How To Get In To Affiliate Marketing
There is a good chance that you are where I was a few years ago, looking at different ways to make money online and you have come across affiliate marketing and want to learn more about it. In this post, I am going to tell you how to get in to affiliate marketing. I will give you the reasons why it is a great business model, but I will also tell you all the things you need to consider before starting your own affiliate marketing business. I have been an affiliate marketer for a while now and you will get honest information straight from the horse’s mouth. So, make yourself a coffee, sit back and learn the truth.
In the spirit of giving you the full picture, I want to start at the beginning to make sure you know exactly what it is you are getting into.
Affiliate marketing is the process of selling other people’s products and services in exchange for a commission for every sale you generate.
The proper way to do this is by creating content that helps people with their problems. When I say problems, the potential customer could be stuck trying to decide which TV to buy, or they may be looking for a product that will help them get fit in their own home.
How Affiliate Marketing Works
I am going to make it super simple to understand affiliate marketing, by using an example.
- Anna wants to track her fitness when riding her road bike. She goes online and searches Google for “best fitness tracker for cycling”.
- In the search results, she gets several reviews and buyer’s guides, including one that you have written. Your buyer’s guide catches her eye, so she clicks on it.
- Your buyer’s guide includes some recommendations, and you highlight the features of each. One particular fitness tracker appeals to her and she decides to buy one on your recommendation.
- She clicks on the affiliate link for the fitness tracker she wants in your guide. This link takes her through to the online store where she can buy one.
- When she buys the fitness tracker, the affiliate link tracks the purchase and you get a percentage of the sales price.
As you can see it is a very simple business model that is beneficial to everyone involved. The customer gets quality information about the products that they want and the marketer gets rewarded. Check out my post on the pros and cons of affiliate marketing, to see how it benefits you, as the marketer. In addition to this, the seller is only paying out for marketing when it works, as it is targeted (I will go in to how it is targeted shortly).
Starting An Affiliate Marketing Business
I will now go through all the steps you need to take to start and build your own affiliate marketing business.
Step 1 - Choose A Niche
I know from experience that if you get this first step wrong, you will be wasting all of your time going forward. A niche is a group of people with a common interest that you need to target your efforts on. A niche could be a hobby, past-time, sport or an aspect of life.
The problem with niches, is that not all of them are profitable, therefore, you need to make sure that your niche has the right characteristics. I go in to details in my post how to find an affiliate marketing niche, but in summary your niche need to:
- Be popular enough to make enough money from
- Not have too much competition
- Be relevant and not go out of fashion
- Not be seasonal, so you can make money all year round
- Be something you are interested in
- Focussed rather than broad
All of these characteristics are important, but I would like to put emphasis on the last two. If you choose a niche that you think will make money, even though you are not interested in it, you won’t put enough effort in to it. This is because you will get bored of it and the quality of your content will be poor.
You may think that a brand niche is a great way to capture the attention of more people. Unfortunately, this is not the case. By choosing a broad niche, you will have to work extremely hard to reach these people, as you will have huge amount of competition. It is best to choose a narrow niche, as you will reach. smaller group of people, but they will be able to relate to your content more and will be more likely to buy something that you are promoting.
Step 2 - Choose A Domain Name
If you have an idea of what niche you want to work in, you will probably have some ideas for domain names. But, before you go out and buy a domain name, you need to make sure that you have given it some careful consideration. I go in to more detail in my post, how to choose a domain name for your business, but here are the things you domain name needs:
- It needs to not be in use
- Keep it short
- Make sure it is easy to type and say
- Avoid hyphens
- Avoid numbers
- Make sure it is a .com (rather than a .org or .biz etc)
- Include niche keywords
- In deeds to be relevant to your brand
- It should not restrict you in the future if you want expand into other products
Choosing a domain name is more difficult than you think. When you think you have a good domain name, there is a good chance someone will already be using it. But, if you take your time and really think about it, you will come up with a great one.
