- What is Affiliate Marketing?
- Why Affiliate Marketing?
- How to Start Affiliate Marketing with Little Investment
- How to Know What Affiliate Program to Join
- What Becoming a Partner Can Really Mean
- What Most Affiliate Marketers Do
- What Advanced Affiliate Marketers Do
- Why You Need to Brand Yourself
- Affiliate Marketing with PPC
- Maximizing Your Marketing Campaigns
- Importance of Learning Copywriting
- Dominate Affiliate Marketing with Bonuses
- High-Ticket Affiliate Programs (Top-Tier)
- Affiliate Marketing vs. Creating Your Own Products
If you’ve been doing affiliate marketing for some time, or even if you’re a newbie read this ultimate guide to affiliate marketing all the way through. I’ve put months of research into this guide and want it to be an all-inclusive resource for all affiliate marketers.
What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a relationship between three individuals: the advertiser, publisher and consumer.
The advertiser is usually the one who owns the product or service being sold. The publisher is the person actually promoting and bringing in sales for the advertiser. The consumer is the person who is completing the transaction of paying for the product or service.
Similar to referral marketing, affiliate marketing involves a third-party. Instead of the advertiser selling directly to the consumer, there’s a third party who’s the publisher. The way affiliate marketing is different from referral marketing is that it’s commission-based.
“In 2011 alone, Commission Junction tracked a total of over 3 billion website visits, 175 million transactions and over $6 billion in online sales.”
Basically affiliate marketing is this. Let’s say you create a product and, then you get affiliates to promote it. For each sale an affiliate sends you, they make a commission.
It’s a fairly easy marketing model. The advertiser is the one willing to pay someone (the publisher) to promote their product or service.
When something is rather easy to do, especially in our era, why not make software do it? Well whoever thinks like that about affiliate marketing is totally missing the point.
There’s just so much spam created on a daily basis around affiliate marketing. These are people using automated targeting software to generate thousands of posts on a daily basis to get a cut of the pie.
“According to eMarketer’s latest forecasts, worldwide business-to-consumer (B2C) ecommerce sales will increase by 20.1% this year  to reach $1.672 trillion. By 2019, it will more than double to $3.551 trillion.”
I’m writing this guide to create a resource for people that want to start affiliate marketing the right way: building relationships. It will also serve more advanced marketers as a way to polish their skills and crush 2016.
Why Another Affiliate Marketing Guide?
Because a lot of the information I’ve found online is either too broad and does not provide actionable information. More importantly, it does not speak to the main reason one becomes an affiliate marketer: Your Why. I talk about this in the next section.
Most guides don’t show you how to do it right and profit from the beginning. I’ve found very little information online about this.
The majority of affiliate marketing training programs just paint pretty pictures and try to get you to imagine yourself on the beach with your laptop. They say it’s easy and anyone can do it. They also say it won’t take as much hard work and you just need to work smarter.
If this were all true, wouldn’t everyone be wildly successful with affiliate marketing? Of course they would but, the truth is they’re not. This is because successful affiliate marketing takes a lot of hard work.
This guide will have a focus on building relationships and how important this is for online marketing success in a general sense. I’m assuming that you’re the publisher looking to make money online with affiliate marketing.
Advertiser (left) and Publisher (right)
Why Affiliate Marketing?
Too many people want to start out with affiliate marketing because they see the success others have. Does seeing a doctor pull up in a Ferrari make you want to become a doctor? It’s fine if it inspires you but this should never be the reason to become a doctor.
You’d want to be a doctor so you can help people get and stay healthy. The Ferrari might come with the lifestyle but there are no guarantees, especially with the average annual income of a doctor in the United States being around $160-200K. If you factor in living expenses and an average family you should have a Ferrari (if you plan correctly) in about 10 years.
So you graduate high school, go to university and then medical school. By the time you become a doctor you’re very close to your thirties. Which means at 40 you should have a Ferrari if you plan financially. So you now have your Ferrari, now what?
Do you really want to be an affiliate marketer? Why?
The answer can’t be because you want to make a lot of money. Believe me, once you start out with affiliate marketing you’ll realize that it can take up to several years to see good money coming in.
Most people give up after just a few months with no results. Of course we need money to survive in this world so, you can’t do something full-time that pays you zero money.
Let’s say you recently graduated high school and are considering university but one day you come across a “make money online” opportunity with affiliate marketing. The only thing is you have to pay a few thousand dollars “only” to start. The truth is you don’t but I’ll talk more about that later.
So you decide to give-up on school and pursue your dreams of becoming an online success. This is a personal decision that a lot of people have made but very few have succeeded.
