Hey there Sea Changers. As you may or may not be aware, I have focused this site mainly at the cultivation of an affiliate marketing website allowing us to fund our sea change in an ongoing manner. The thing is however, that affiliate marketing can take some time to make any money, and then even longer to make enough to make it a full time profession. So for many of us it is important that we understand how to start affiliate marketing for free – or at the very least with as little money outlaid as possible.
Luckily for us, most of the online tools we require are available as paid, and non paid versions – the non paid versions may come up short with some functionality or impose some limitations but when we are at the bootstrapping stage of our business, the question really has to be whether we really need the increased functionality or not. In fact, I still only spend about $70 per month on subscriptions and have spent roughly $150 on software all up. But there are so many more upgrades etc. that I have chosen to leave out. I will explain more about this as we go but for now let’s dig in and see what we can get for free as we start our affiliate marketing business…
What do we need?
Affiliate marketing is actually one of the most popular online money making processes there is – purely for the fact that it is so cost effective to set up. And whilst this is true, there are always decisions we need to make as we go in terms of the tools we need to get our websites up and running and ranking on search engines. So to start, let’s have a look at the tools and arrangements we will need to get started:
- Website hosting
- Website and content development
- Promotional Tools
As we discussed earlier, there are definitely tools that will assist us with each of these requirements that will cost us money – but to be honest, as we start out there really is a struck match between what we can get for free and what we pay for in terms of more functionality or benefit. The question we must always ask ourselves however, is do we really need it?
As we move forward, I will outline how you can do everything for free as promised, but I will also discuss some of the cheaper options should you choose to spend just a little cash along the way. Let’s check out how we can do this…
The first thing we generally need in an affiliate marketing business is a website. This is where we will solve the problems of our readers and direct them to our affiliate links in order to make an income. However, in order to make money, we need a website that is visible on the world wide web and locatable by search engines. For this we will need two things, a website domain name and website hosting:
A website domain is the name or URL that the site is known by (e.g. the domain for this website is makethatseachange.com). Let’s look at the free options:
Note: If you undertake an online search for a free domain, you will see plenty of them available. In most cases however, the domain is provided free when you pay for hosting on their platform. In truth most of these are really good options, but for the purpose of this post I have stuck to the completely free options.
Wix – Wix allows you a completely free domain for your new website. You can name your domain anything you like (as long as it is available) however your site is a sub domain of the main .wix domain and will have .wix in the URL. e.g. www.mysite.wix.com.
WordPress – Like Wix, you are able to create your own website for free within WordPress with a free domain name. And again, like Wix, you can name the site anything you like however it is also a sub domain and must have .wordpress in the URL. e.g. www.mysite.wordpress.com
Wealthy Affiliate – Wealthy Affiliate is a complete online affiliate marketing training and hosting site with an inbuilt wordpress editor. On the free membership, you are able to create two free websites with free sub domains. As with the others, you can choose the name but will have .siterubix in the URL. e.g. www.mysite.siterubix.com.
There are a number of other sites that will provide free sub domains with their free website offerings including:
I guess the thing to keep in mind here is that with any of the option above, whilst you have free rein to create your initial domain name (such as “mysite”), you will always have the sub domain suffix included. In most cases you can remove the sub domain for around $13 – $20 per year – changing the examples above to www.mysite.com.
Now I know that I am discussing free website creation here, but if I am being honest, if you have the $$ then I would recommend purchasing your own domain. It just looks more professional and is better for SEO.
The options above will indeed host your website for free if you keep the free domains as well. If you wish to upgrade to a domain name that you have purchased, then unfortunately you will need to purchase hosting from them as well. As far as free hosting is concerned, again the examples above are probably your best options. I have found others – and there are plenty out there- but I have also found that they can be so restrictive in their free services that it really is not worth it if you are trying to build a reliable website with all the tools needed (like video, plugins and images).
And whilst I know we are not getting off to a good start in the whole “affiliate marketing for free” thing, I really suggest you look at some outgoings on this as well. If however, you want to stick with the sub domain options then you are absolutely able to acquire and host your domain for free. If not, here are some of the cheapest, yet stable, options I could find.
- Hostinger – prices starting at $3.49 per month including domain name.
- Bluehost – start at $2.95 per month.
- HostGator – starts at $2.75 per month with free domain.
There are hundreds of others so you can certainly do some research here. There are however a couple of things to be keep an eye on:
- How long their ‘cheap’ hosting lasts – many offer their click bait rates for a few months then revert to higher costs after that.
