What Is Affiliate Marketing And How To Start?
The fact that you are reading this post, means that you are probably researching a few options to start an online business. A great option is affiliate marketing, and in this post I am going to answer the question of, what is affiliate marketing and how to start?
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a great business model, that allows you to make commission from promoting other people’s products and services. This is usually done with a website, YouTube channel or through social media.
How Does It Work?
Stage 1: Customer Search
The first thing anyone does these days to find information, is with a search engine. For example Dave wants to buy some mountain bike body armour, because he keeps falling off his bike. But he is unsure what to buy.
Step 2: Your Website
You happen to have a website that has in-depth information about the best mountain bike body armour for sale right now. As the website has the most relevant information for Dave’s search, Google has decided to put it at the top of his search results. In this case www.MTB-Threads.com is at the top of the Google search results.
Step 3: Customer Buys Product
Dave likes the look of one of your suggestions and clicks on the affiliate link to buy the item that suits his needs the most, which takes him to the Chain Reaction online bike store, where he buys it.
Stage 4: You Make Money
The affiliate link tracks that the sale has come through your website and awards you with a percentage of the sales price. Depending on the affiliate program you have joined, you can earn 1 – 75% of the sales price.
Why You Should Start An Affiliate Marketing Business
I did a huge amount of research in to various online businesses I could start. There were a few potential options that I liked the look of, but affiliate marketing ticked a lot of boxes for me.
There are a few things that appealed to me about starting an affiliate marketing business.
You Can Do It Anywhere
As long as you have a computer and an internet connection, you can work from anywhere. There are more people starting online businesses these days, as there are less restrictions on location. Laptops, mobile phones, tablets and the fact that it is easy to find high speed internet connections give you flexibility to travel or simply move anywhere you want to.
Personally, I live in the French alps and work from my apartment in a ski resort. Not that I have any plans to move, but my business is 100% mobile and if we did leave, there should be no change in how it works.
You Can Do It At Any Time
You have to be carful about this one. Just because you are not working for someone else, it doesn’t mean you can slack off. As long as you are being productive (and you are realistic about how productive you are), you can choose your working hours. This was one of the main things that appealed to me about starting my own business. I am passionate about the outdoors, especially snowboarding and mountain biking. The fact that I can choose when I work, I can enjoy the best days on the mountain. When the weather is good, I go on the mountain for a couple of hours in the morning to get my snow fix and work later in the evening to ensure I get my work done.
The key to getting this right is to be organised. There are of course, times when I have to say no to the mountain, to ensure I get my list of jobs done for the week. But for me, it is all about balance.
To be honest, I work more now than when I had a full time job. This is because I work late nights, but this is my own choice, so I can enjoy the my life in the best way I can.
Great Earning Potential
The infographic above shows what you would earn by selling a product or service that would earn you $30 of commission per day. This is an entirely realistic prospect, especially when you thing about the possible products you can promote. For example, TVs, computers, bikes, stereos, fridges, mobile phones or even holidays.
It is not just how much you can earn, but when you earn it. The fact that you will have created content that is just sitting there on the internet, it can earn you money 24 hours per day. This is because your market spans the world meaning you can expect to wake up in the morning to have made sales overnight. Additionally, if you create the right content using the right keywords, it can earn you money for moths or even years after you have created it.
The Elements of Starting An Affiliate Marketing Business
Now you know how it works and have a few good reasons to start an affiliate marketing business, I am now going to tell you what it entails.
Step 1 - Choose Your Niche
To ensure that you can earn money from an affiliate marketing website, you need to choose a niche carefully. It is very easy to come up with a niche that you like the idea of or you think it will make you money. Unfortunately, choosing a niche is more complicated than just picking one out of the air.
Not all niches are equal in the way it can earn you money. A niche is a group of people that have a similar interest. And by creating a website with a niche, you will attract an audience. This is because they are looking for information on the topics related to that niche.
A niche should be focussed to a narrow audience. It is really tempting to choose a niche that you think will appeal to a wide range of people. But, this is not advisable as it gives you a few problems (I know about this from first hand experience).
- Broad niches need more effort putting on to them to create a huge amount of content.
- You don’t appeal to a specific audience, so it won’t be relevant to the majority of your potential audience.
- Broad niches have a huge amount of competition, making it very difficult to get your content to rank highly on search engines.
Other than being focussed, your niche needs to have the following characteristics:
- Enough of a following to ensure that you have a big enough audience to make money from.
- Your niche needs to be relevant. By this I mean that it needs to not go out of fashion. You don’t want to waste your time on something that nobody is looking for.
- Low competition is very important. The more competition there is, the more work you will need to do to rank above your rivals.
