What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing isn’t a new concept by any means, but the platform used by affiliate marketers and the techniques appropriated by them have changed vastly; even in the last few years, there have been considerable changes to the way affiliate marketers work.
The advent of the internet and ever lowering costs of technology have helped enable an upward trend of new marketers entering the industry. More than ever, becoming an internet marketer is being seen as a legitimate path because it delivers passive income, flexible working hours and location, and requires little to no experience and marginal upfront investment.
For some, affiliate marketing is a part-time pursuit used to supplement their income from full-time employment and provide a financial safety net should their situation change. For others, affiliate and internet marketing has become a full-time occupation and has allowed people who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to build substantial businesses.
Broken down into its essential elements, affiliate marketing involves three different parties:
These are the people affiliate marketers are trying to appeal to for the consumption of goods.
According to the American Marketing Association, marketing is ‘’…the process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, goods, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.’’
For affiliate marketers, this requires having a platform to reach out to potential buyers and marketing products to them, intending to forward them onto the merchant to complete the sale.
For each sale generated through your marketing efforts, you will be awarded a commission as a percentage of the sale’s value. Other types of payment actions do exist, such as pays per click or payment for gathering information, i.e. – the merchant pays a set price for each email acquired.
This is where you come in; as the affiliate, it is your job to leverage your chosen platform to generate sales for the merchant. Most commonly, this is achieved through personal blogs, recommending, and reviewing products enticing the customer to complete the buying cycle through the merchant you are affiliated with.
The most successful internet marketers will grow their affiliate blog as an authority within their niche, gaining trust and increasing sales over time.
Becoming an affiliate marketer is an attractive prospect for many because the minimal financial outset is accessible to almost anyone. Not only that, but most affiliate marketers start with no prior knowledge or experience, and it is very much a trial by fire industry.
Throughout your transition into an affiliate marketer, you will be required to learn a whole suite of skills to ensure your success. SEO (search engine optimization), design, web development, general marketing skills, and content creation are all required to run a fully-fledged affiliate marketing campaign.
As your success grows, you will eventually outsource some of these elements to freelancers or other marketers. Still, in the beginning, it is necessary to manage as a one-man-band. Unless you already have a budget set aside for services.
Fortunately, affiliate marketers are very forthcoming with insider information, and there is an entire host of top-level internet marketers giving out quality information on their blogs for free every day. It is entirely possible to learn everything you need to operate a successful marketing website for free using these sources alone.
This will be the company, most likely an eCommerce marketplace, whose affiliate program you have joined. Amazon runs the most extensive affiliate program in the world, earning $millions every year thanks to the efforts of internet marketers.
They, however, are not the only affiliate program available, nor is sales-based commission the only popular affiliate model. PPC (pay-per-click) affiliate programs such as Bidvertiser and Skimlinks will pay you a set price for each new unique click you can generate through ads and link insertions.
The type of affiliate program you choose will depend on your niche and may even evolve over time. Typically, Amazon is the best prospect for new internet marketers, as they are a globally trusted source that many customers are already aware of.
Niche relevant marketplaces will usually offer the best return on commission but are dependent on the regional market you are targeting, and success rests on how trusted they are by potential customers.
Entering the world of affiliate marketing may appear to be an insurmountable task at first, especially if it is unlike anything you have ever done before. However, I can guarantee that nearly all internet marketers felt the same way before they took their first steps.
If you are already tech-savvy and have some working knowledge of internet hosting, blogging, graphic design, or marketing, you are already more skilled than most were when they commenced their affiliate marketing journey.
If the idea of affiliate marketing seems overwhelming, and you would like to follow a step by step process, there are many exceptional courses available that take you from a complete beginner to running a successful affiliate business.
Best Affiliate Courses for Beginners
We have an in-depth post on this topic that you can read here, where we have reviewed some of the best courses for new affiliate marketers. However, I thought it necessary to provide a brief overview of some of them below:
TASS (The Authority Site System)
Created by Gael and Mark from Authority Hacker, TASS is one of the most in-depth and comprehensive affiliate marketing courses on the market. Taking you from the very foundations to building and flipping websites regularly.
This is probably the most comprehensive blueprint for affiliate marketers, and it’s not only beginners who will benefit from the knowledge shared throughout this course. Experienced marketers are all profiting from Gael and Mark’s understanding of the affiliate industry.
Made up of over 120 over-the-shoulder videos detailing every step of the process, from niche selection, email marketing & approaches to outreach, keyword research, and technical SEO implementation. No stone is left unturned.
Purchasing The Authority Site System will also grant you access to a Facebook community of affiliate marketers who have all gone through TASS and are producing results. This is an invaluable resource that provides an almost inexhaustible wellspring of internet marketing knowledge.
Affiliate Lab is an evergreen affiliate marketing system that is continuously being updated with relevant industry information and emerging techniques. Created by Matt Diggity, who got his start in the SEO sector, Affiliate Lab has quickly grown to be one of the most popular affiliate marketing courses.
Known for his in-depth testing to develop his system, Matt delivers over 12 hours of content spread across more than 115 videos throughout the course. Touching on all aspects of affiliate marketing from keyword research processes, site architecture, to creating a social profile. However, the real gem is the SEO information delivered throughout.
Matt’s technical SEO knowledge is almost unparalleled, and even the most experienced marketer will benefit from the techniques and insights shared throughout the Affiliate Lab course.
Similar to TASS, the purchase of the Affiliate Lab course will grant access to an exclusive member-only Facebook community, filled with marketers of all levels sharing insider knowledge and insights.
As a bonus, anyone who has completed the course and flips their first 6-figure website gains access to a mastermind group of high-flying marketers, all regularly flipping 6-figure websites.
Franklin Hatchett has created a course that cuts through a lot of the fluff found in some courses and goes straight for the jugular. If it doesn’t help you rank and convert, then it can’t be found here.
Available in two different packages (both reasonably priced at $197 and $297 respectively) with the ‘Super’ package containing extra marketing and traffic funneling methodology.
Both packages, however, contain the same base course, designed in a step by step fashion to take you from day one to page one, giving you a 360-degree view of what affiliate marketing is and how it works.
For the rest of this post, we will assume that we are talking about an affiliate blog, designed to funnel clicks to your chosen merchant for sales.
Creating an affiliate marketing blog is one of the most freeing and rewarding things you can do. In every corner of the globe, affiliate marketing has provided a living for people and encouraged a modern working culture for digital nomads, traveling the world while working from their laptops.
However, to run a truly successful blog, there are a couple of steps that need to be undertaken first, and the most critical step to success is niche selection. For those not aware, a niche is an industry or area of expertise that a business or person operates in.
Some popular niche examples include fitness, health, sports, pet care, fashion, gadgets, etc. As you can see, most are based around hobbies and many overlap as shoulder niches or can be ‘niched down’ into a less broad niche, i.e. – Sports niche can be niched down and made more specific, football, boxing, hockey, etc.
Niche selection is probably the most important task for any affiliate marketer and shouldn’t be overlooked. In an ideal situation, a hobby or passion you already have will prove itself to provide a profitable solution for your affiliate blog.
However, nine times out of ten, this will not be the case, and you will need to find a niche that is profitable yet has enough room for you to compete. Some niches such as health, beauty, and fitness are highly competitive, and shouldn’t be tackled until you are much more experienced or have the resources to do so.
How to select a niche – A beginners guide
The first step to niche selection for beginners is brainstorming, aim to list at least 20 niches that might interest you. You can start with any hobbies you may already have; in an ideal world, your hobby will turn out to be a profitable niche.
This not only increases the likelihood of you seeing the whole process through but makes content creation much more comfortable (a part of affiliate marketing many struggle with).
If you are stuck for inspiration, a quick Google search yield’s hundreds of suggestions; just searching for ‘hobbies’ in Google returns this Wikipedia page – List of hobbies.
Next up is the most crucial part of starting any niche affiliate blog – research.
Having an interesting topic that you love is great, but if it can’t make any money, then it holds no water in the affiliate marketing world. Even if a niche is profitable, are you able to contend with the competition?
To find a profitable niche that you can compete in, thorough keyword research needs to be conducted. For newer internet marketers, a keyword is a search query that is typed into Google by people looking for information or products.
Keyword research is essential because it reveals search intent within a niche, as well as volume – how many people are searching for that term per month. Your keyword research also dictates the content you produce for your affiliate blog.
During keyword research, for new sites, you are looking for search terms with buyer intent that have a low monthly search volume. Usually, this means it will be easier to compete in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) and build authority for your blog.
Buyer intent keywords are search queries that indicate a customer is close to the end of the buying cycle and likely to purchase goods. Buyer intent keywords can generally be identified by formulas such as:
- ‘Best x.’
- ‘Best x for y.’
- ‘x for under $500.’
- ‘x vs. y.’
Alongside buyer intent, you have to create a wealth of informational content on your blog to build your trust and authority within the niche. Generally, these blogs will be aimed at answering questions, how-tos, etc.
Answer the Public is a fantastic free tool for beginners looking to find fresh blog content ideas.
So now that we have found our low competition keywords and keywords for informational content, there is one more criterion – the depth of content. Depth of content is important as you need a niche you can create content for, for years to come.
I know this can seem like a nosebleed moment when you first look into it, but keyword research is vitally important to the success and longevity of your affiliate blog. I always advise new affiliate bloggers to spend time researching several niches before they commit to one; doing so allows you to thoroughly understand and become competent at keyword research.
If you are interested, I have reviewed some of the best keyword research tools in another post that can be found here, for anyone seeking more information on the topic.
Content Creation – Become the authority
Your keyword research results will dictate content on your affiliate website. Content creation should be split roughly into ¾ posts satisfying buyer intent (best x, best x for y, etc.) and ¼ informational (how-to’s, answering common questions).
It should go without saying, but content quality needs to be high. Poor grammar, broken English, and poor content structure will all hinder the growth of your blog.
Not only does your written word need to be quality, but ideally, you will also create infographic and video material. Doing so dramatically increases the chance that your content will be shared on social media, or be referenced in other blogs and websites (used in a strategy known as link building).
Many affiliate marketers struggle with creating content for their blog because of several reasons – they find it too laborious, or they aren’t writing in their native tongue. This has led to an increase in outsourcing content creation to third parties. However, if you don’t have the budget at first, you will need to tackle it yourself.
Creating content to satisfy buyer intent normally revolves around product reviews and comparisons. Product selection also comes into play here; the products should be highly rated, with many positive reviews.
Informational content needs to answer the search intent of the user fully, without becoming overbearing or adding additional fluff or filler content. Affiliate bloggers use their informational content to build up their blog’s authority within a niche, to gain social shares and linked references.
Choosing an Affiliate Program
For beginners, I would typically recommend the Amazon Associates program, Amazon is a trusted eCommerce marketplace and hold products for almost any niche imaginable. As you gain experience, you can do some research into other affiliate programs, especially niche-specific programs, but Amazon is a great starting point.
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