Affiliate marketing provides a low-cost way to generate an online income.
While it is an effective way to build a business, you need to know how to do affiliate marketing if you want to be successful.
In this post, I will walk through all the steps needed to start an affiliate marketing business.
How to start affiliate marketing
- Learn how affiliate marketing works
- Choose your niche
- Find products to promote
- Create a website and start publishing content
- Build your audience
- Join affiliate programs and get your links
- Add affiliate links to your content
- Manage your affiliate links and track performance
1. Learn how affiliate marketing works
The first step to become an affiliate marketer is to learn how affiliate marketing works.
The business model is simple especially when compared to other alternatives but that doesn’t mean you can skip over learning how it works.
It is important to understand all aspects of affiliate marketing. This will ensure that you put yourself in the best position to be successful.
One of the most efficient ways to learn all the ins and outs of affiliate marketing is to take an affiliate marketing course.
With a course, you get all the material you need in a single resource. The material is laid out with beginners in mind and this structure can help you learn affiliate marketing faster.
A good affiliate marketing course will be taught by an affiliate marketing expert with plenty of experience.
They will teach you all the essentials and can even help you avoid some of the common pitfalls experienced by new affiliates.
Many courses come with flexible lesson plans that enable you to study at your own pace. Some also provide additional resources like mastermind groups and office hours where you can interact with the instructor.
2. Choose your niche
Once you understand how affiliate marketing works, the next step is to choose a niche for your affiliate products.
Your niche is a specific category that you choose to focus on. There are several reasons why you should choose a niche instead of attempting to market a random assortment of products.
As an expert, your audience will take your offers more seriously. As a result, when you recommend certain products, you will be able to convert your visitors into customers at a much higher rate.
Start by exploring niches that you are passionate about. If you can find a category in which you already have some background knowledge, you can establish yourself as an expert affiliate faster.
Research the competition
After you find an interesting niche, you will want to research it thoroughly. When assessing its viability, you want to ensure that there is enough potential traffic for you to generate significant sales.
It is also essential to check the competition. If a niche is too competitive, it will be difficult for you to get a large portion of the available traffic.
An effective way to research your niche and competition is to use a software tool like SEMRush.
This will give you a detailed analysis into a potential niche including who the top competitors are and how much web traffic they bring to their site.
When you enter a niche into the SEMRush Market Explorer tool, you will instantly see the key metrics for the niche including its traffic size, industry leaders, top acquisition channels, as well as demographics like age and gender.
If you find a niche where one or a few competitors dominate the market share, it may be worthwhile to consider a different market.
3. Find products to promote
After you determine your affiliate marketing niche, it is time to find the products that you want to market.
There are several key factors to consider when choosing the best products for your affiliate business.
Product quality – First and foremost, you should consider the quality of the product and the reputation of the business.
At the end of the day, you are marketing products to customers and they will choose to buy the solution that best meets their needs. If you sell a low-quality product, your sales will suffer.
Commission – Your commissions are another factor to be aware of. You will want to select items with high commission payments as this will make it easier to make money with affiliate marketing.
Physical or digital? Another big factor is whether to promote physical or digital products.
Physical products have the potential to convert at much higher levels. However, they also tend to have lower prices as well as lower commission rates.
On the other hand, you can choose to sell digital products. While you will have fewer options to choose from, these affiliate products often pay much higher commissions.
Most digital products are either a software service or an information product like an eBook or online course.
To find your products you can perform independent research using a platform like Google.
Search for your niche followed by “affiliate programs” to see what is at the top of the results.
Another option is to join an affiliate network and then search for niche-related items that you can promote.
See how competitors are promoting products
Before you add your products to your site, you should review the content from top competitors.
Seeing how others are promoting the products will give you insight into what type of material works best with your audience.
For example, if you see that most of the top competition uses dedicated product reviews it can indicate that customers are looking for a detailed breakdown of the various items in the niche.
4. Create a website and start publishing content
Now that you have the best products for your niche, you can begin creating content.
This is where you will promote your various offers and place your affiliate links.
While not required, it is recommended that you create a website to house your content.
With a website, your content can rank in search engines allowing you to get a passive flow of visitors.
Become an authority in your niche
The key to standing out with your affiliate site is to make it authoritative. You want to be the best place to go for information related to items in your niche.
If you focus solely on selling, customers will pick up on this and will be less likely to respond to your offers.
