Hey there sea changers, today we are going to take an introductory journey into the world of earning money online with a newbies guide to affiliate marketing. If you have just undertaken, or are contemplating a sea change – or simply looking for a way to earn an income online – then affiliate marketing may just be for you.
In this post, I will run you through what affiliate marketing is and how you can leverage your own expertise, knowledge or interests to provide valuable solutions to your readers and make sales based upon your recommendations. It is a simple process, but one that requires constant and consistent work if you are going to succeed and is definitely not a get-rich-quick gimmick. So grab yourself a drink and a notepad, get comfortable and let’s dive in…
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is the process in which you, as a marketer, refer customers to websites where they can purchase products based on your recommendations. The website that takes the sale then pays you a commission for the referral sale. These referrals can be done in a number of ways including:
- Website links
- Social media campaigns
All you need to do is attract people to your content and give them access to your links. Sounds simple hey? And in general terms it actually is, but let’s get something straight right off the bat…
I will explain all of the reasons for this later in this post, but to become successful as an affiliate marketer takes time, patience and a lot of hard work. The biggest trick with affiliate marketing is not actually creating the content, rather attracting people to it. This is achieved via the constant and consistent release of high quality, useful content. And even with this, most affiliate marketers take at least 12 months to start making anywhere near a decent enough income to survive on.
I don’t tell you this to scare you, rather to make sure you understand what it is you are up for from the beginning. It is a lot easier to ‘maintain the rage’ so to speak if your expectations are where they need to be from the start. So let’s run through step by step the processes involved in Affiliate Marketing. And in keeping with the simplistic view of it all we will run through it from the four step process below.
Step 1 – Choose an interest
In short, step one is all about deciding what it is that you are going to write about. It can literally be about any subject that you choose but should be something that you are an expert in, know about or at the very least have an interest in. The reason that this is so important is that it is a lot harder to maintain consistency of output if you are writing about something that just does not interest you.
Say, for example you have an interest in camping… then this may be your subject.
What is your niche?
This is where you start to narrow down what it is that you are going to write about, or your niche (or subset of your main interest). We choose a niche for a number of reasons:
- If your area of interest is too broad, it is a lot more difficult to stand out from the crowd in regards to attracting traffic. I.E. a narrower niche means less competition.
- You can narrow into specific areas of expertise or identify areas within your subject that are under serviced.
- It is easier to identify problems to solve (more on this in the next section).
You may need to take some time with this – which is not a problem and quite important. Don’t be afraid to do some searches yourself to explore what is out there and where you may fit in. For example, if we think about our camping interest we may decide to specialise in portable camping – for hikers, mountain climbers etc. We could choose this rather than camping in general as there is less information about that specific area of camping – or it may be something that you have tried to find help with yourself in the past.
What problem are you solving?
This is the crucial point. Take some time to think about portable camping options and the problems that may need to be solved. What if you went on a week-long hike where you would camp at night (this is apparently a very popular pastime):
- What would you need?
- How would you cook?
- How would you pack it all?
- What if it rains or is snowing?
See where I am headed? So, we now have our interest – Camping and our niche – portable camping (or words to that effect).
Step 2 – Build a Website
We are using the term ‘build a website‘ here as it is the most common means of affiliate marketing, but you could insert YouTube Channel, Social Media account, Podcast list or all four – which is most commonly what you will need.
To be honest, there is not much more to this here, you just need to build your platform and get it ready to go.
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Step 3 – Attract Visitors
Ok, this is where the work comes in. It is probably an obvious statement but attracting visitors to your website is the most important aspect of it all. After all, if they cannot find your website, or do not know it exists, then how can they click on a link and find you. And even though there are over 4.79 people worldwide with access to the internet, you still need to gain their attention. After all, there is a common joke – “where is the best place to hide a dead body?” – “On the second page of Google…”
Have a think about how you behave you want to buy something online. What do you search for? Where do you look? If you are like most people, you will do a search in Google or Bing or another search engine. Then ask yourself how many pages deep you go when you look at your search results – 1 page, maybe 2? And there it is, that is what we mean by being able to attract visitors – ranking.
