One of the best things about learning to start affiliate marketing is the ability to have your website work for you while you’re sleeping, on holiday’s or out with friends and family. In this post, I’m sharing with you 5 steps to start affiliate marketing today + some of the most common mistakes to avoid in the beginning.
The truth is that today lots of people have managed leverage the internet to achieve both time and financial freedom. But the harsh reality is that lots more have tried and failed. Back in 2005, I was one of those people. I bought myself an eBook that promised to teach me the secrets of how to make money as an affiliate marketer. I read the eBook and followed it to the letter but I ended up spending a tonne of money on Adwords for little return and gave up.
Fast forward 12 years, and I found myself making the decision to start affiliate marketing again and work at it until I was successful. Thank goodness for perseverance and this time I made sure I had access to the right education! Affiliate marketing is also one of the most common ways bloggers earn an income from their blog. So it makes sense that if we're aiming to be successful affiliate marketers we also need to look at blogging and why it is important.
But, what is affiliate marketing?
The best definition I've been able to find is 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.
Because you don't have to create the products yourself, to start affiliate marketing is one of the most accessible ways to begin making a profit online. You simply connect the consumer with the merchant and take a commission on the sale that you promoted. All of this might sound effortless but be warned there's quite a steep learning curve! Affiliate marketing is an attractive way to make money online, but it is highly competitive. For you to be successful, there are some things you need to know before you start affiliate marketing in today's market.
Choose a core niche and stick to it
Too many people start affiliate marketing by registering with every affiliate program under the sun. Trying to promote everything to everyone is a recipe for failure. Learning a new skill can be tough on its own let alone trying to juggle multiple affiliate campaigns at once. Try not to dilute your energy, the time it takes to really concentrate on researching and promoting your chosen niche is well worth it when you get it right.
One of the most powerful ways of establishing authority in your niche and providing value to your target market is to blog about it (on a regular basis). If you're going to blog about a niche regularly its helpful if you're already interested in and knowledgeable about your chosen topic or prepared to spend time researching the ins and outs of it thoroughly before you start affiliate marketing.
Website, Hosting, Blogging & promotion
To start affiliate marketing effectively you'll need a website. I use WordPress themes because they're easy to use and there's always a free WordPress Plugin available make automation a breeze! But what kind of theme should you choose? This really depends on the niche you choose, I always head to ThemeForest when choosing a theme for a new niche because they have 11,500+ mobile responsive WordPress website themes and almost 4000 WordPress Blog themes to choose from... who doesn't like choice?
If you're completely new to the online world it's helpful to know that once you've chosen and purchased a website you'll need to have it hosted in order for it to go live. There are essential to kinds of hosting; there is shared hosting or cloud VPS. Of the two cloud is much more reliable and what would be considered a premium level of hosting.
For cloud hosting, I use Digital Business Lounge I've lost count of the times their helpful support team has solved my problems in the past. If you're on a tight budget and are equipped to deal with the tech issues that frequently arise with Shared Hosting then Hostgator is my recommendation here.
So, let's talk about traffic; if you've decided to start affiliate marketing chances are; by now you've chosen a niche and written a couple of awe-inspiring and informative blog posts. But how are you going to get your posts in front of the right people? Yup, you guessed it, blogging. Consistent blogging is absolutely going to help your website to rank organically in Google for certain keywords over time. See my post on content writing to attract free traffic with SEO. Which brings us to the next step; you will need to promote your posts and landing pages for people to find you.
Online promotion can be divided into two categories; paid promotion and free promotion. Social media platforms are a fantastic way to share your content for free.
The trick to effective marketing is to get to know your audience, once you know this, you can find out where your specific market hangs out online. When you first start affiliate marketing chances are you will still be working or studying so will have limited time on your hands. Chose the top one or two social platforms where your audience is and focus your attention there. Share your post and comments and inspire people to click through to read your posts in full.
Paid Advertising can be done in any number of ways, through Google Adwords, YouTube video advertising, social media boosted posts or instream ad campaigns. When you start affiliate marketing I would suggest a blend of paid and free promotion. Another way of putting your product or content in front of the right audience is by purchasing solo ads from other bloggers newsletters. Look for bloggers whose audience is likely to have an interest in your niche but with whom you are not in direct competition with... if you've managed to build a list yourself (we'll talk about this later) then perhaps you could organize a trade-off?
Whenever possible and certainly when spending money on paid advertising DO NOT drive traffic straight to your affiliate offer. You have paid dearly for that traffic and it's important to send them through a squeeze page if possible, a squeeze page (otherwise known as a landing page) will give you the opportunity to presell your visitor as well as giving them the opportunity to subscribe to your list before you send them to them to the affiliate offer or product.
These days WordPress compatible landing pages are easy to plugin and customize not to mention super affordable! Themeforest have over 650 WordPress Landing Page templates to choose from and once you've bought it you won't have to keep paying a monthly fee like with some landing page software.