The truth is, it’s not easy to make money online and don’t believe it if someone tells you it is. If you’re willing to put in the hard work then you’ll succeed but it will take some time.
Overnight Success? How’s that Piano Class?
When learning how to play an instrument for example, can you really learn how to play the piano overnight? The answer is no. The same with anything that is closely related with success. It takes perseverance and consistent effort.
What I do recommend is that you keep a part-time job at least when starting out because you won’t make a full-time living right away. If you were planning on going to school like in the example above, then at least go part-time instead of not going at all.
Unless you’re going to totally live off of your parents for a while then I wouldn’t recommend going “all-in”. It’s not for everyone.
But, only when there are real consequences do people take real action. If you have to something to fallback on in your mind then you won’t put forth the effort needed to succeed online.
A Short Story About Creating Consequences
Create consequences for yourself. I learned this idea from Matt Lloyd, Founder of MOBE.
He gives the example of having trouble waking up early in the morning. A lot of people have trouble it with it, including himself. He says what consequences can he create to make sure he’ll wake up early?
One way for example, is he could make a bet with someone to meet up every morning at 7AM to go running. If he doesn’t show up or he’s late he has to pay that person $20. That might work but he says not for him. He knows he’ll need more then that because he’ll probably still sleep in.
So he goes on to say what if someone put a gun to his head every morning to wake him up, he would sure wake up. But, let’s not go that far or that extreme he says.
“How about if I install a sprinkler system in my room that goes off if I don’t get up and leave the room before 7AM. Would that work? Probably.”
So you get the idea. Sometimes we have to create these consequences for ourselves to make sure we get things done.
A way of doing this could be posting on social media that you’re going to do something like write your first book by next month or post a video everyday.
You would ask your following to hold you accountable. Every time they see that you’re not reaching your goal they would call you out. Believe me this works.
Tweet: We as human beings can be lazy and if we don’t create a situation where success is the only way out, we may never reach that goal.
So once you’ve figured out your why be sure it’s something you’re passionate about. Create or setup consequences for your self, enough to ensure a consistent path towards to success.
Now all you have to do start! “But, I don’t have any money”, you say? You can setup a blog for just a few dollars per year and get started today.
Further Resource: See a MOBE case study: Raena Lynn
Advertiser (left), Publisher (middle) and Consumer (right).
How to Start Affiliate Marketing with Little Investment
Get affordable WordPress hosting with a free domain and most importantly, tap into your self-awareness. Identify your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your strengths. This is easier said then done. If you have no idea what these are then start by doing a few things of interest.
A blog is one of the best ways to start with affiliate marketing. When you publish a blog post, it lasts forever. Many of the top bloggers will tell you that they still make money from posts they published several years ago, with no extra effort.
Start in a smaller niche then expand out strategically. For example, instead of starting another architecture blog get more niched and start an ecological architecture blog. Then later you can expand and add in bigger topics. In this example, you can always write about architecture in a general sense as well.
Focusing on smaller niches will result in faster growth. This technique is a growth hack so you can build an audience quickly and become an authority.
The reason you’ll become an authority quick is because no one else is really writing in that niche. If you do your due diligence, research, gather data, interviews and write a lot quality content then you’ll be viewed as the (only) authority in that niche.
“The riches are in the niches.” – Pat Flynn
Instead of choosing a lot of niches and seeing which one works better choose only one to start.
Stick with this one until you’ve reached results that you’re satisfied with. Which might mean anywhere from six months to two years or even more. If you focus on too many different niches and make several websites none are going to succeed. Put your efforts into one and laser focus on that one.
When choosing your niche make sure you can provide value for at least several blog posts and pages. Also, research and see if there are people already interested in that niche. Those will most likely be the ones visiting your blog. The point here is to find a hungry audience.
Once you’ve done that is when you should really choose your domain name and create your content strategy.
According to Matt Cutts, the best way to get your content seen is simply to create great content:
What are your audience’s needs? How can you better serve them? What problems have you identified in this niche and what solutions can you provide? Either with your own products or with affiliate products. You want to analyze your audience and see what content/solutions they are already looking for.
Internet marketing is all about building relationships with your audience by providing as much value as possible.
Choosing A Niche
If you’re completely lost on choosing a niche it helps to do some research and look at the top sites. A good resource for this is Quantcast. There you can browse the top sites in the world that are getting the most visitors.
As you move down the list you’ll see that the topics get more and more niched. Choose a topic that interests you.
