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Is Affiliate Marketing Still a Viable Business Model In 2017?

Affiliate marketing in 2017

Even getting into 2017, affiliate marketing is one of the simplest business models that beginners can jump into.

Promoting products on your site and collecting a commission as an affiliate allows you to quickly setup websites, test the waters, and start making money without requiring a huge financial investment from you before you start seeing returns.

With so many other business models that beginners can follow, we strongly stand behind becoming an affiliate marketer and earning through Amazon’s Associates program because of how easy it is to get started, as well as how quickly you can scale your earnings once you have an understanding of what you need to do.

There are other affiliate networks currently available, but Amazon, in our experience, provides the most stability.

Networks like Rakuten, ShareASale, CJ, ClickBank, and JVZoo all have great offers, but we’ve found that those offers tend to be short-lived and pretty volatile in comparison with products that are selling on Amazon. 

Through Amazon, there are typically multiple sellers offering the same item, so even if one happens to go out of stock, you don’t have to worry about the links you’ve created on your website becoming broken, because other sellers will still have inventory.

Through other networks, if those products or offers become unavailable, you may end up sending traffic to a landing page that isn’t set up to pay you a commission, but one that is setup to generate the affiliate network increased earnings.

In other cases, the links that you’ve created to those offers could become completely broken, creating a ton of work for you when you thought you were finished, by having to find new offers that are relevant to the content you’ve created, or finding another network with the same offer so you don’t have to change your content.

If you don't know where to start looking for affiliate offers, we recommend OfferVault.

How To Become An Amazon Affiliate

Getting started in affiliate marketing through Amazon’s Associates program is one of the simplest business models you can run, and has the added benefit of earning more money as time goes on, while requiring less of a time investment from you.

Whether you’re just getting started, looking to expand your business model and branch out into other areas, or you have an existing portfolio of websites that you’re looking to scale, using Amazon’s Associates programs is, hands down, the best way to grow your income.

Here’s how...

There are 6 steps that you’ll want to follow while building your next Amazon Affiliate website.

n1

Decide on a niche you want to pursue

n2

Begin researching keywords you want to target

n3

Build your website on a proven platform

n4

Create content that will attract new visitors (and money!)

n5

Promote your website to obtain your initial visitors

n6

Plan for long-term growth and scaling your business

Following these steps will help you make your way through the beginning stages with a plan to follow, where most people tend to throw in the towel.

You’ll also learn what it takes to start driving traffic to the site so you can start earning, and four of our favorite strategies.

And, finally, you’ll get an idea of what the end-game looks like and how you can continue to scale your business as you start seeing your income grow.

Step 1: Decide On A Niche

This is one of the areas that most new and prospective affiliate marketers get hung up.

They believe choosing a niche is a decision that could make or break their success which, in some ways, it is that serious.

However, choosing the right niche is actually fairly simple.

There are two signs that you’re looking for, to determine if a niche is worth jumping into with your new website.

how to find a niche in affiliate marketing

If you take the advice we’ve already given you about looking into Amazon’s Bestsellers list, you can get cues on both of these signs without having to dig much deeper.

The first thing you’re going to want to look for are products that are actually selling. You can tell that by the product’s placement on the bestsellers list, and how many reviews each of those products have.

If they’re placed higher on the list, you know that the seller is selling more inventory, which means you have a chance to make money by helping them sell even more.

If they also have a high number of reviews, it typically means that the customers who are purchasing those products are passionate about the product, which means that you have plenty of ways to generate new content to help tap into that passion.

Choosing products that you, yourself, may have purchased before helps give you even more insight into what makes people buy them, and helps you connect with those buyers through the content on your website later on.

The key on deciding a niche to pursue is to not overthink the process.

You can use external tools like Ahrefs and SEMRush to determine how competitive the niche that you’ve chosen is but, in our experience, there are always new angles you can take to squeeze your way into an “ultra-competitive” market.