- Is the free domain always free – this is another click bait pitch where they offer a free domain but it is usually only for the first year – you will need to purchase it after that – this is not a bad thing necessarily as you can start for free and pay later once some revenue starts to come in.
Website and content development
Once you have a domain and hosting sorted, then obviously you are going to want to develop your website. The main three that we listed above when discussing free domains also contain free website developer tools if you want to stick to the basics.
With different variations however, they all will start to charge a monthly fee should you want things like:
- Greater array of themes and in some cases, plugins
- Using your own domain name
- More functionality
- Extra storage space
- Increased bandwidth
- Increased backup frequency
- Joomla – Not as beginner friendly as the three above but has rich functionality and great tools.
- Squaresace – neat, clean and cost effective for any website type.
- Drupal – Greater security and scalability for larger and business sites.
- Typo3 – Good for multi-site management.
- Shopify – If you are in the e-commerce space, this marketplace product could work (free access however is on a trial basis only.
- Weebly – Great for e-commerce sites – free domain for first year with hosting plan.
Again, the level of ‘free’ you are after definitely relates to whether you are wanting to use your own domain or are happy with a sub domain. If you really have no money to spend then sub domain options are the way to go here and absolutely you can develop and host a fully functioning website for free with any of the above options.
Website creation with your own domain however will cost you anywhere from $10 – $50 per month depending on the arrangements of the site. If this is the path you wish to go down, as you do your research, keep in mind the following:
- Does it match your needs? – In the examples above I quickly outlined some of the target audience for the content creators such as large or small sites, ease of use, ability for e-commerce and security options.
- Are there any hidden costs? – Since we are talking about getting this stuff for as little money as possible, check for hidden pricing plans or ‘click bait’ offers. Many will offer the first month, six months or year for free then ramp up the costs after that. This may not be something to turn you away, just something to be aware of.
- Is it all-in-one? – If you do make the decision to spend some money on your own domain and/or hosting, then the last thing you want is to get started and find out that you need to spend more on satellite program. Make sure you can build your site completely, update it, publish, get and email address, manage SEO and increase functionality (plugins etc.) all in the one spot.
- Is there good support? – This is critical – in the magical place that is the internet, things go wrong all-the-time! You will need access to a good support area to assist you when things don’t go to plan.
You can usually find this information via online reviews, testimonials or forums – and trust me, if there are skeletons, people will find them.
Ok, now for the good news, the rest of our requirements covered within this post are totally free! Let’s start with SEO.
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is one of the most critical elements of any website as it is how to try and get your posts to rank on the first page of a search engine results page (SERP). Why? Well simply put, the higher you rank, the more traffic you attract and the more people visit your site. This then obviously leads to more chance that some will make a purchase from your affiliate links.
The thing with SEO is that it is definitely something that you can spend a lot of money on – and which you will be hounded for as soon as anyone out there gets a whiff that you have a new website – as trust me, it doesn’t take long for the emails and social media messages to come in.
Absolutely some of these characters do have tips and tricks that just may push you up those rankings a little faster, however as you start out, keep in mind that SEO, like Affiliate marketing in general is a long term game so without anything of substance on your site, you really just need to buckle down and get it done yourself – which, apart from your time, is totally free.
This is how you can do this:
Find a good keyword tool – Keywords are the words that people use to search for stuff on the internet. Keyword tools assist you in finding good keywords to use in your posts to give yourself the best possible chance of matching readers to your content. For example, if I am writing a post on beach fishing, then I would use a keyword tool to find out how people are looking for this information:
From here I can see:
- What people are searching for (keyword)
- How many searches are being undertaken per month (Ave)
- How many other sites have these keywords (QSR)
- An overall SEO score (SEO) – the percentage chance of getting to page 1 with these keywords.
There are a good number of free keyword tools out there. I recommend:
Build Content – That’s right, there is no use paying for ads etc. if there is no content there to refer people to. Search engines look for sites that provide solutions and value – you cannot do this without content. Write blog posts, solve problems, engage readers and soon the search engines will start to see your site as an authority and rankings will increase organically.
And again, the only resource you are spending here is your own time.
Apart from the (few of many) SEO techniques we discussed in the previous section, one major way to drive traffic you your site is via promotion. Again, there are many ways to do this with paid advertising however, luckily for us, some of the most powerful tools available to us are totally free:
Of course – we all have accounts and they are all free to join. And did you know that behind Google, YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet. The fact is that social media is a fantastic medium with which to promote your website and in turn increase search engine rankings and traffic.