How do you rank?
To rank highly in search engine listings, you need to (at least) do the following:
- Blogging/Vlogging – Continuously post high value, high quality and useful content. – Whether a website, YouTube, or FaceBook, you need to be constantly creating problem solving content that will attract viewers and, in time, purchasers.
- SEO – Manage your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques – most of this comes from posting content however there are other factors such as:
- Use of keywords (what are the actual words that potential purchasers use when they do an online search?)
- Indexing on search engines (letting the search engines know that your page exists)
- Adding applicable links to your site
- Encouraging interaction
- Linking to social media
This list above is not exhaustive and again, this is not a difficult process. It is however something that takes time to develop and grow.
What is quality content?
In terms of affiliate marketing, quality content is that which provides a solution to a problem EVEN IF they do not purchase from you. Sites that are simply there to sell without providing any value do not tend to rank highly in search engines. The more you help people, the higher the chance of your site becoming a trusted entity meaning it will rank higher and more people will visit as they know they will get help.
I know this is a very quick explanation to a much bigger process so let’s again look at our camping example.
If I want to go hiking and want to know which is the best sleeping bag to take, I will do a search along the lines of “best sleeping bags for hiking”. The first site lists a whole range of sleeping bags for sale without any information. I want to know what I am buying so I go to the next site – yours – which outlines the advantages and disadvantages of each sleeping bag and makes suggestions on which to use for which situation. I may not buy from you either but I am now informed and highly likely to come back to you when I am ready to buy. I won’t explain it all here, but in Google’s eyes, your site is becoming trusted by that behaviour and hence will rank higher over time.
Step 4 – Earn Revenue
The explanation at the end of the last section is where the revenue starts to appear. As an affiliate marketer, you join the affiliate programs of the likes of Amazon, ebay or any others that you can locate where you able to access URL links to add to your site.
As people visit your site, they click on these links that they can purchase from. Let’s just use our example from above and assume that this post is all about portable sleeping bags and I have gone into great detail about how they work etc. At the end of each section I place links like below:
As your website visitor reads your post, they may be inclined to purchase by clicking on these links. As they do they are taken to Amazon.com where they can buy the applicable sleeping bag based on your recommendations. Amazon handles the payment, delivery and customer service.
How do get paid for that sale?
Once the sale is completed, Amazon will then pay you a commission based on the Affiliate link located within the URL.
What is an Affiliate program?
Any company that provides the ability to promote their products via your website for a commission does so via what is called an affiliate program. In the case of our portable sleeping bags, you have already seen the links that come from the Amazon program. However, if you wanted to join other programs to display products on your site, you could enter the following search into your search engine: “sleeping bag affiliate”. You will see a list along the lines of below:
From here you will need to:
- Select the program that interests you
- Follow the links to register for their program
- Apply to join their program
- Locate the products you wish to write about
- Add the applicable affiliate links to your site.
Again, this is a very simplified outline of the process of becoming an affiliate. In many cases, the company involved will ask you to outline why you wish to promote their products. They may want to know such things as:
- What your site is about
- How you plan to display their links (website, YouTube etc.)
- How you plan to promote their products
- Website traffic numbers
- Other programs included on your site.
Some are quite picky on who they accept so be sure to answer their questions thoroughly or you may find yourself rejected.
Ok, so that was quite a short introduction to the world of affiliate marketing and there is obviously a lot more to it in regards to setup, ongoing management and growth to make an income. I will obviously elaborate on all of these in the ‘how to’ section of this site but if you have any questions at all, please do not hesitate to ask below.
Do you want to start your own affiliate marketing business?
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Until next time
Note: If you make a purchase from this page, there is a very good chance that I make a commission from it – these commissions do not increase your sale price.