Test, monitor and track your campaigns
When you start affiliate marketing it may feel more like a hobby than a business. But you'll want to track and monitor your campaigns even if you're doing it on the side, to begin with. If you're not monitoring your promotional activity you will have no idea what is worth spending more time, effort and energy on and which activities to drop altogether.
One way to do this is split testing. For those who are new to split testing, one of my favorite marketing guru's Neil Patel describes it as "pitting multiple variants of something against each other. You have to find out which of those variants performs best." For a more detailed explanation, check out Split Testing. You can split test anything from paid advertising campaigns to landing pages to product offerings.
Working with an affiliate program, such as Amazon Associates and eBay Partner Network, will give you access to basic stats, but as you grow your own affiliate marketing business, you will want to track campaign conversions more closely.
When I decided to take the plunge again and get serious about actually building a sustainable business using affiliate marketing I knew I would need a clear roadmap, constant and easy to digest training and ongoing personalised mentoring not only to get me off the ground but to teach me how to scale and automate my business so I wasn't a slave to it.
Remember to subscribe to my newsletter and access the same free video course that finally helped me transform my beginner affiliate marketing failures into a solid affiliate marketing business to be proud of. The training dashboard teaches you everything from how to source and promote affiliate offers, how to access high-end commissions to how to develop your own blogging style as well as the most effective ways of promoting affiliate offers in today's market.
Research your product and its demand
Learn everything you can about the product you are promoting. Never promote a product you know nothing about. As an affiliate marketer don't be afraid to form your own opinion about the features and benefits, pros, and cons of your chosen products. It pays to read reviews and mention the information that other users share about it too.
Help your readers to make informed buying decisions by making sure you yourself are well-informed, promote transparency and authenticity as your personal brand. Eventually, you will build a reputation of trust and your readers will seek out your opinion. Learn what you can about the market.
Have a plan and processes in place to help you achieve consistency
Probably the most important tip of all is to strategize a business plan. Have you ever put in hours and hours of work on a project only to find out you are really struggling to meet your original goals? Ask yourself honestly; did you put a solid business plan in place?
I'll be the first to admit I have a tendency to jump in head first and ask questions later... But I've learned the hard way that this kind of shotgun approach only left me feeling overwhelmed and produced no tangible results to show for it. Do yourself a favor and create a well-structured plan that will set a clear path for your online business goals.
Construct your plan from the inception of your campaign – right from choosing the product, to promoting it and the steps to take if the campaign fails. You can always make adjustments as you go, but ultimately, a plan will assist you in managing your time effectively.
Ok, so we've covered off on the essentials of what to do if you've decided to start affiliate marketing. Now, I'm going to highlight some common things new affiliate marketers tend to overlook when getting started.
Mistakes to Avoid When You Start Affiliate Marketing
Failing to build an email listAlways. always, always where possible encourage readers to subscribe to your email list. Building an email list from the very first day will help you to start building a relationship with the very same people who share an interest in your niche. It gives you the opportunity to build and strengthen a relationship with them, provide them with ongoing information on the topic and share any offers you feel they may be keen to hear about.
So how do you capture leads to grow your list? And how can you automate the emails to send at timed intervals? I don't know where I'd be without my email autoresponder... all I have to do is write the email once and then add it to the email sequence and off it goes sending emails forever and ever without me having to manually touch it again!
All email services these days come with subscriber opt-in forms that are easily embedded in your blog or website. For those just getting started and with limited tech skills, my advice is to start with ConvertKit soon to be called seva.com they are affordable and have a great choice of supersexy email templates to choose from.
Being overly focused on commissions at the expense of providing valueToo often rookie marketers focus on trying to push their products before they have offered any real value or established authority on their subject. If you're aiming for long-term success focus on solving your market's problems. It's the surest way to gain trust and build your reputation. So, instead of focusing on how much money you want to make, pay attention to your readers and subscribers and help them achieve their goals.
Failing to be originalThe fact is there are so many affiliates out there who will be and are promoting the same products and services you. The good news for you is lots are happy to just copy and paste material from the product pages rather than offer any real value of their own. This gives you an awesome edge when it comes to standing out from the crowd. Be unique, create your own content and do your own thing!
Failing to incentivize opt-insRemember we spoke about value? this can also be a great tool for attracting new subscribers to your email list. Offering something your niche will find interesting or valuable will go along way to buying goodwill and building trust. This will require some work to create in the first instance but will pay dividends if done well, so make sure your bonus relates to the product you are promoting.
Ok, I know that we only skimmed the surface on the topics we covered today, but below I've highlighted the key components for beginner affiliate marketers so you have a list to work from.
- Start off by selecting only a handful of products and service to promote
- Research your product thoroughly and its demand in the market.
- Blog first then promote those posts out through your social media platforms and relevant forums
- Test and monitor your campaigns.
- Build a solid, well-structured business plan.
- Remember to build your email list
- Solve your reader's problems
- Show your personality.
- Everyone loves a BONUS!
- Rember to have fun! If you don't love what you are doing you will never be successful.
If affiliate marketing is something that interests you, save yourself a tonne of time and check out the same Free 7-Part Video Course that got me started.