Affiliate marketing can be a great way to earn a decent income. But not all affiliates make money. Some even lose money!
If you want to learn how to become an affiliate marketer, you’ve come to the right place. In this article we’ll look at the best way to get started.
You’ve do doubt seen the text links at the bottom of many websites that say “Affiliate” or “Make Money.” Perhaps you’ve even clicked on these links a couple of times and noticed they pay commissions to their affiliates.
According to Mediakix:
The easiest way to explain how affiliate marketing works, is as follows:
As an affiliate marketer, your job is to promote the products of a merchant by sending visitors to their website.
These are visitors that have clicked on your affiliate link, often after reading your product reviews.
This is the classic, most commonly found payment model. If a visitor that you’ve referred to a merchant’s website buys a product, you’ll be paid a commission on the sale of that product.
This model pays you a percentage of the sales price. Think of it as revenue sharing.
You can often make the most money from this payment model. However, it’s also the one with the lowest conversion rates, as you only make money when someone spends money.
It’s not uncommon to only earn a commission on one or two out of every 100 visitors you send to a merchant’s website.
This model has two subcategories: one-off payment or recurring payments.
A one-off payment means you get paid once for every sale.
Some merchants work on subscriptions, such as membership sites or service providers. Many of these merchants will pay you recurring commissions for as long as they continue to get paid. This can result in a very nice passive income stream for you.
Some merchants will pay you a fee for visitors, called leads, that don’t buy anything but perform another action. Such actions can include joining their mailing list, signing up for a free trial, downloading an app, or opening up an account.
This model pays you a flat fee per lead. The rate is normally not very high, but these offers tend to convert better than pay-per-sale programs.
Note: Many merchants will also pay you an additional commission for orders placed.
Your typical affiliate marketing program has at least three parties:
And if you join an affiliate network like Amazon or other affiliate networks that have many merchants, there’s a fourth party called the “Network.”
Note: Some affiliate networks call affiliates “publishers” and merchants “advertisers.”
The reason for this is that they see merchants as companies that wish to advertise their products on the network. They see affiliates as people that want to publish these offers on their website or other media.
Some affiliate marketing programs offer a two-tier payment structure. This is where you also qualify for commission payments on the sales of other affiliates you directly or indirectly referred to the program.
Example: You earn 25% commission on sales generated by you, and 10% commission on sales generated by affiliates you referred.
Two-tier affiliate programs can be lucrative but are often frowned upon as it resembles a MLM structure. If you join such a program, make sure the payment processor isn’t PayPal.
According to PayPal, they normally don’t allow programs that offer payments to both the seller and the individual who recruited the seller.
If the merchant is using PayPal, ask them if they have obtained permission from PayPal to operate a two-tier affiliate program. Don’t risk losing your hard-earned commissions!
The main benefits for a new affiliate to become an affiliate marketer are:
Keep in mind, affiliate marketing is a business and not a get-rich-quick scheme. As with any normal business, it takes work to grow your business.
Now that we’ve looked at some of the main advantages of affiliate marketing, you’re probably wondering if there are disadvantages, right?
The short answer is, not really. The main complaints raised by affiliate marketers are not against affiliate marketing. It’s rather against specific affiliate programs or merchants.
Most of the complaints are unjustified. It often has to do with affiliates marketing a program in an unethical way to their audience.
Always read the terms and conditions of every program you’d like to join, and abide by those rules. Some programs don’t allow certain methods of promotion and if you don’t follow their rules they will cancel your account.
Here are some of the disadvantages, depending on your perspective, of affiliate marketing.
In the beginning of this article, we mentioned that some affiliates lose money with affiliate marketing. It normally has nothing to do with the products they are promoting, but with the way they are promoting those products.
When you consider how to become an affiliate marketer, one of the key questions you need to ask yourself is, how are you planning on promoting products to your target audience? Are you going to use paid advertising, or are you going to rely on free organic traffic?
We know this is a difficult question to answer right now. You’ve not even had a look at the various affiliate products you can choose from in an affiliate market. But, as you’ll see, your answer will determine what programs you’ll need to join.
There are many different advertising platforms you can choose from. These include:
There are also many private websites that cater to your target audience you can use to advertise an affiliate product on. Affiliate marketing works well when you put the right product in front of the right audience.