Step 3 - Choose Website Host
There are some great website hosts that also act as domain name registrars. This makes life a bit easier, as you can buy a domain and host it all at the same time. The thing with website hosts, is that not all of them are reliable or fast. Reliability and speed are very important, because if your website goes down, it can’t earn you money. If your host is slow, your search engine rankings will be negatively affected. This is why you shouldn’t go for the cheapest website host that you find. I will give you a great option later for keeping everything all in one place. But, for now I recommend Bluehost as a reasonably priced host that is both reliable and fast.
Step 3 - Build Your Website
Good web hosts will make it very easy for you to build a website. Most affiliate websites use the WordPress platform. WordPress allows youth create and manage websites without needing to learn how to code. You determine how it looks with downloadable themes and you give it its functions with plugins. This is all very easy to do, but I recommend that you do some research on the theme that you intend to use before downloading it. This is because your them needs to be “responsive”. This means that it works well on mobile devices and loads up quickly.
Step 4 - Create Great Content
Once you have a WordPress website set up with a responsive theme and a few plugins, it is time to fill it with information.
Before you start typing away, you need to make sure that your content is going to reach your intended audience. This is not done by paying for Facebook and Google adverts. Large companies with big marketing budgets will do this, but the best way to make sure your content is targeted using keywords.
Keywords are what people type in to search engines when they are looking for information. So if you base your content around these keywords and you do it properly, people will find it organically. Therefore, it is essential to do some proper keyword research to know what to base your content on. Check out my guide on how to do keyword research for content marketing for all the techniques. Keyword research may not sound particularly interesting, but spending an hour doing it will give you a list of content to create that will last you months before needing to do it again.
Once you have a list of keywords, you need to get writing. Your content needs to be as helpful as possible. The more helpful it is, the more it is considered as a good source of information by search engines and by your readers. This will lead to better rankings and more money.
To help search engines determine how relevant your content is to the keyword, you need to create your content in a certain way, using SEO techniques. SEO stands for search engine optimisation, and this is the best way to improve your rankings. Have a look at my SEO website checklist for details on how to make your content SEO friendly.
What Is It Like Running Your Own Affiliate Marketing Business?
I will go in to my recommended method of how to get in to affiliate marketing shortly. But, in the spirit of giving you the full picture, I want to tell you what it is like to run your own affiliate marketing business.
Expect To Learn A Lot
The elements of affiliate marketing are not particularly complex, but there are quite a few things to learn. By combining things like SEO techniques, writing techniques, website design and using WordPress, you will be able to create a website that looks great and performs well. There are other things away from your website that will help you increase the effectiveness of your website. For example, creating infographics, using social media and using other online tools that make your life easier.
Don't Expect To Get Rich Quickly
Most people that fail at affiliate marketing, are the ones that give in too soon. Don’t expect to make any money for a few months and don’t expect to make any significant sums of money in your first or even second year. Affiliate marketing is a slow burner, the work you put in today will pay off much later. There are a few reasons why affiliate marketing takes so long to become profitable:
- The learning curve – You will learn as you go. I look back at some of my old content and cringe at it. But, that was before I learned certain techniques and realised that my writing needed some work (it still does).
- Mistakes – Mistakes will be made. I have made some bad ones due to inexperience. Often these mistakes won’t become apparent for months, and they can negatively affect your rankings. But, once you have found a mistake, learn from it and don’t do it again. Learn to take these mistakes on the chin and move on.
- Creating content takes time – You get faster at writing content, but creating great content takes time. I am often guilty of taking my time when writing and it is a habit I need to break out of. Sometimes getting the job done is better than it being perfect.
- Google algorithms – When a new website appears on the internet, Google puts it in what is known as the sandbox. This is where it will sit until it has proven to be a good source of information for about four months. The sandbox makes it more difficult for websites to rank highly. By creating quality content regularly, you will prove to Google that your website is full of good information that people will want to see. Once out of the sandbox, your content can rank at the top within a few minutes.