So while finding niches that haven’t been targeted by huge, authoritative sites for years is the ultimate goal, many people get bogged down making the decision on what is deemed as low or high competition, and fail to make a decision on actually getting into the niche altogether.

Keep it simple, make sure that the products you want to promote are actually selling (by checking the Bestsellers list and making sure there are at least a few reviews), and then jump into keyword research.

If you want to make sure you’ve found a winner, you can repeat this process multiple times, until you have a group of 5 to 10 different niches that you want to test.

Just a forewarning, though, the more potential niches you choose, the more complicated making that final decision and building a site around one is going to be.

Step 2: Begin Keyword Research

Keyword research is essential to your success, because major search engines can send you a steady flow of traffic 24 hours per day, 7 days a week, as long as you’re ranking high in the search results pages.

It will also help you dig into the search results and give you a decent idea about the competitiveness of the niche you’ve chosen, as well as find potential outlets that you can use to promote your site later in the process.

Before you get into the research phase, we want to warn you that you should fight the temptation to overthink the process.

Don't overthink your keyword research

All you’re trying to do is discover keywords that you can work into your site, and find new sources of blogs and websites you can use to promote your site later on.

Many people will get stuck because they’re putting too much weight on the decision.

As long as you can find keywords that are related to the products you’ve chosen in step #1, you’re doing alright.

To get started, you’re going to want to load up a keyword research tool. We use a combination of tools to deliver the most keywords possible, but you can keep it to the single most common tool, if you’re still fairly new.

Google’s Adwords Keyword Planner is one of the most common tools you’re going to use, because the information comes straight from Google and you’re going to want to rank at the top of their search results pages.

Other keyword tools you can use are the Ahrefs, SEMRush, LongTailPro, KWFinder, and KeywordTool.io.

Your goal here is to gather a large list of keywords that people would type into the search engines to find the products you’re planning to promote, and any other related keywords (preferably with buying intent) that you think might be related to the content you’re going to create for your website.

As you’re gathering the keywords, create a new spreadsheet you can use to keep track of them, and the progress you’ve made for each one, as far as creating the content and how you’ve promoted it goes.

You’re going to want to organize them into groups of related keywords so that they’re easier to manage, and begin laying the foundation for your content strategy.

Step 3: Build Your Website

Now that you have a niche chosen, and you’ve gathered a list of keywords you’re going to target with your content, you will need to start building the actual website.

Before you do anything, you need to make sure that the host you’re using is fast enough to deliver your website to anyone, anywhere in the world.

A slow loading website not only frustrates your potential visitors and causes them to hit the back button, but could also cost you your search rankings because the newest algorithms are ranking websites based on how quickly they load.

That means you’ll want to use, at a minimum, a VPS web host, instead of the standard shared hosting account where your website is stored on the same server as hundreds or thousands of other websites.

A VPS hosting with fast specs and a solid state drive (SSD) is the best scenario, because it reduces the time it takes your web host’s server to access the site on the hard drive, and it is singled out to it’s own server so you’re not sharing resources with other websites.

You’re also going to want to use a content management system that is easy to configure and friendly to beginners.

WordPress is one of the best content management systems you’re going to find. It’s easy to use, simple to configure, and can be customized as your business grows. Most web hosts also have a 1-click installer, so installing WordPress only takes a few seconds to do.

After WordPress is installed, you need to choose a good theme and logo.

The theme determines what your site looks like, and choosing a memorable logo helps you stand out in your visitor’s mind, and makes you appear more professional.

When it comes to themes, we love using Thrive Themes.

They’re highly customizable, come with a massive amount of built-in options, and are designed with affiliate marketers in mind.

Thrive Themes Review

Getting a logo designed (if you’re not a designer) is easy. For most cases, you can go through a service like Fiverr or 99Designs, depending on your budget and how elaborate you want the design to be.

Fiverr has a wide range of designers, where 99Designs can provide you with a much higher quality logo -- albeit, at a much higher price tag.