It falls outside the scope of this article to evaluate all of the above advertising platforms.
Instead, we’ll look at two of the most popular advertising platforms: Google Ads and Facebook Ads. According to AdEspresso, these two giants dominate the industry.
There was a time when paid advertising was the best option to market affiliate offers. You could make good money in a short period of time from advertising a product you found on an affiliate network.
It was easy. All you had to do was put up a simple landing page for your product and advertise it on Google. You would send traffic to your landing page, also called a squeeze page, where you would collect email addresses. After they opted in, they would automatically be redirected to the merchant’s website.
You would then send regular emails to people who opted in to your email list. You would try to persuade them to buy the product from the merchant / affiliate network if they had not already done so.
Setting up the landing page was quick and easy, and it used to be very cheap to advertise on Google. If you were lazy, you didn’t even need to set up your own landing page. You could just send them directly to the merchant’s website using your affiliate link.
But now, times have changed. These days, you can’t get away with a cheap, ugly looking, single page landing page. It also costs a lot more to advertise on Google.
Have a look at some of the answers posted on a typical Google Ads thread.
One person commented that it’s nearly impossible to run a successful affiliate campaign using Google Ads. The same person also mentioned that he used to do it in the past and had 10 people working for him.
Is it really that difficult? Let’s have a look.
According to Ubersuggest, the average cost per click in the U.S. if you wanted to advertise on Google for the keyword “affiliate marketing” is $6.03 per click.
Let’s assume the merchant you’re promoting has an exceptional landing page that converts at 5%. It means that, on average, the merchant will get one sale from every 20 visitors you send them. That sale will cost you $120.60 in advertising fees.
Note: Keep in mind many programs don’t allow you to link directly to them using Google Ads. If they do allow it, remember you have no control over their landing page. If their landing page does not comply with Google’s requirements, you can get banned.
If you send traffic to your own website first, not all of these visitors will click through to the merchant. This means that even if the merchant’s website has a 5% conversion rate, you’ll need more than 20 clicks for every sale.
Unless you earn a very high commission on every product sale you refer, you’re dead in the water.
Affiliate marketing isn’t even a very competitive keyword to bid for. It’s not a buyer keyword and it only has a paid difficulty score of 53/100.
Let’s take a look at what it would cost you to bid on highly competitive buyer keywords.
According to Ubersuggest, the average cost per click in the U.S. if you wanted to advertise on Google for the keyword “insurance quotes for cars” is $115.17 per click!
If you’re an insurance company or a large brokerage firm with big pockets, you may be able to spend an average of $115.17 per click. They have huge marketing budgets. However, if you’re an affiliate marketer, you should probably walk away.
Some large companies don’t really care about return on their advertising spend. They do it for brand awareness purposes. They feel they have to be all over social media pages or their clients will not think they’re a serious player. For such companies, Google Ads are perfect.
Google Ads may also be perfect for a small business or entrepreneur that targets very low competition keywords.
If you want to advertise a product on Google, you have to comply with their ad policies. You also have to understand their landing page requirements.
Google’s advertising policies cover four broad areas:
Make sure you comply with all of the above. In the highly unlikely event that Google doesn’t pick up a violation, anybody can report a violation to them.
Google uses Ad Rank to determine where your ad will rank, and how much it will cost you per click. The quality of your landing page is a key factor.
According to Google, you can improve your landing page experience by taking the following steps:
As Google Ads have become more expensive, and landing page requirements more strict, many affiliate marketers abandoned Google Ads. Many of them moved over to social media platforms such as Facebook.
Facebook has a great advertising platform. The fundamental problem with Facebook, being a social media platform, is that most people don’t go there to buy things. They visit it mainly to interact with friends and family. This means you’re mostly dealing with impulse buyers.
When was the last time you bought a product after clicking on an ad in your Facebook news feed? You probably click on ads, even accidently, while scrolling. But how many of those ads make you take out your wallet to buy something?
Regardless of whether Facebook is the best social media advertising platform or not, they are a popular advertising platform, and with popularity comes demand. The higher the demand, the more you’ll have to pay for ads.
As pointed out by LiveIntent, many marketers are getting anxious about skyrocketing ad costs on Facebook.