There are good number of platforms out there and you cannot possibly manage all of them right off the bat. So in order to choose which platform is right for you, consider the following:
- Who are your audience and what are you trying to do with them (your objectives)?
- What social media platforms do your audience use?
- Which of these platforms do you know how to use?
- Which of these platforms are best for what you are trying to achieve?
- How much time do you have to commit to your campaign?
- Can these platforms be adapted to match your brand?
Once you have this information sorted, then you can post information and details about your website and posts. Some examples include:
- Video demonstrations of the products you are promoting/reviewing on YouTube.
- Joining niche related FaceBook groups to interact, get ideas of what people are after and, if allowable, offer solutions via your site.
- Posting ‘how tos’ and recipes onto Pinterest.
- Posting pictures of your products, your work or a mood you are trying to set on Instagram.
The sky really is the limit and like an affiliate marketing business, it will take time to nurture a decent following but, as we have said, it is all free!
You know emails… those annoying electronic letters that clog up your inbox at an alarming rate and cause you grief simply trying to get to them all. Well, you know what? As of 2018 (where the latest data ends), email is still the most effective digital marketing channel there is – outperforming social media, SEO and any form of advertising.
Again, building a list takes time – I see a pattern here – everything we do for free in this business works, it just takes time. And you know what? Often paid tools take just as much time and just cost more… Anyway, I digress…
Email lists are a fantastic means of driving traffic and sales to your site as they allow you to directly market to individuals in regards to their personal needs and interests without them having to try and re-find your site. In general terms, the creation of an email campaign involves the following:
Acquiring and setting up an Autoresponder.
In short, an autoresponder is a fancy name for an email management or marketing program that allows you to:
- Create and grow email lists.
- Setup automated email campaigns to your email list.
- Customise email traffic to different customer segments based on their behaviours, interests and interactions with you.
Create a call to action
Many of us are a bit jaded when it comes to email opt ins these days so you will need to some sort of enticement to grow your list. This may include the offer of:
- A newsletter– ongoing access to promotions, special information and other ‘secret’ stuff – this will need to be good however or your unsubscribe numbers will be skyrocket.
- Something free– such as an e-book, book, trinket or merchandise etc.
- Something helpful– instructional ‘how to’ guide or checklist etc.
- Personal assistance– special assistance from yourself that general readers to your site do not receive.
In most cases this is handled by the auto responder but you must set up a process where readers can enter their information to give you permission to send them emails. Most autoresponders will cancel your account if they notice that you are using emails addresses without permission.
There are many auto responders out there and as with free website creation platforms, have varying functionality for free users. However, if you are looking at a good autoresponder that is totally free to use then I would recommend you look into MailChimp.
With its Forever Free Plan, you can use it for free until you reach the threshold of up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month making it perfect for new businesses.
Note: MailChimp actually frowns upon affiliate marketers using its platform so you will need to place your links back to your own website rather than directly to your affiliate program. That said, it is the best option out there that is totally free – at least until you build your site large enough where you are happy to pay a little extra for this service.
And finally, the key to all of this is to ensure that you are constantly and consistently seeking and sourcing training – I mean if you are new to this I am quite sure that some of the above may even be a little confusing – but don’t fear, there is free training everywhere.
Start with the following:
That does not mean that there are not others out there that I have used happily however. And of course there are also plenty of others out there that I have not stumbled across yet that you can look into to gain free training and instruction. To find them, you can undertake some searches such as:
Just keep in mind that as with some of the platforms we have discussed above that ‘free’ can mean a lot of different things such as just a trial, or free with limited content or just totally free. But at the end of the day, and I cannot reiterate this enough, as long as you are continuously searching, reading and learning, then you are ahead of the game!
And there it is – an outline of some of the things that you can do to get yourself starting within the affiliate marketing business for free. As your business grows, there will be need to start spending, but as you start out and learn, at least you know that you don’t need to spend any cash. I hope it has been helpful and as usual, please do not hesitate to comment below if you have any questions, need some advice or have any experiences to share.
Do you want further assistance with any of the above or need help to build your own affiliate marketing website?
Are I started my affiliate marketing journey for free with Wealthy Affiliate. So if you are looking for a comprehensive training platform that can give you step by step training, 24/7 support, tools to develop and host your very own website, ongoing assistance with SEO and social media and access to some of the best affiliate marketing minds on the planet, then click on the following link to read more about Wealthy Affiliate.
If you want to see what all the fuss is about, click on the link below to watch me build a website from scratch in just 7 days.
Until next time
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