Then go to a site like Quora or Yahoo Answers and type in the topic. Sites like Quora are based on a crowd answer format. You ask a question and get answers from people that are already interested in that topic or are experts in it.
What you want to do is type in your topic or niche keyword in the search bar on Quora and Yahoo Answers.
For example, apartmenttherapy.com is #285 on the list. You would then search for something like “apartment” to see the top questions with the most answers. You ‘ll then find things people are already talking about and possible problems they’re having within that topic or niche. This will give you insight for blog posts and categories.
Once you’ve found a topic or niche that interests you and see that people are talking about it, the next step is to research monetization. Are you able to monetize this niche?
One of the most popular affiliate marketing platforms is ClickBank. The marketplace on there is a great resource to find the top selling products in the affiliate marketing world.
ClickBank is just one resource to see if there are products you can promote in your niche. You can also go to Commission Junction or Rakuten.
You can also repeat this same process using Google search to find offers websites in your niche are already promoting.
Source: Affstat 2015 Affiliate Marketing Benchmark Report.
How to Know What Affiliate Program to Join
If you’re focused on building relationships you’ll be successful with affiliate marketing. When thinking about what products to promote think about it like this: Would you refer your best friend or spouse to this product? If not, why?
You want to always buy the product first. That’s the first step to becoming a successful affiliate marketer is buying the products you’ll be promoting. Not only will you know if they’re quality but, you’ll be able to write and answer questions about them.
Therefore, you must align your choice of affiliate program or product to the place you’ll be promoting it. Treat those products like they’re your own.
Pat Flynn, founder of Smart Passive Income has created several successful affiliate marketing websites. With one of them his goal was not to make money with it but to create a resource for people that wanted to pass the LEED exam (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design). He was one of those people.
The Green Exam Academy provides links to study guides; practice exams and classes that will help people pass the LEED exam.
Pat Flynn studied architecture in university so it wasn’t a long shot for him to become an expert in this field. He knew that if he offered products that were already being sold like LEED exam study guides, he could make some money.
When searching for the right affiliate program it can be tempting to just look for the ones that are easiest to join like Amazon and Commission Junction. What you actually want to do is look for the products or programs that will best fit your website and then check if they have affiliate or partner programs.
A lot of companies don’t openly share this information on their site so you may have to email or call them to ask about it. Pat Flynn mentioned having to create affiliate programs himself within companies he saw were good fit for his websites. In fact, he did this with his Security Guard Training HQ site.
Other times companies will already be using software that offers an affiliate program but they just haven’t turned it on yet.
Affiliate Marketing Economics
You want to think of choosing the right affiliate program like choosing the right business partner. On this note, when choosing a business partner economics is a very important factor. Just because an affiliate offer might pay a larger commission doesn’t mean the offer will convert well.
A higher-converting offer will usually bring you more sales but lower commissions.
- 30% Conversion Rate with $10 commission
- 3% Conversion Rate with $50 commission
For example, let’s say you get 100 clicks to your offer. If it converts at 30% and has a $10 pay out then you’ll make $300 but if it converts at 3% then you’ll make $150.
You’ll need twice as many clicks (it doesn’t always work out so easily though. You’ll most likely need a lot more clicks to get that 3% conversion rate.
So, don’t only go by the pay out amount of an offer or even the earnings per click (EPC). You also want to measure click-through rate (CTR), which means how many people are actually clicking through to the actual offer and/or getting to the purchase page. Here’s a short example:
The most important thing when choosing an affiliate offer is relevancy. If your website is about lawnmowers then you don’t want be reviewing self-help books.
Focus on one thing to start, and then later you can always branch out by adding another section to your site. In my case, I talk about design and marketing a lot so, in the future I want to segment my site into these two sections.
Remember as I mentioned before, you want to be sure you can provide value for that particular niche. Even if you’re not an expert, you can always leverage other people’s expertise and quote them appropriately. You can also always become an expert. There is so much information and resources online about content creation.
“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking, and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.” – Warren Buffett
What Becoming a Partner Can Really Mean
When you become an affiliate you’re basically becoming a partner. This means that you have to know your product and purchase it yourself. Therefore, you can say for yourself that it’s a good product.
You don’t want to be promoting a product that’s not good or that you have no idea about. When you promote an affiliate offer you’re endorsing it. If you promote something that you’ve purchased it will only help in the building of your brand and reputation online.
Make the effort of opting-in to an offer and moving through their sales funnel. Buy every upsell if you can, so you can see each and every detail in their sales process. Upsells are additional one-time-offers that come after you’ve clicked on the “buy now” button.