According to WordStream:
At a conversion rate of 5%, this means it will take, on average, 20 clicks for a merchant to make one sale. Based on a CPC of $1.72, you’d spend $34.40 on advertising for every sale you referred. If your affiliate commission is less than $34.40 you would lose money.
Note: Based on Wordstream, the average conversion rate is 2.35%, and ¼ of all accounts have less than 1% conversation rates.
At 2.35%, your break-even point is $73.19. From a budgeting perspective, it’s safer to budget on a 2.35% conversation rate rather than a 5%.
For details on their ad review process, prohibited and restricted content, click here.
Facebook is clear they don’t want to see ads that direct to landing pages that have:
Earlier in this article, we asked how you’re planning on promoting the affiliate programs you join. Paid advertising, or free organic traffic? By now, you’ll understand why it’s important for you to first answer this question before looking at any affiliate programs.
You don’t want to waste time and money on an affiliate marketing that won’t give you a good return. It takes time to find a good program, work on your ad copy, and landing page. Paying for ads can be expensive. You don’t only then want to find out you’ve made a mistake.
In the above section, it was mentioned the average CPC for a Facebook ad is $1.72.
Your break-even point, depending on your conversion rate, will be:
2.35% conversion (average) = $73.19
This means you’re highly unlikely to make money advertising on Facebook if your affiliate commission is less than $30 per sale. It can be worth it though, if you get monthly recurring commissions.
Here are the main pros and cons of advertising products on giant advertising platforms like Google Ads and Facebook.
It’s certainly possible to run successful affiliate marketing campaigns using paid advertising to get traffic. You may also have success with other advertising platforms, besides Google and Facebook. However, as an affiliate marketer, the odds are not in your favor.
It’s not easy making money if you’re competing against large merchants with big budgets. This is especially true if you’re new at affiliate marketing.
Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? It’s a great example of how slow and steady wins the race.
Earlier in this article, we looked at the keyword “affiliate marketing.”
If you want to make money using Google Ads, your break-even point for this keyword is $120.60. And, this is being optimistic.
The $120.60 is based on a landing page that has a 5% conversion rate. This means you’ll get one sale for every 20 visitors. A CPC of $6.04 x 20 clicks = $120.60.
If you don’t get at least $120.60 for every product sold you’re losing money. The only exception is if you’re promoting a product that pays recurring monthly commissions.
Now imagine for a moment you’re ranking on the first page of Google for this keyword. What would that free traffic be worth?
Backlinko analyzed 5 million Google search results. They found that the first position in Google’s organic search results has an average click-through rate (CTR) of 31.70%
The keyword “affiliate marketing” has an estimated search volume of 40,500 visits a month. If you’re in the 1st position and get 31.70% of this traffic, you’ll get 12,838 visits to your web page every month.
At an average CPC of $6.03, you would pay $77,413 per month for 12,838 visits if you were using Google Ads. By ranking organically for this keyword, you’re saving $77,413 a month!
What if you’re only ranking on the 10th or last organic position on the first page of Google? According to Backlinko, you’ll get 3.09% of the traffic. For the keyword “affiliate marketing” that’s 1,251 visits. At an average CPC of $6.03, you’re still saving $7,543 a month.
Here are the main pros and cons of free organic traffic.
The above pros and cons for free organic traffic were written with Google in mind. They are the biggest search engine by far. According to Statcounter, they have a global market share of 91.98%.
However, Google is obviously not the only source of free organic traffic. Other sources such as Bing, YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest can also send you a lot of free organic traffic.
If you’ve read through the pros and cons of paid advertising and organic traffic, you should know our verdict. Yes, you’ve guessed right: Free organic traffic is the way to go!
Paid advertising has its place and can work well in specific cases. However, if you’re new to affiliate marketing, we recommend you focus on getting free organic traffic to start.
As mentioned, there are two main cons of organic traffic compared to paid traffic.
One: It can take time to rank well in Google, especially if you choose highly competitive keywords. You can reduce the time it takes by targeting less competitive keywords.
Once you’ve established your credibility with Google, you’ll find that even new articles can rank well within a matter of days.
Two: Content creation can be tedious. It helps if you create content about topics you know, or are eager to learn more about. The good news is, if you don’t enjoy writing or feel your language skills aren’t good enough, it’s something you can always outsource.
Instead of paying for ads, invest that money in outsourcing your content creation.
Even if you enjoy writing and are good at it, it still makes sense to outsource what you can.
Just like any normal business, you’ll grow your affiliate income a lot faster if you don’t try to do everything yourself. Remember that a great blog article can earn you passive income for many years, in exchange for a one-off investment.
Some top outsourcing sites where you can hire freelancers are:
By now, you’ll have a good idea what affiliate marketing is all about.
We’ve had a look at the advantages, and disadvantages of becoming an affiliate marketer. We’ve also established why you need a blog with good, original content to get free organic traffic from Google.
Here’s the best way to get started as an affiliate marketer:
It’s time to look at the above steps in more detail.
Consider the following factors in your niche selection process:
You need to operate in a niche that’s full of hungry buyers.
You don’t want tire kickers. Your target audience should be willing and able to spend money on what they want. It can be a solution to a problem they have. It can be to satisfy a need or desire. Whatever their motivation, they shouldn’t hesitate to click on your affiliate links or take out their credit card to make a purchase.
It makes a big difference if you’re part of your target audience.
If you’re a part of your target audience, you’ll have a much better understanding of who they are and what they want. The more intimately you know your audience, the better you’ll be able to serve them.
Choose a niche you know and understand, or want to learn more about.
It’s difficult to establish yourself as an authority in a niche if you don’t understand it. If you’re not an expert, you should at least be eager to learn more about it. Promoting an affiliate product you know nothing about is very hard.
Your niche shouldn’t be too broad.
The broader your niche, the more competitors you’ll have, and the bigger the chances that you’ll get lost in the crowd.
For example, we all know weight loss is a huge, popular niche. It’s also extremely competitive. Rather than try to cover the whole niche, rather focus on a sub-niche of weight loss.
Possible sub-niches include:
Make sure you have a large enough audience.
None of the above considerations will help if you don’t have a large enough audience. Building a shopping mall in a one-horse town is not a good idea.
Do your research. Don’t make assumptions.
Selecting a niche market should be based on facts, not assumptions. You need to know you’ve picked a winner.
At BrandBuilders, we’ve spent dozens of hours compiling a list of 1,452 niche ideas. Click here to get your free copy!
Here are the best ways to validate you’ve picked a great niche.
Use Ubersuggest to get an idea of how popular your niche is.
Use a broad keyword that defines your niche, such as weight loss.
Weight loss has a high search volume, so we know there’s strong demand for it. It has a high SEO Difficulty score though.
Let’s look at the sub-niche we mentioned earlier: controlling your weight gain during pregnancy.
If we search for “weight loss pregnancy” and “losing weight during pregnancy” we get the following results:
The search volume drops off a lot, but remains fairly good. Looking at the SEO Difficulty, these keywords don’t have a lot of competition in the organic search results of Google.
Note: Another great keyword research tool to use is Keywords Everywhere. It’s a browser add-on for Chrome and Firefox. The free version will show you “Related Keywords” and “People Also Search For” on your browser. It’s great for getting additional keyword ideas.
Have a look at your competitors.
Can you write better, more comprehensive content?
You need to feel comfortable that, after researching the topic, you’ll be able to produce better, more comprehensive content than the competition.
What affiliate products / programs do they promote?
At least some of your main competitors should promote relevant products and programs. If not, it may be a sign there’s not enough commercial interest in your niche.
If they do promote affiliate programs, make a note of those programs and products for later use.
Before you can get started with WordPress, you first need to take care of the following:
Take care when choosing your domain name. Choose a domain that represents you and can grow with you.
Take a domain name such as RecipesWithRice.com for example. What’s going to happen if you get tired of rice recipes, or start running out of ideas for new recipes?
Here are some tips to help you:
Choose a good domain name registrar such as Namecheap. It will normally not cost you more than $10 to register your domain name with them. Don’t forget to renew it every year.
You need to find a reliable hosting company for your blog that has a great uptime record. They must also be known for providing fast and excellent support when you need it.
If you have any problems linking your domain name to them or installing WordPress, you can ask them to help you.
The first thing people see when they land on your blog is your theme.
You want a theme that creates a great first impression with your audience.
You also want a fast-loading, responsive, mobile-friendly theme that’s easy to customize.
The default WordPress theme for 2020 is called Twenty Twenty. It’s not a bad theme and you’re welcome to use it. But it’s not a great theme either.