When you have been slogging away, creating content for a few months and don’t see much traffic, let alone money, you need to keep these things in mind. It can be soul destroying to not see anything for your hard work, but it will come with persistence.
Prepare To Work Hard
I mentioned above that Google favours websites that are full of quality information. The only way you are going to do this, is to churn out lots of content. Ideally, your should post something everyday. This consistency, shows search engines that your website is active and that you are putting in the effort to inform their users.
In addition to this, once you start to get a following, your regular readers will appreciate consistent updates. This means that they will keep coming back, which is something else that search engines look for when determining rankings.
Expect The Unexpected
We all know the world is an unpredictable place, and this can effect your affiliate marketing efforts. There will be things out of your control that you have to deal with or suck up. For example, one of my websites was building a nice customer base and gaining lots of traffic, then overnight the amount of traffic dropped by two thirds. It continued to plummet, even though I had not changed a thing, other than posting regular content. I have some website expert friends that specialise in SEO and they could not figure out why it had dropped off a cliff.
After a lot of conversations with my website host’s tech support, it was suggested that I should change the WordPress theme. Which I did and the traffic was still falling a couple of weeks later. Without any answers, I was ready to give up on it, but I thought I would change the theme to the one I am using on this website. Within two days, my traffic started rising again. It hasn’t got to where it used to be yet, but it is on its way back up.
Expect To Wake Up To Money
You will be surprised how exciting it is to make your first sale. My first sale was for about £1.75 for a pair of waterproof socks, but it showed me that I was doing something right. When your website starts to get in front of more people and you start making good sales, it spurs you on to get more content out there.
Finding out that you have earned money from the content you created a few weeks or months ago while you is a great feeling. This is especially the case when someone has bought something from the other side of the world while you were sleeping. This passive income is one of the ways that makes affiliate marketing so rewarding…eventually.
Expect To Get Obsessed With Your Stats
As your website gets more popular, you will fall down a rabbit hole of checking your Google Analytics too much. It is interesting to see that there is a guy in Peru reading one of your buyer’s guides, while someone in Germany is reading one of your reviews. However, this is a habit you need to get out of. I got obsessed with it and became another way of procrastination.
Check your analytics once a week. It is very useful to know what is going on and what is popular on your website, but you can’t do anything in realtime, so you need to learn to leave it alone.
Expect To Choose Your Working Hours
I have mentioned that you have to work hard and be consistent with your work. But the great thing about affiliate marketing, is that you can do it at any time. The nature of affiliate marketing means that you don’t have ‘opening hours’. This means you can fit your work around your life, rather than the other way round. For example, in my case I live in the French Alps so I can go snowboarding and mountain biking when the weather conditions are good. I can get a couple of hours on the mountain in the morning and get a load of work done in the afternoon and at night.
But you don’t have to be an outdoor enthusiast. to benefit from this flexibility. People with other commitments can take advantage of choosing their working hours, such as parents or those with full-time jobs. I worked on my business in my spare time after work before working from home full-time.
Being able to choose your working hours is great, but it is not an excuse to not work. You still need to be productive enough to give your website the attention it needs and deserves.
Create Multiple Income Streams
In the early days, stick to one website. Once you get to a point where it is making money for you, you can diversify and build more affiliate marketing websites or try something different. This gives you financial security, as you have more than one way of earning money.
This is security is something you don’t get with full-time employment. Anything could happen to the company you work for, cutting off the only way you earn money. With an online business, you can divert your efforts to the areas that need the most attention, while earning money from work you have already done.
My Recommended Method Of How To Get In To Affiliate Marketing
After reading all that and you think that you want to know more, keep reading.
When I was trying to decide what online business I wanted to start, I wanted as much information about each possibility as possible. Affiliate marketing really appealed to me, so I started doing a lot of research to find out the best way of learning about it, here is what I found:
You Can Trawl The Internet
I started looking for information online. The good thing about this is that you can get the perspective of different affiliate marketers. They will give you information, much like I am now that is pretty useful. However, there is so much information out there, that you can get paralysis by analysis. Conflicting information can prevent you from starting, as you will struggle to decide on a starting point.