On the other hand, if you focus on providing value to your visitors, they will be more likely to turn into sales. They will trust your business more and may refer other customers.
Publish the right type of content
Certain types of content work better for establishing authority and promoting affiliate products than others.
One of these is listicle posts. With a listicle post, the content is structured as an ordered list, each section addressing a different point or topic.
Many affiliates use this structure to create “best of articles” They will rank different products in the niche, giving an explanation of their pros and cons.
How-to guides are another effective type of affiliate marketing content. As their name suggests, this content explains how to perform a certain process from start to finish.
This post is a perfect example.
The main purpose of a how-to article is to provide guidance to your audience. As a result, your promotions seem more natural.
Optimizing content for SEO
When writing your content, it must be tailored for SEO.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of getting your pages to rank at the top of search results in Google and other search engines.
By getting to the top of search rankings in Google, you can get a consistent flow of traffic to your business.
Plus, the visitors from search engines are highly targeted and are the most interested in your products.
To optimize your content for search engines, start by finding your target keywords.
These are the specific terms that customers use when looking for items or information in your niche.
Once you have your target keywords, you can add them throughout your posts.
You will need to monitor your search rankings over time and make adjustments to boost your pages’ SEO if they are not performing well.
5. Build your audience
Along with generating organic traffic, you need to have an audience of your own.
Having an audience helps establish authority and ensures that you always have a group of interested prospects to market to.
Growing an audience is also important for gaining access to affiliate programs. Many high commission programs do not accept low-traffic websites.
Building an online presence
Your website is not the only tool for growing your audience. Here are some of the other ways you can build an online presence as an affiliate:
With Youtube, you can create videos related to the products users might enjoy. Videos are highly engaging and will help build a strong connection with your viewers.
You can also use this channel to generate sales by adding affiliate links to your video descriptions.
Facebook groups are another great way to build a connection with potential customers. Find some groups related to your niche and start commenting on posts and making posts of your own.
As you start to establish yourself in the community, you can start spreading the word about your affiliate products.
Your Facebook groups may not be the best place to add links as many groups ban such behavior.
Another way to build an audience is through email. Email remains one of the best ways to connect with people as many open their email every day.
With a list of people subscribed to your newsletter, you can send targeted messages based on their interests.
This will increase trust and engagement. As people get used to your valuable content, you can direct them to your affiliate products.
6. Join affiliate programs and get your links
As your audience starts to expand, you can begin joining affiliate programs.
The best programs will depend on your specific needs, but there are some general best practices you should follow.
First, you should make sure that the program fits into your niche. This may seem obvious, but many affiliates veer off-course when it comes time to launch their business.
After that, you want programs with high-quality products and high commission rates. If you can get recurring commissions, this is the most profitable option.
You should also make sure that the program has a strong reputation and the merchant is trustworthy.
Let’s take a look at some of the more popular affiliate programs:
Amazon Associates is a widely popular affiliate program that lets you promote a massive number of products on the Amazon marketplace.
People trust Amazon and buy many of their products there anyway so these items can perform quite well.
ClickBank is an affiliate platform that focuses primarily on digital products. There are currently millions of products for you to promote.
Many of these programs offer high commissions. Some as high as 75%. There are also a lot of products that require recurring payments, allowing you to earn residual income.
ShareASale is one of the largest affiliate marketing networks. When you join the network, you gain access to over 15,000 affiliate merchant programs. Some of these will require approval while others you can join instantly.
ShareASale is highly trusted with a user-friendly interface to help you manage your affiliate partnerships.
7. Add affiliate links to your content
Now that you have your affiliate links, you can begin adding them to your content.
Where you put your links will have a big impact on your affiliate marketing business.
Start by adding your links to your most valuable pages. Typically, these are the pages with the highest traffic.
Don’t get caught up in adding links to all of your pages. It will take time for some of them to start seeing visitors.
Once your site as a whole gets more traffic, you can begin adding the link to the other pages.
Where to place affiliate links?
When adding the links to your selected pages you should find the places most likely to get clicks.
Placing your links towards the top of the content is generally a good idea. Not all of your readers will make it to the end of your content before leaving the page.
Another approach is to use links within the context of your writing. When writing about your affiliate products you can naturally insert a link into the text. These links work well with listicles and how-to posts.
For all text-based links be sure to make the links easily distinguishable so that users do not pass over them.
You can also try adding affiliate banners to the top of your pages or sidebar. Avoid using too many banners as it can overwhelm the user and make it seem that you are more interested in pushing products than providing help.
It is important to inform your users that your website contains affiliate links. This is a legal requirement as you must disclose that you may be compensated for sales resulting from link clicks.
This message doesn’t need to be extensive. A short sentence at the top of the article or in your sidebar will do.
There are plenty of policy templates you can use to get started. Be sure to change the text so that it is not the same as other sites.
You can then add a link to the policy page in the footer of your site.
Affiliate link cloaking
Another thing you will want to consider is affiliate link cloaking.
With link cloaking, you can set the URL string for the link to make them more attractive to your visitors.
It also hides the link to help prevent link hacking. When a link is hijacked, a user has unknown software added to their device that allows the hacker to switch out affiliate links with their own.
A typical affiliate may look something like this:
With link cloaking, you could use a URL like; www.yoursite.com/affiliate-program-name
If you build your site with WordPress, there are several plugins that make it easy to implement link cloaking.
Some good options include ThirstyAffiliates, Pretty Links, and Easy Affiliate Links.
If you don’t want to use a plugin, you can do it manually using these instructions from Yoast.
8. Manage your affiliate links and track performance
With your affiliate links in place, your affiliate marketing business is ready to start generating sales.
As you gradually bring visitors to your site, it is essential that you monitor your links. Doing so will give you insight into how many clicks each link gets.
If you don’t know which links get the most clicks it will be difficult to know which products are the most effective for your business.
Depending on the program or network, you may be able to track your link clicks from your affiliate dashboard.
There are other ways to track your links including adding a plugin to your website
Another approach is to use custom code. By adding the code to your links, you can have all events involving the link sent to your analytics platform.
This will not only give you the number of clicks but can also provide data on the users that click.
Affiliate management tools
As you join more and more affiliate programs, it can be difficult to manage all your different affiliate links.
If you find yourself struggling to handle all your links, you can consider using an affiliate management tool.
With a management tool, you will get a single place to monitor the links from across your different programs
Below are a few of the best affiliate management tools:
Clickmeter is an all-in-one tool for managing your affiliate links. In addition to providing an interface to monitor your clicks, you can use the platform to cloak your links and view reports in real-time
Post Affiliate Pro
Post Affiliate Pro provides in-depth insights into your links including their number of unique and repeated impressions and clicks.
The platform is easy to use and there are plenty of charts and other features to help you manage your affiliate programs.
Affiliate marketing mistakes to avoid
Here are some common mistakes you should avoid when you start an affiliate marketing business:
- Creating a website for the sole purpose of affiliate marketing
- Being too pushy with affiliate offers
- Promoting low commission programs
- Not measuring performance
- Giving up too early
- Not treating affiliate marketing as a business
Creating a website for the sole purpose of affiliate marketing
Your website should not exist just to advertise products.
If you want to actually generate sales, your website needs to serve some purpose. Otherwise, your visitors will be hesitant to buy from you.
Only after your visitors trust you, will they make a purchase based on your recommendation.
Being too pushy with affiliate offers
We touched on this a bit earlier but it is important to reiterate. You will win customers by providing value and establishing yourself as a reliable source of information.
If you market too aggressively, you will quickly push your audience away.
Promoting low commission programs
Affiliate marketing can be very profitable but for this to happen you need to join the right affiliate programs.
If you join programs that don’t pay good commissions it will be much more difficult for you to find success.
Not measuring performance
Affiliate websites require consistent optimization just like any other site. If you try to simply throw up a few posts and links without any ongoing work, you will be disappointed in the results.
By monitoring your site you can understand what works well and what does not. You can then make changes and test new strategies until you get the results that you want.
Giving up too early
Many new affiliate marketers make the mistake of giving up too soon. It will take time to get enough traffic to start making good money.
You won’t see your true profit potential until the business has a chance to grow and you learn how to optimize your affiliate marketing tactics.
Not treating affiliate marketing as a business
Above all, it is essential to not treat affiliate marketing like a get-rich-quick scheme.
If you want to be successful, you will need to treat it like a real business.
Start by following all the steps detailed in this guide and making sure you choose the best niche and programs.
If you make the effort to monitor your performance and focus on providing value just as much as selling, you can make a solid income with affiliate marketing.