That does not mean you can’t use a free theme. There are many excellent free themes that are just as good, and sometimes much better, than paid themes. CodeinWP put together an impressive list of 50+ free themes.
It’s easy to replace the default WordPress theme straight from your WordPress dashboard.
One of the great things about WordPress is that there are so many great plugins to choose from. Many of them are free.
Here are a couple of plugins every serious affiliate marketer should install.
First of all, most affiliate links are long and ugly. You need a plugin to mask these links.
There are a couple of good options to choose from:
ThirstyAffiliates – Instead of using a normal affiliate link, you can have a link that looks like this: http://example.com/recommends/product
Pretty Links – Very popular with most affiliate marketers. You can have a link that looks like this: http://example.com/product
Both of the above plugins have a free version and a paid version. In most cases, the free version will be more than adequate.
Next, you need to know how people find and use your website.
MonsterInsights – A Google Analytics plugin. Makes it easy to track your affiliate links.
Note: You need to add Google Analytics to your website.
Since we want free organic traffic from Google, we need a great SEO plugin.
Yoast SEO – Yoast is the #1 WordPress SEO plugin. An excellent alternative is Rank Math SEO.
There are many other great WordPress plugins you can install. But as an affiliate marketer, you can’t go without the above ones.
Many affiliate marketers will tell you “the money is in the list.” Having a huge database of leads that you can contact at will is a valuable asset.
One of the most common regrets from affiliate marketers is that they didn’t start building an email list sooner.
There are many autoresponder companies on the market. Two of the most important things to look at are ease of use, and deliverability. You don’t want a lot of your emails to end up in a junk email folder.
ActiveCampaign is our first choice. Their pricing starts at $15 a month for up to 500 contacts.
Another option worth considering is ConvertKit. Their pricing starts at $29 a month for up to 1,000 contacts. However, you can sign up for a limited free plan that allows you to manage 500 contacts.
The FTC expects affiliates to disclose there’s a commercial relationship between them and some of the merchants they recommend.
Here’s an example of such a disclaimer:
Disclosure: The pages on this site may contain affiliate links. This means if you click through and make a purchase I will earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. This helps to support the further development of my blog. Thank you!
The question you should ask yourself is why your blog content deserves to rank better than that of your competitors. The answer is simple: You need to provide more comprehensive, higher quality content than your competitors.
In order to get real organic traffic, it’s important to be on the first page of Google. According to Backlinko, only 0.78% of people click on something from the second page.
Many affiliate marketers are not aware of Google’s SEO tips for affiliate marketers.
Here’s a summary of the most important points:
“Unique, relevant content provides value to users and distinguishes your site from other affiliates, making it more likely to rank well in Google search results.”
Google uses over 200 ranking factors in their algorithm. It’s outside the scope of this article to attempt to cover all of them.
Backlinko published what they consider to be Google’s 200 ranking factors. By their own admission, some are proven, some are controversial, and others are pure speculation.
We left this section for last, because there’s no point monetizing your site if it doesn’t get traffic – and in order to get traffic, it should have excellent content.
Many programs require you to have a website, and will actually have a look at it before processing your application. You also don’t want to create the impression with Google that you have a “thin” affiliate website. This may adversely affect your rankings.
Once you’ve published some content and see the traffic starting to build up, it’s time to apply for some programs.
You should already have a list of programs your competitors are promoting. Start with these. Next, run a search on Google to find a product or products you’re target audience will love.
“affiliate program” + “YOUR NICHE”
“affiliate program” + “PRODUCT”
If you have a specific merchant in mind but can’t find a link to their affiliate program on their site, search for:
“affiliate program” + Name of merchant
site:WebsiteOfMerchant.com affiliate program
At BrandBuilders, we’ve compiled a list of 36 affiliate programs that are well worth looking into. It covers various niches and yours might be one of them.
There are also large affiliate marketing networks and platforms you can apply with, such as:
Always read the terms and conditions of any affiliate program before you apply. Make sure you abide by their rules.
In conclusion, by following the recommendations in this article you’ll know the following:
With this knowledge, you can build your affiliate marketing business on a solid foundation.
Now that you know how to become an affiliate marketer, it’s time to take action.
BrandBuilders is eager to assist you in your journey to becoming a super affiliate. Book a free 30 minute consultation with us now to discover how we can help you!