As you’re building out the site, something you want to keep in mind is that you always want to use the minimal amount of plugins for WordPress that you can feasibly get away with.

When you load more plugins onto your website, you are forcing the webserver to take even longer to access the database that your site is built around, which dramatically slows down how long it takes to load the site.

Page speed issues

In most cases, these plugins can be removed by either hard coding the functionality into the site or using a theme or framework that already has the functions built into it.

That’s one reason we love Thrive Themes so much, because they have every function an affiliate marketer could want already built into their themes and plugins. They’re also built with speed in mind, so you don’t have to worry about them bogging down your web server and causing your site to load slowly.

Step 4: Start Creating Content

The content you create is the backbone of your website, and gives you the opportunity to solve your visitor’s problem, and get them to move onto Amazon’s website to buy the products that you’re recommending.

Coming up with a comprehensive content strategy also gives the search engine algorithms plenty to feed on so they will rank you for every keyword related to the posts you’ve created.


More rankings in the search engines means more targeted traffic to your website, which ends up putting more money in your pocket at the end of each month.


Looking over your keyword list should give you plenty of ideas for content, but if it doesn’t you can also look at the top pages on the search results for each of your keywords, and determine what your competitors are creating.

Pro Tip: SEMRush is an awesome tool to use if you'd like to discover for which terms are your competitors ranking (and which pages on their site rank for the specific keyword).

Spend some time adding ideas to your spreadsheet next to the keyword groups you’ve created, so you can revert back to the list when you’re ready to start writing.

Before you actually start writing, though, you’re going to create “silo” structures for your content.

Silos help keep your posts tightly related to each other, and help send the search engine algorithms more relevance signals so you end up ranking higher and keeping the algorithms from getting confused while they’re indexing your site.

For instance, if you have 3 groups of keywords, red widgets, blue widgets, and green widgets, and you’re planning on creating 5 different blog posts for each, you will want to make sure that all of your red widget posts link to each other, your blue widget posts link to each other, and your green widget posts link to each other.

The easiest way to do this is to use separate categories for each silo, and choose the relevant category when you’re ready to publish the blog post.

You can either write the content yourself or, if you’re busy or not confident in your writing skills you can outsource it to a freelance writer or content creation agency.

If you’re writing the content yourself, you are going to want to make sure that you use headlines (or post titles) that grab your visitor’s attention, and meta descriptions that help set you apart from your competition in the search results.

This will help increase your clickthrough rate from the search results pages, giving you more traffic and opportunities to make money.

Step 5: Begin Promoting Your Website

So your website is finally live. It looks good, loads quickly, and has a ton of content for the search engine spiders and your visitors to eat up.

What next?

Now you need to start actually driving traffic to the website.

Your ultimate goal should be to rank highly in the search engines, but you’re going to need links from other websites before the algorithms release your site from their grips and actually allow you to start claiming those top ranking spots.

There are 4 main strategies you can use to get links (and traffic) coming into your website before the search engines start sending you those highly targeted visitors.

  • Getting visible on social media
  • Commenting on other, related blogs
  • Finding forums related to your topic
  • Reaching out to other webmasters to have your content featured on their blog

Those are some of the best ways to drive that initial surge of traffic to your site.

The first thing you want to do is claim all of your social media profiles. Whether or not you’re active on them after claiming them is your own decision, but making sure you have the profiles associated with your brand name is huge, and can help increase the value of your site down the road.

Here is an excellent blog post from SerpWoo that shows you a ton of different platforms you can create a profile on, and get a link back to your website.

After claiming them, you’re going to want to start finding blogs where your target audience hangs out, and leave comments that are useful, and relevant to the topic. By leaving a link to your website when you leave a comment, visitors will begin to trickle onto your site, and you’ll open the door to building a relationship with the webmaster that you can tap into later on down the road.

Becoming active on forums related to your topic is another great way to build your brand, while also sending the traffic to your site that you need in the beginning, when the search engines still aren’t showing you love yet.

