks suggest that image banner ads in the header and footer perform best.
How you design and implement your ads requires testing. Choose the right combination of format and design that makes sense to you and monitor results closely. Overtime, you will learn what is working best and have some performance benchmarks with which to make some education guesses on to change.
How do I get paid?
You earn money every time someone clicks on one of your Ad- sense links. Adsense pays afﬁliates based on the earnings on a monthly basis … 30 days after your balance reaches a minimum of $100. There are two payment method options, check or elec- tronic funds transfer.
Anything special about Adsense?
Because Adsense only pays a few sense per click depending on your industry, it can take a lot of clicks to earn your ﬁrst $100. Of course, you getting paid just for clicks – the people who clicked on your ad never has to actually buy anything. Hence, Pay-Per-Click. Other programs potentially pay more per click, but in most cases require a purchase to take place.