The other issue with trawling the internet for information on affiliate marketing is that you won’t have any structure, which can lead you to miss out on essential information and steps.
You Can Pay A Guru
While you are looking for information on affiliate marketing, you will come across gurus, selling their courses or ebooks on affiliate marketing, which is fine. I am sure that there are some legitimate gurus out there, but I find it difficult to trust them.
If someone is selling their ebook or course with the secret to earning money with affiliate marketing in just a few days, they are scammers. Affiliate marketing is a marathon, not a sprint. It is impossible to make money quickly by affiliate marketing, especially for beginners.
The problem with these ebooks and courses is that you don’t know what you are getting until you have given the guru your money. Some are cheap and some are overpriced, so it is difficult to determine if they are any good.
If you take this route, I recommend that you do lots of research on the guru you are considering using before spending any money.
Wealthy Affiliate is what I used (and still use) to get started in affiliate marketing. Their non-pushy approach was a refreshing change from the online gurus. But what attracted me, was their Free Membership. This allowed me to get first-hand experience with what I had to do if I were to become an affiliate marketer.
What Is Wealthy Affiliate
Wealthy Affiliate is a platform that has everything an affiliate marketer needs to get started, build and scale up their business. It is a one-stop-shop for affiliate marketers. I go in to all the details in my post Does Wealthy Affiliate Really work, but I will summarise it here.
The training at Wealthy Affiliate takes you from knowing nothing about affiliate marketing to being an expert. The courses are really easy to follow and at the end of each lesson, there are several tasks to complete before moving on to the next one. This way you can be sure that you are doing everything in the right order and not missing out on essential steps. Each week there is live training to keep you up to date and to give you lots of tips on how you can improve your websites.
The Free Membership gives you the first ten lessons of the Online Entrepreneur Certification. By the end of these lessons, you will have a fully functional website that you can earn money from.
Wealthy Affiliate has several business tools that are essential and ones that make life much easier. Their website builder will give you a hosted website, preloaded with WordPress within a couple of minutes. Other tools, include the Jaaxy keyword research tool, a content creator, a way to find affiliate programs and a domain registrar.
The Free Membership gives you two free hosted websites to build. This means you can get started straight away without spending any money at all.
The Help Centre at Wealthy Affiliate is truly excellent. It has dug me out of a few holes in my time. This is a huge bonus for people that are not particularly tech savvy, as you will get a response from the Help Centre on any subject very quickly.
A Community Of Experienced Affiliate Marketers
As a Wealthy Affiliate member, you have access to the community. This is a very valuable resource for information, as you can pose your questions to a huge group of likeminded people. The community is a way to answers to your questions even quicker.
With the Free Membership, you have unlimited access to the community for seven days. This allows you to grill people for answers. If you decide to sign up for the Free Membership, you can go through this link, and add me as your first contact.
Why Is Wealthy Affiliate The Best Way To Get In To Affiliate Marketing?
As I was saying before, I wanted to get first-hand experience of affiliate marketing before I committed any money to it. It was important to me to get a good idea of what I needed to do and if I was going to enjoy it. The Wealthy Affiliate Free Membership gave me the insight I wanted risk free.
The fact that it is free gave me some options:
- Forget about it and walk away – If I thought that the platform or affiliate marketing was not for me, had lost nothing with the Free Membership, as all you need is an email address.
- Stay with the Free Membership – I think you could earn money from the Free Membership, but I wouldn’t expect to build a very successful business from it. This is because it is a bit limited, but it is enough to get you started.
- Go Premium – The Premium Membership is for those that want to take their business seriously, as it gives you unlimited access to all the tools to build a truly successful website.
After signing up for the Free Membership and spending some time with it, you will soon realise what choice you want to make. I highlight all the elements of the Free Membership in my post What is The Wealthy Affiliate Free Membership About?