Finally, you will want to gain new links by building a relationship with other webmasters and work out ways to get them to feature your content on their blogs, with links pointing back to your site.

Landing these “guest posts” will send you traffic that you may not have gotten on your own, but will also give you links that help increase your site’s trust in the eyes of the search engine algorithms.

The end goal is to get links pointing to your site from as many places on the web that you possibly can, and create new inroads for visitors to find your site.

Then, if you do ever fall out of the search engine’s good graces, you will still have traffic coming into the site and your income won’t completely plummet.

Step 6: Think About Your Long-Term Growth

Long-term planning is essential to any business, and helps guarantee that you can move onto other projects and continue to scale your income without being required to scale the amount of time you’re devoting to each site that you own.

In other words, thinking about your long-term growth before you start building the site is the best way to ensure you’re going to be able to eventually take a hands-off approach to the business, and generate that “passive” income that so many affiliate marketers dream about.

You’re going to want to get to a point where you’re spending money to grow the site, instead of time, which will allow you to focus on either starting new projects, or on the big picture ideas for how to scale your existing projects.

One great way to do this is to begin outsourcing your link building and marketing. Handing this task off to the professionals is one of the easiest (and most cost effective) ways to continue growing the traffic coming into your website, without being required to do the tedious labor.

You can also outsource your continued content creation. While traffic is probably the most important aspect you need to be focused on, you will need fresh content to send that traffic to.

Creating content can be just as tedious as building links and marketing your business, so when you get to a point that the site is earning, handing off your content creation to a professional copywriter or content agency is one of the best moves you can make.

Another great way to increase the value of your business is to start sourcing products and selling them directly from your site.

As an affiliate through Amazon, you will become capped at 8.5% earnings for the products you sell. That means, for every $1,000 you generate for Amazon, you’re going to be earning $85.

Not bad, but it can always be better.

Since you’ve gathered data about your customers and know which products sell most often, you can easily pivot into sourcing the inventory yourself and selling directly from your website or use your website to funnel loads of traffic to your FBA listing(s).

Fulfillment By Amazon

Doing this will allow you to increase your profit margins to anywhere from 10% on the low end of the spectrum, to 100% or more on the higher end of the spectrum.

That’s a substantial increase over relying on Amazon to supply you with affiliate commissions capped at 8.5%.

You can also consider potentially flipping the website to an investor, so that you have immediate cashflow and can focus on more (and bigger) projects.

Many times, if you’ve focused on quality first, you can fetch anywhere from 25x to 30x what the site is earning, which can be a huge payday for you.

Building Your Own vs. Buying Done-For-You Site

Building your own successful affiliate marketing business is simple, but it’s far from easy.

Following all of the steps that we’ve just laid out for you, while keeping quality in mind and making sure you’re helping your visitors find exactly what they’re looking for will practically guarantee that you start making money.

However, building a website and devoting all of the time required to learning aspects of the process that you don’t already know how to do can be frustrating, and cause many people to bail out before they see those first few wins.

Whether you’re just getting started, trying to scale your business by adding new sites to your portfolio, or looking to expand your portfolio and don’t have the time to create new sites yourself, building your own can create pitfalls and areas for failure that you may not see before jumping in with both feet first.

If you’re able to, buying done-for-you affiliate websites is always going to deliver a higher payoff in the long run than devoting your precious hours to creating the sites yourself.

It also makes sure that professionals are handling every aspect so you can focus on the big picture ideas for increasing your income without bogging down your mental power with smaller details that people tend to overthink when they don’t have the experience to quickly call the shots and keep pushing forward.

Have any questions or want to share your affiliate marketing experience? Please leave your comment in the comment box below.

About the Author Andrew James

Andrew is an entrepreneur, digital marketer, wine enthusiast, hustler (in a good way) & the guy behind BrandBuilders.io. His business helps both FBA sellers and Amazon Affiliate marketers build out their brands and manage their portfolio of sites.

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