If you are interested in affiliate marketing, you probably have noticed that most marketers use a website to grow their online business. But many people with creative skillsets best suited to other platforms may wonder how to make money with affiliate marketing without a website.
The simple answer is that having a website isn’t absolutely necessary for earning revenue online. It has many advantages, but there are plenty of other ways to utilize your talents with platforms like YouTube and social media.
This article will share our top methods for earning without a site, and delve into the strategic reasons why they may (or may not) make sense for you.
Affiliate Strategy Basics
Before we go too far, we should remind ourselves about how affiliate strategy works.
We need to be able to replicate these with our strategy or risk our efforts falling short.
The Model for Affiliate Strategy
Why is a website so important, exactly? Many would argue it’s because growth always starts the same way: organic search.
Affiliate marketing takes advantage of keyword research tools to identify keywords in less competitive niches so that you can gain authority over time and make people visit your site organically.
Traffic Comes First
The goal in the first 6-8 months of starting an affiliate site is always the same: get more traffic. Here’s why.
1) You will need enough traffic to register for an affiliate program.
2) You will need enough traffic to make sales once you have your affiliate program, and this traffic needs to be users with intent – people who are actually interested in purchasing something.
3) You will need enough traffic to turn one-time visitors into users who return repeatedly because they like your content.
This initial traffic is usually from organic search. Once this is steady, you can start focusing on your next strategy.
Grow Sustainably With Multiple Sources
Although organic traffic is the focus when starting out, you should develop a strategy to have traffic coming to your site from multiple sources later on.
Just like with an investment portfolio, you want to be able to diversify where your money comes from. This protects you from any big changes that can happen to specific sources that you rely on.
Organic search is important for affiliate marketing, but a keyword ranking that takes months to build could disappear overnight.
Google releases search algorithm updates periodically which can send content creators back to the drawing board. Also, savvy competitors can take your hard-earned search results spots out from right under your nose.
A strategic affiliate website has steady traffic from several sources, like social, YouTube, forums, and more.
Become a Site That People Trust
This is one of the parts of affiliate strategy that gets talked about a lot. Everyone wants to have a site where they are seen as a trustworthy authority figure.
However, it can also be the first thing thrown out the window. As soon as money gets involved, affiliate marketers can get greedy.
They put too many affiliate links in their posts, hoping it will lead to increased sales.
They produce generic, keyword-stuffed content because it’s cheaper and they are thinking about writing for Google search results instead of for people.
They post all over the web, trying to get any and all traffic to their site and become the ire of forum moderators everywhere.
It’s easy to spot the things that make someone lose trust in your site. But building trust? That’s a bit harder to nail down.
Building trust is more of a mindset thing. It’s a set of habits that drive results slowly over time, but results in solid benefits for your online business, like a higher Domain Authority, consistent site traffic, and increased sales.
You can build trust in your affiliate site by doing things like:
- Creating helpful, unbiased content in blog and video format
- Interacting with your visitors through comments or email
- Being part of a community through guest posting and linking to other great blogs
Trust also allows you to have greater success when you expand into other content and promotion methods. As an example, people are much more likely to subscribe to the new YouTube channel of a product reviewer who they already like and trust.
The simple truth is, people spend most of their day bombarded with advertisements, and content is being created and promoted at breakneck speeds.
If you can help someone cut through all of this noise and find the information that they need easier, you would be surprised how loyal they can be.
Affiliate Marketing Website Alternatives
Here are some of the most popular ways that people can make money promoting affiliate offers without a website.
YouTube is likely the most common way that people can think of to make money online without a website.
We live in a world where video game streamers, vloggers, and an eight-year-old kid make millions of dollars every year doing what they do best.
Sure, they might build a site to sell merchandise or tour tickets, but the magic really happens on the YouTube platform. Affiliate links can be placed in-video or in the descriptions, making it easy for viewers to click through and make purchases.
There are a few reasons why YouTube makes a great alternative to having an affiliate site:
- YouTube is the largest search engine outside of Google in the world.
- Video content is increasingly seen as being more engaging and results in better recall than other forms of content.
- YouTube doesn’t rely on you having a separate web presence. You can interact with followers and post your affiliate links right within the platform.
- High-ranking YouTube videos occupy awesome SERP placement, often in a carousel at the top of the first page.
Sounds pretty great, right?
The other thing is that YouTube works for basically every niche. You can demo software that you are reviewing, or show off your skills in the kitchen for a particular cooking style.
We can’t think of a niche that doesn’t work for YouTube.
As promising as all this is, YouTube does have its limitations.
For one thing, you will need to build a large audience before you start making substantial affiliate product income. This takes time, decent video equipment, editing skills, and a niche large enough to support a large viewership.