- You need to have a passion about your niche, or at least a strong interest in it. If you don’t, you are going to get bored really quickly. This means that the quality of your content will suffer. Above, you want to actually enjoy what you are doing in life, so you may as well do something fun.
Step 2 - Build A Website
The next step is to build a website. Your website will contain all of the information that people within your niche are looking for. The thought of building a website is daunting to some, but it is actually really easy and only takes a few minutes. There are a few elements of actually building a website:
- Choose a platform – Most affiliate marketers use WordPress for their websites. It was originally designed for bloggers so they could build websites without having to learn code. I use it for all of my websites, as there are loads of plugins that make it really easy to give your website certain functions and features
- Choose a domain name – Your domain name needs some thought going in to it. Some people use their name, but what ever you choose, you need to make sure it is brandable. Also, it needs to leave room for expansion when you get to a point when you can build out your website. One of the most important things is to choose a .com website. It shows your audience that you are serious about what you are doing more than a .org or .biz for example
- Register your domain – You need to choose a domain registrar. This issue you can claim the domain name you have chosen as yours.
- Choose a host – You need to host your website and there are lots of host to choose from. It is tempting to go for the cheapest one. But, cheap hosts tend to be unreliable and slow. All my websites are hosted at Wealthy Affiliate, however, I also recommend Blue Host
If this all sounds a bit awkward, stick with me because I have a much easier way to do this.
Step 3 - Create Quality Content
Your content has to fulfil two objectives. It has to help your audience with whatever problem they may have, but it also has to be found by your audience. By creating your content in a certain way, it will rank highly in people’s searches. This means that more people will find it, which will earn you money.
The words and phrases that people type in to search engines are known as keywords. If you base your content around these keywords, you will provide your audience with the information that they require. The most relevant content based around a particular search term, will rank at the top of the search results. Therefore, you need to make sure that you do some proper keyword research. This doesn’t need to take too long, but it can provide you with lots of ideas for content that will last you for months.
The creation of quality content is one of many SEO (search engine optimisation) techniques. These techniques are what indicates to search engines what your content is about.
When it comes to creating content in order for it to appeal to your audience, you need to do it in a certain way.
- Buyer’s guides – many people search the internet looking for information on a product or service. You can fill them in on all the information and then give them some recommendations that incorporate all of the best features.
- Comparisons – Some people may be trying to decide between two different products to buy. Comparisons outline the advantages and disadvantages of products and give your personal opinion as an authority in the niche.
- Product reviews – If you have knowledge about a product (or know what to look for), you can write a review about it. This is a good one, as people that search for a review on a certain product are already thinking about buying it. If it is something that you wouldn’t recommend, you can suggest an alternative.
- Best of posts – These are great for attracting people to your website. Posts like ” best gifts for….” and the best beginner…..” are commonly searched for and can give you lots of opportunity to convert sales
Step 4 - Join Affiliate Programs
In order to monetise your website, you need to join affiliate programs. These programs are where you get your affiliate links. Affiliate links are what track your sales in order to get paid.
Affiliate programs for products and services in you niche are easy to find. You will be able to find them with a simple Google search. If you can buy something on the internet, you stand a very good chance of finding an affiliate program for it.
To drop affiliate links in to your content, such as reviews or guides is really easy too. It is just a case of copying and pasting the link for the product. Each affiliate link is unique to you and the product. The affiliate program will pay you automatically once you have reached the payment threshold.
An example of an affiliate program that may be of use to you is Amazon Associates. This allows you to make commissions from anything that is for sale on Amazon.
While I am talking about affiliate links, it is worth mentioning cookies. As an affiliate marketer, cookies are your best friends. This is because when someone that clicks on one of your affiliate links, the information is stored on the users computer, giving you more opportunity to earn money. Depending on the affiliate program, you get a certain amount of time to still earn commission. If the user goes back to the website within that time frame and buys somthing, you still get rewarded for diverting the traffic. For Amazon, you get 24 hours of cookies. This means that if the user goes back and buys a TV online, you get the commission for it, even if they were looking a saucepans!
I recommend that you join an affiliate network. Affiliate networks allow manage multiple affiliate programs from one place. Therefore, you have one place to log in to, meaning that you don’t have to keep signing in to lots of different programs for each product you are promoting. Also, you get a large lump sum of cash from one place, rather than lots of little ones from many. This is beneficial, as you may not reach the payment threshold of lower value affiliate programs very often.
What To Expect From Affiliate Marketing
When you have an affiliate marketing business you will have to do certain things to make it work. I want to give you a full picture of what you should expect from working in this industry.
You Won't Get Rich Over Night
This is a biggie. Don’t think that affiliate marketing is a get rich quick scheme. It takes months before you make a penny. However, by sticking to it and following the correct techniques you can make some serious money, as I said earlier.