This not only teaches you the importance of sales funnels and follow-ups but it also allows you to preview the process your visitors will go through. Are you going to be receiving too many emails from this offer? What other offers will appear in your inbox?
By becoming a partner you’re ultimately building a relationship with the company. If you bring them a lot of sales they’re going to like you. This can lead to other opportunities. Like asking for a higher commission.
You can write a case study about specific campaigns and then ask them to share it on their site. Or you can request to guest post on their blog. Depending on the offer you’re promoting, doing these things can lead to a lot of traffic.
You want to think about affiliate marketing from the advertiser side. The advertiser being the product creator or owner is looking for affiliates to help in their marketing efforts.
If you were a product creator, would you just add any random affiliate to your team? Would that maximize your campaign efforts? Most likely no.
So what approach would you take instead? Find someone who knows exactly what they’re doing and has good results in the past marketing similar products. As the publisher (affiliate marketer) it’s important to build relationships with both the advertiser and the consumer.
Joint ventures are another good way to partner with a business. A good resource for this is JVZoo.com and JVnotifypro.com.
What Most Affiliate Marketers Do
Most affiliate marketers just join any program they see fit and copy and paste their links everywhere. You see it all over social media and used to see it a lot on pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements. Google and Facebook have blocked a lot of these people throughout the years causing them to take a more strategic approach.
What usually happens is they create an ad that sends people straight to a sales page or capture page created by the company they’re promoting. These pages are more than likely being used and abused by hundreds, maybe thousands of other affiliates online.
While these pages may have good design and great copy, more than likely they’ll need a lot of traffic to convert into sales.
These new affiliates focus on selling, selling, selling instead of the #1 rule for content creation online: provide epic value. I’ll talk more about this later.
Another approach most affiliate marketers take is placing affiliate banners on their websites. Think about why this is so common. How easy is it for you to place a banner on your site? It takes less than a few seconds to copy and paste banner code to your Wordpress site.
How many people use banners on their site and for how long have banners existed? How long have billboards existed? When driving, do you even look at the billboards anymore? Or are you looking down at your phone instead? What is banner blindness?
Banners are also sending your precious traffic to another website. I’ll talk more about how today’s top marketers are approaching this problem in the next section.
So, if all you’re doing is sending your hard earned traffic and leads to someone else’s sales funnel then you’re doing it wrong.
How do you convert traffic into leads (list of prospects)? By having a way to follow-up with them to build a relationship. The first step in this process is getting emails from your visitors, hence the reason why you need a build your own landing page or capture page.
According to the Direct Marketing Association, email marketing has a return on investment of 4,300%. So what you want to be doing is building your email list.
The money is in the list.
Capturing an email before sending traffic to your affiliate offer is a more advanced approach.
What Advanced Affiliate Marketers Do
According to one of the world’s top bloggers, Ray Higdon, the following tip is a $5,000 training all on it’s own. If this is all you get out of this guide then it’s worth $5K for you.
Instead of sending paid or organic traffic straight to an affiliate offer’s sales page you capture emails first.
Why is this so important? First of all, it’s part of building your brand and your email list. You can then follow-up with people with an autoresponder series. An autoresponder series is simply a series of 7-10 emails that go out automatically to your subscribers once they sign up.
- Traffic => Capture Page => Autoresponder => Build Relationship => Present Offer
This series of emails allows you to build a relationship with your subscribers by offering them something of value like an email course, for instance. The number one answer to “how do I get people to take an action on my website” is: provide epic value. There’s some strategy involved though.
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein
Offer a free eBook or guide in exchange for an email. Offer a free course, video, audio or webinar, which is even more advanced.
This type of offer is usually called a lead magnet. Don’t just offer anything for free though. You want to be sure what you’re offering is solving a specific problem for your visitors. As mentioned before, doing research first helps.
Before creating a lead magnet look at what other sites in your niche are already giving away. Look for common problems those sites are solving with their content. See what kinds of posts in your niche are getting a lot of engagement on forums and question/answer sites. Then create something that’s better using the skyscraper technique, created by Brian Dean.
Another idea for a lead magnet is a content upgrade. Meaning at the end of a blog post you offer a PDF or guide that helps people implement what they’ve just learned in your post. One of the most popular blogs that does is CopyBlogger.
While you’re writing your lead magnet it’s a good idea to get some feedback from your network. Place a pop-up on your site with a survey letting visitors know what you’re working on and you’d love their feedback. Do the same on your social media networks.
By providing solutions to your visitors’ problems you’ll start building your traffic and authority online. It’ll even increase your SEO. This is not a guide about SEO (search engine optimization) but giving some of your best content for free has a lot of benefits. I’ll explain why.