The other issue is something that you’ll see come up with several of the other ways you can do affiliate marketing without a website. And you might not realize how important this issue is until it’s far too late.
This is the issue of ownership.
When you have an affiliate marketing website, you can take steps to ensure that you fully own your site, and you can protect this ownership to safeguard your income. This doesn’t work the same way with YouTube.
YouTube can terminate your channel at any time, for whatever reason they deem necessary. This can be for valid reasons, like spammy or unethical content, or just because someone reported you for no reason.
This means that your affiliate marketing destiny isn’t fully in your control, and this can be a huge problem. If you lose your channel, you can’t just message all your former subscribers and ask them to come back – you will have to reacquire them the same way you did in the first place!
For this reason, affiliate marketing through YouTube is best done in conjunction with a website. That way, you can still have a place to house your content and a method of directing traffic to a new channel if you lose access to one.
Are you still thinking of making YouTube the dominant platform in your affiliate marketing strategy? Try the following strategies to maximize your results:
- Product review, best of, and how-to videos are typically the best-performing formats for YouTube affiliate marketing
- Fill out the “About” section for the video in full so that YouTube has a better chance of showing your video in search. Also, select less competitive keywords to increase your chance of ranking.
- Strong camera work, editing, and concise information go a long way. Remember that people have short attention spans, and they want to get answers to their questions quickly.
Social media is another way you can practice affiliate marketing without a website. But just like most of the other methods on this list, it won’t be easy.
If affiliate earnings rely on traffic, then that means that you will need to have a long list of followers for you to be able to register for an affiliate marketing program. And these followers need to be engaged, as it is relatively easy to purchase large amounts of “fake” followers for social networks like Instagram.
If this wasn’t enough to dissuade you, keep in mind that many social media sites completely ban affiliate marketing. Others that haven’t already could at any time.
This is another example of the problem of ownership that we mentioned when talking about YouTube. Not only do you not “own” your social media profile (they can be taken down or hacked), but the entire model of affiliate marketing on social networks can be compromised at any time.
Regardless, you can still generate affiliate income from social. Here are a couple of pointers to keep in mind.
- If you have a strong enough following, it is common for brands to seek you out for affiliate deals. This is most common within fashion and lifestyle niches on Instagram.
- Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest allow affiliate marketing with some restrictions. Familiarize yourself with the rules of the game, like posting disclaimers on your posts.
- Social media should be primarily about conversation. Keep your links to a minimum and more on interacting with your community.
Online forums can seem like a great place to put your affiliate links.
This is because a lot of people come to online forums with problems that they need to solve. Also, there are countless kinds of forums existing on the internet, every niche probably has some sort of online hub where people who share the interest can share knowledge.
However, there’s one big problem with all this. As affiliate marketing started becoming more popular, a lot of marketers realized this. Forums were flooded with users posting spammy links, and forum moderators were forced to crack down.
Affiliate links are now banned on a lot of popular forums. However, not all of them are a no-fly zone for affiliate marketing. As long as you follow the guidelines for posting, this can be a great way to promote some affiliates.
This is not a good idea.
Quora works best for affiliate marketing if you direct traffic from your answers to your own website, where you have additional information that will answer someone’s question better.
This also only works if you have proven yourself as someone who contributes useful content. Even then, if you use affiliate links too aggressively, you can see your account (or even your IP address) blocked.
Even if you are able to keep your account active, you will probably catch some negative flack from your fellow forum-members and bring in small amounts of affiliate income.
Use Quora to grow your site and help people. We recommend staying away from it as a sales strategy.
Of course, you can always direct traffic from Quora to other non-website channels like YouTube or social media accounts. The same rules apply as always: don’t jam too many links into any part of the process, and ensure that you are building trust by providing useful information.
This method makes it on the list because it gets brought up in a lot of marketing conversations as one of the most effective inbound methods out there.
The Hubspot 2020 State of Marketing Report shows that email is the third most popular channel used for marketing businesses, and it has a high ROI compared to other methods.
So, how can email work for making money affiliate marketing without a website?
First of all, you will need to leverage your following on social, YouTube, or another platform where you have a strong following. Then, you will need to present a value proposition to them – there needs to be some value to them allowing you into their inbox. An opt-in form will capture their email addresses, but you need quality content that adds consistent value if you want to keep them subscribed and opening your emails regularly.
Affiliate Links and Email in Practice
We find that skills and learning-based niches work well for this. Here’s an example:
A direct-response copywriting specialist can use an email list that she built up from a successful YouTube channel. She can now use email to share ideas faster and more frequently, as it is much easier to write an email than to create a video.
She can use affiliate links sparsely in her email copy and drive users to an effective email copywriting tool without needing a website. Most affiliate programs allow this in their terms and conditions.
“Owning” Your Email Strategy
Email marketing takes care of one of the most difficult parts of not having a website: ownership. You own your hard-earned email list.
The only way you can “lose ownership” is if people unsubscribe one by one because they get tired of your content!
Doing Email Right
Here are some more do’s and don’ts of email marketing if you are thinking of using it as an affiliate website substitute.
- Managing a subscriber list takes a lot of upkeep, and writing effective email copy can be a tough skill to learn. Don’t use email if you think it is an easy skill that you can pick up in your spare time.
- Build your subscriber list rather than purchasing one online. This guarantees higher quality traffic and ensures that you are reaching people who actually want your emails.
- Trust is extremely important in email marketing. People are used to having their inboxes overflowing with useless content. Be extremely transparent about using affiliate links, and produce plenty of of link-free emails that have actual value.
Pay Per Click Marketing
Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing sits at the bottom of this list for a reason. It is a difficult method to use for affiliate marketing in general – and this is especially true for affiliate marketing without a website.
Hypothetically, you can set up a Google Ads account and direct traffic to an affiliate offer. This is pretty clunky without a website.
You would need to work out a deal with your affiliate partner where they agree to have you send traffic directly to them, which would probably rely on convincing them that you are a PPC expert.
Not a PPC expert? Be prepared to spend thousands of dollars learning the tricks of the trade.
If you are an expert, you probably know that even niche keywords are much more expensive than they used to be. You also know that you will need to find a high-paying affiliate program with low keywords, and compete against the world to make money off of this form of arbitrage.
We advise against PPC without a website for all but the most seasoned marketers. If you are on the fence, check out people like Charles Ngo who blog extensively about how you can make money with this method.
So far, we have talked about the most popular methods for you to make money without a website. Of course, the online landscape is always changing.
Other methods and strategies gain popularity quickly, and you can find success by being a “first mover” and getting good at them before they become too popular.
Here are some examples:
Medium Affiliate Marketing
Medium is a blogging platform that allows anyone to publish content. The main benefit of Medium is that it is easier to get traction with a well-written piece by achieving strong organic search rankings or having it suggested to users through the platform’s algorithm.
This is a great option for someone who wants to create content quickly and without any fuss. All you need to do is create an account and start writing – no need to worry about using WordPress from scratch.
Medium allows you to use affiliate links, provided that they aren’t CPA (cost per acquisition) links.
If you have experience in journalism, content writing, or copywriting and would rather not worry too much about the other aspects of affiliate marketing, this could be a great option for you.
Ok, we’ll admit it. This isn’t necessarily up-and-coming. But it is an option for the truly website-averse out there.
A landing page is much easier to create than a full website. However, you will also be limited to what you can fit on a single page.
There are a few strategies that you can use to make a landing page that is an effective website substitute.
- Limit your landing page to a specific offer, product, or brand that you are selling.
- Use your landing page as a resource page. List products that you endorse in other channels like YouTube and social in one place so that your followers can refer to it for things they might find interesting.
Drawbacks of Not Building A Site
So far, we have repeated a few key arguments about why we recommend affiliate markets building a website. The most important of these are:
- Ownership: You want to own your content and platform for maximum protection and control over your business.
- Trust: A website used with other tools like email and social is a great way to build loyalty from your readers over time.
- Finding Affiliate Programs: Most affiliate programs are designed with websites in mind. It can be difficult to join many of them if you do not have a site.
We think that these are very compelling reasons to consider.
You should have a very good reason if you are going website-less. For some readers, this could be that you are so good with one of the methods we referred to earlier, that you can make up for the money that you are missing out on by not having a site.
At the end of the day, it comes down to this. You will probably make more money by using a website.
The main exceptions are marketers who are extremely good at YouTube or social media, but even then, you will run into limitations.
Success in Affiliate Marketing Without a Website
We understand why many marketers don’t want to have a site.
Many successful business people will tell you that the most valuable resource you have is your time.
If you know that your jam is writing content or creating how-to videos, you may realize that you want to spend much more time on this than worrying about how to build and maintain a website.
If this is the case, a pre-built website can be a great way for you to go.
Pre-Built Affiliate Websites
The numbers tell an interesting story here. It can cost several thousand dollars and hundreds of hours of your time to build a site before you even sign up for an affiliate program.
We offer sites that start at $1.6k, with full support, training videos, and free niche-related content to get you started.
For a limited time, these sites are starting at $1,395 per site and can be fully functional in under 24 hours.
If this interests you, or you have any other burning questions about making your start as an affiliate marketer, sign up for one of our coaching calls to have your questions answered by one of our in-house experts.
Whether you are building a site, buying a site, or entering the affiliate marketing world with one of your own methods, we hope to see you back on the BrandBuilders blog soon for more articles on how to help you make money online. See you next time!