There are a few reasons why it takes so long to make money from an affiliate marketing website.
- The learning curve – The techniques are not particularly complicated, but you will need to learn things like SEO techniques and how to create content properly.
- Google Sandbox – When a new website is created Google puts it in what it calls its “sandbox”. This is where it sits until it has proved that it is a good source of information. After about four months, it will be released out of the sandbox, making it easier for content to rank highly.
- It takes time to create quality content – In the early days, it will take you a while to create content. You will get quicker at it, when you learn about organising yourself better and pick up a few hacks. But, it takes time to research what you are writing about and to get it typed up.
- Mistakes – There will be many, and the problem is, that you won’t find mistakes until months after you have made them. You will also learn new stuff and realise that there are certain techniques that you haven’t used.
It can be soul destroying when you have worked your arse off and not made a penny. But, this is part of the process and it is frustrating. You will be rewarded for your efforts with persistence.
Create Quality Content Regularly
One of the things you need to do, is to work on your website everyday. By producing lots of quality content, you stand more chance of getting it to the top of search engines and in front of your audience. Search engines reward websites with good rankings if they are seen to be active, alive and well.
You can speed things up a bit by learning how to do it properly in the first place. There are lots of resources on the internet that will help you, but the chances are you will be finding them in different places. The problem with this, is that you can easily miss out important stages of the process. You can also fall foul to internet “gurus”.
The platform I discovered was Wealthy Affiliate. I am now going to go in to what Wealthy Affiliate is and why I chose it to learn about my new business venture.
What Is Wealthy Affiliate?
A Comprehensive Training Resource
Wealthy Affiliate has a a number of different ways to learn about affiliate marketing. The main course is the Online Entrepreneur course. This takes you through all the steps from knowing nothing about it, to having all the skills to build a successful business.
Each lesson has a number of tasks that you need to perform before you move on to the next one. This means that you do not miss any important steps out.
There is also weekly live training sessions. These provide loads of up to date tricks and techniques that allow you to give your business the extra boost it needs.
When you are a member of Wealthy Affiliate, you become part of a community. You can contribute as much or as little as you like, but the community is a excellent source of information. The more experienced members create their own lessons. These consist of all the tricks they have learned over time. The lessons can same you lots of time and fig you out of any hole you find yourself in.
I mentioned earlier about building a website. Well, Wealthy Affiliate makes it even easier. It has its own website builder that gives you a website in less than a minute. It already comes loaded up with WordPress, so you can get going straight away.
To make life even easier, Wealthy Affiliate has its own web hosting. It is fast, reliable and secure with SLL certificates. This means that you don’t need to hunt around for quality hosting and you only have one log in for everything you need.
Along with the website builder, you have access to an excellent Jaaxy keyword research tool. This is very powerful and is a great way to build a list of strong keywords to base your content around.
Jaaxy has many different functions and features that help you track keywords and monitor your competition.
If you are concerned that your technical knowledge will let you down in the event of an issue, don’t worry. The Technical support at Wealthy Affiliate is excellent. If you have a question or a problem, you will get a very fast response or a solution. Issues are resolved within minutes, which is a huge relief when something has gone wrong.
In addition to the technical support, you are assigned a coach. These coaches are really helpful and are available to bounce question off and even check out your website to give you any hints or tips in order to improve it.
The community is also a great place to get answers. There are a number of ways of posing questions to the community. You will get answers very quickly, as there are lots of enthusiastic people happy to help.
Why Did I Sign Up?
While I was looking in to options for my online business, I wanted as much information about it as possible. It looked as though affiliate marketing ticked a a lot of boxes for me, but I wanted to know more. Many of the “gurus” I mentioned earlier didn’t give me enough information before handing money over. I wanted to know what the whole thing entailed, what I needed to do and if I actually wanted to do it. But, it was looking like I needed to spend money before I could get any of this information.
However, I stumbled upon Wealthy Affiliate and they have a free membership. This was the perfect next step in my research, because it gives you two free websites to play with and the first ten lessons of the Online Entrepreneur course.
By signing up to the free membership, I got to see what affiliate marketing was all about first hand. By following the training ,building a website and cresting content, I was able to see what I needed to do as an affiliate marketer.
The free membership is quite limited, but all you need is an email address to sign up to it. Once you have gone through the fist few lessons, you will know if you want to continue, walk away or sign up to the premium membership.
What Is Affiliate Marketing And How To Start? - Answered!
Now you have a good idea of what affiliate marketing is, what it entails, where to learn about it and how to start your own business.
I hope this post has been helpful to you. If you are serious about starting your own business, I really recommend that you check out Wealthy Affiliate to take you through all the necessary steps.