Social media sharing and backlinks are crucial for SEO. Think about what kind of content people share or link to the most? Content they think will be valuable to their network. So people will naturally link to your content, which will make your site appear higher in the search engines.
That’s one of the reasons why millionaire entrepreneur and investor Neil Patel spends $30,000 to create content and gives it away for free.
“It’s a marketing experiment, right?” he says. “I like learning and the quickest way I learn is by spending money.” – Neil Patel
Invest in yourself. Invest in your content. If you don’t have too much of a budget for content creation then invest your time.
Choose the method of content you’ll be focusing on. Will it be mostly blog posts and a few social media channels? Or will it be mainly videos (vlogs) or a podcast?
Pat Flynn has a great podcast I recommend looking at: The Smart Passive Income podcast, especially if you’re thinking about starting your own.
A great example for a Vlog, which recently launched this month, is the Daily Vee by Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of Vayner Media.
Although he’s not an affiliate marketer he is an investor and mentions a few of his investments on his Ask Gary Vee Show, which already has 170+ episodes.
The idea here is: you want to create content around the business you’re promoting as an affiliate or partner. This builds trust and informs people about that particular business. Make sure your content provides the actual solution to a problem like a one-click software (with your affiliate link of course).
People will then have plenty of reason to come to your website and get to know you and your brand. If you brand yourself as someone who gives a lot of value without expecting anything in return, you’ll naturally become the go-to expert.
The number one thing most successful people remember are the people that helped them when they were just starting out. You can be that person.
Problem: Banner Blindness. Opportunity: Custom Banners
Two ways to beat banner blindness are content marketing and retargeting. These techniques require far more than just placing a banner on your site.
The reason Google Adsense works is because it leverages both of these things. In essence, Adsense is a black box that serves banner ads according to the content on the page and the person visiting the site.
For example, if you visited an acupuncture website looking at what they offer, you’ll probably see their ad again somewhere else online. That’s retargeting. I’ll talk more about retargeting in a bit.
More and more blogs are also using banner space to promote their own products. Like Neil Patel and Jeff Bullas, who are top marketers, they’re not even using Adsense or selling advertising space.
They do a lot of blogging so content is extremely important for them. They also create a lot of informative, high quality and long form content. You can easily spend more than 10 minutes reading one of their posts. Meanwhile, there’s a banner in the sidebar with one of their products/services.
Not only does this create brand awareness but it also reminds the reader how they can compensate the blog owner. Remember people naturally want to give something in exchange for value.
By promoting your own products/services in your sidebar you’ll be keeping traffic on your domain.
Affiliate programs usually provide you with banners and other marketing resources. You want to stand out from the crowd though and show your dedication to promoting your partners. So, after you’ve partnered with a particular business and achieved some results you can design a custom banner.
Jeff Bullas has done exactly that with Blue Host and the LinkedIn Success Summit. By putting your photo or illustration on a banner like this you’re endorsing the affiliate offer and creating trust in your visitors.
John Chow, a top affiliate marketer has been able to get custom landing pages designed by some of his partners. Such as Host Gator.
He’s partnered with them to send those who want to start a blog to purchase hosting plans. This landing page is on the Host Gator domain. They’ve created a custom landing page for John Chow because of the amount of sales he sends them.
These custom approaches are a lot like native advertising, where the ad becomes natural for the visitor. Like Facebook’s News Feed Ads.
An advanced advertising method to use with banners is retargeting, which has been getting a lot of attention lately. Most of the world’s top marketers are using this method.
All retargeting does is place a pixel (piece of information) in each visitor’s history that says they’ve visited a specific page. This page can be your website home page, a landing page for an affiliate offer that you’ve created or it can be a thank you page after they’ve subscribed to your email list.
Everyone with that particular pixel will then be automatically added to a retargeting list. You can then serve follow-up ads to that list.
For example, let’s say they were thinking of purchasing a product but they abandoned the check out page. You can then retarget them on Facebook for instance, with an ad that might say, “Forgot to Check-Out?” This kind of targeting with banner ads is far more effective.
According to Quicksprout.com, “Banner advertisements perform better when shown to audiences who’ve already expressed interest in buying your product.” A retargeting campaign can look something like this, first you find yourself looking around the Nordstrom site:
As you can see in many of the above examples, several advertising methods are being used to increase brand awareness.
For instance, the colors used in the banners are the ones also in their logos etc. All part of their brand. Retargeting is extremely effective for establishing your brand because it gives the perception of a larger company.
Further Resource: How to setup a retargeting campaign in Facebook: