Introduction - What Is Affiliate Marketing?
In this guide we will talk about the basics of affiliate marketing and affiliate marketing strategies - things you need to know before you take any action.
Affiliate marketing is the form of marketing where you refer potential buyers (prospect) to some product and when that person or company buys the product, you get a commission on sales based on prior arrangement with the producer or merchant of the product for your recommendation.
This form of marketing, in online terms, started with digital products from the beginning of the Internet, but in past years, more and more companies who sell physical products (like a shirt, pants - anything) are opening online shops, seeking for affiliates and offering affiliate programs.
In the next section we will talk about affiliate programs, but now, just to mention, you need to distinguish between the producer’s own, in house affiliate program, and affiliate program network that gathers producers and connect them with affiliates. Next section deals with those programs.
In both cases, you simply sign up with the program and get your unique affiliate tracking link. This link or URL (Uniform Resource Locator) you use to promote the product, and this link will tell them who send the visitor to their website and who made sales.
Every affiliate program has Tracking Cookie. Duration of the tracking cookie differ from producer to producer. For example, if the tracking cookie lasts for 30 Days, it means that if visitor, used your unique affiliate link to land on producer web page, you will be recorded. From that moment those 30 days start counting. That visitor doesn’t have to buy anything that day, but if that visitor come back and buy within those 30 days you get your commission.
Most commonly, tracking cookies lasts 60 days, but is some cases just a few days, or 90 days, or 120 days, and in rare cases they never expire.
What Affiliates Programs Are?
Before we talk about affiliate marketing strategies, let’s make some short introduction and get to know what affiliate programs are. Affiliate programs are programs that create partnerships between business owners and online entrepreneurs. This helps business owners to increase their sales, and they also help online entrepreneurs to generate extra income.
Affiliate programs are a good way to make money online if you don’t have your own product. In this case you promote and sell other peoples’ products for commission.
All business owners have to market their products to buyers, no matter if they sell physical products or digital products. Since all online buyers are internet users, business owners need to market their products/services over internet. This is where the term internet marketing or online marketing comes from.
Many of different marketing tactics and strategies are considered internet/online marketing, and just one of those marketing tactics is affiliate marketing and affiliate programs. What is good about online affiliate programs is that those who do that, promote and sell other peoples’ products over the internet, no matter if those products are physical or digital.
When a business owner, who is selling a product/service, wants to increase their sales or gain a bigger presence in the market, they seek assistance from marketing people or online entrepreneurs. They give to those people or companies commission on selling items, which vary much between physical products and digital products. This is understandable, because to produce physical product you need much more investment than to produce digital product.
There are so many affiliate programs available today online. The decision is on you which one you want to join and which kind of products/services you want to sell. Obviously, this will be from your area of expertise.
This means that if an internet user clicks on one of your affiliate links and ends up making a purchase, the tracking software will record that purchase, when it occurred, and the amount of it. This tracking software works for both, you, as an affiliate and business owner that sells products, so you both know exactly how much was sold through your links, how much business owner earned thanks to your efforts as affiliate and how much is your commission.
As it was mentioned above, affiliate programs are a great way for business owners to increase their sales and profits, but they are not the only ones who benefit from affiliate programs – affiliates that sell their products benefit even more, because they just promote their products.
With affiliate programs, you, as an affiliate, receive commission for helping an online company to generate sales over the internet. The amount of commission that you receive, depend on the company in question, the amount (percentage) that you originally agreed to, as well as on the type of product – physical or digital. Common sense can tell you that higher commission margins are with digital products.
Many of the businesses who are looking for affiliate partners advertise upfront how much their affiliate partners make. This amount is typically in a form of percentage on sale, as I mentioned before. The percentage will vary, from business to business and from product to product. If the commission is not determined by percentage, it will be a flat rate amount.
In a way, the affiliate program that you choose to apply to will likely have a big impact on the profit that you make. That is why it is extremely important that you choose an affiliate program wisely.
It is important that you thoroughly examine the terms and conditions of the affiliate program that you choose to participate in. It is also important that you familiarize yourself with their rules and restrictions.
There are some rules as to how you can link to, or promote an affiliate product. It is important that you not only familiarize yourself with these rules, but follow them. If you do not, you could find yourself disqualified from participating in the program.
Summary - Affiliate programs are a good way to make money online. Affiliate programs allow you to legitimately make money online without having your own product. It is hard to find other online money making opportunity like this one. This is all important to know, it will serve you well while building your own affiliate marketing strategies. Read on!
How to Choose Good Affiliate Program?
As mentioned earlier, affiliate programs are a good way to make money online. But, what is the right affiliate program? It is very important that you take a time and do some research and carefully choose which affiliate program or programs you want to join. Do not pick the first affiliate program that you come across.
Not all affiliate programs have good reputation and quality products on offer. The product you choose to promote will reflect on your business and your reputation as an online marketer. This is why it is very important that you take the time and thoroughly examine few affiliate programs first. When you find one with good reputation, where you can find product(s) that you can stand behind, join that program.
Now, the question is how to know which affiliate program is legitimate and which one is not, and which products are quality products and which are not? Well, one of the ways to evaluate that is to perform a standard internet search. Look for experiences of people that use that affiliate program or product.
You can also check out websites that are known for scam seeking and reporting. These websites tend to profile companies and individuals that regularly scam consumers.
Also good thing to say is to read all of the rules, terms, restrictions, and guidelines associated with that affiliate program before signing up. Don’t be surprised if you get disqualified or denied to sign up with them. Some of those programs deny people from certain countries to register with them, or deny sales of products in certain countries, or prohibit promotions of their products on websites that have grammatically bad content, offensive content, etc.
While building your affiliate marketing strategies, one of the most important things to remember, is to choose product(s) to promote that are related to your business and market segment your site is covering. Besides the fact that those products, you plan to promote, must be of high quality, it is also important that you stick to your main or related market segment (niche).
The other thing to consider before signing up is the commission they give you for sale. After all, you are doing this for profit, so you need to choose an affiliate program that pays their affiliates decent commissions. As I stated in the previous section, commissions are not the same for physical and digital products. I cannot discuss here commission percentages for physical products because they vary a lot, depending on the nature of the product, but I can tell you here that most common commissions for digital products are 50%. They go up to 80% and even 100%.
Why this high percentage somebody will give to affiliates and earn a bit or nothing? That is a strategy used for email list building and funnel promotion. I described it in brief in “Email List Building” guide under Affiliate Program Opportunities section.
Summary - Above mentioned guidelines are the key guidelines that should be considered before joining an affiliate program. After research and evaluations, it will all come to your judgment. Be careful, build few affiliate marketing strategies, do your best, be patient, and all will come in its place.
Be Aware of Scams
Like many other online opportunities, affiliate programs are also used for cheating. You need to be aware of scams and protect yourself.
In other words, there are scammers who are using affiliate programs as fronts for their scams. You need to be sure that you join legitimate, well-known affiliate program.
There are a number of different ways these scams are performed. One way is selling real, legitimate products without paying their affiliates. So, after you put a lot of efforts in promotion, you end up working for nothing.
Another way they cheat with affiliate program includes selling a product that doesn’t even exist. In this case, you not just don’t get paid, but you also become participant in a scam. Customers get cheated, they don’t get what they paid for, and your reputation goes through the window.
So, prevent yourself from joining an affiliate program that doesn’t pay, or even worse, that make you participate in a scam.
There are many ways you can check an affiliate program. Assistance you can get online. Start with affiliate directories. Many of these directories are highly rated as well as the affiliate programs they have listed in their directories. There you can get accurate and updated information on a great number of affiliate programs.
While you are checking affiliate programs, it is also good to do some research on products they sell. If the product is not well known, it is advisable to check its quality.
Also you can visit websites that publish reports about the scam. There you can find reported companies, individuals, products, services, etc.
In short, you need a well established affiliate program with quality products, so you set a strategy, make all arrangements, place banners, do promotion, and after actual sale you get paid.
I use the ShareAsale affiliate program for a long time now. I recommend this company.
Choose the Best Affiliate Product for Your Website/Blog
To have success in affiliate marketing, you need to choose the right products for your website/blog and to promote them right way. As mentioned earlier, product(s) you choose to promote have to be related to your niche, and people will have interest to look at the offers. Many new affiliate marketers fail to earn money from affiliate marketing because they choose the wrong products to promote.
When we look at the statistics, most of the money bloggers earn come from affiliate marketing, and then from their own products.
So, it matters a lot which product(s) you choose to promote and on what medium you are doing promotion. I promote some hosting companies, because I use their services (this is not my only website) and I can recommend them. I also promote keyword research software, auto-responder providers, etc. because I use their software or services and if I am satisfied I become their affiliate and I recommend them.
This way I can write reviews and guidelines on how to use those products, so people have all the information they need about a particular product. When you are in this process of choosing and promoting product(s), you always must think first about benefits to your audience. Never recommend products that you, personally, are not satisfied or familiar with, no matter how high affiliate commission is. Always think about your reputation, credibility and your reliability.
I don’t know your market niche, so I can’t suggest much, but if you don’t have the opportunity to work with the particular product you want to promote, get familiar with that product before you start promoting it.
With affiliate marketing you need to be persistent, consistent and patient. Also, you need a proper marketing plan and strategy. It’s not difficult as you might think.
One of the affiliate program networks I use is ShareASale. You can start looking for products to promote on their marketplace (click on picture below).
Of course, there are many other affiliate programs, but the best place to start looking is their marketplace. There are thousands of companies that are looking for affiliates. There you can see all companies and products from your market niche. Evaluate them, do some research and find the best fit for your website/blog. Procedure for joining is easy, but still you have to wait for approval after you apply.
When you get approval, you can choose banners and get a unique affiliate link. You can take HTML code and place it on your website where you want their banner to appear, or you can take a short text code and use it in other means of promotion.
I highly recommend that your visit “6 Good Reasons to Cloak Affiliate Links” post to read about how to cloak your affiliate links and why you have to do that.
While you are evaluating affiliate programs, there are some factors to consider –
• Producer’s support
• Duration of the tracking cookie
• Promotional means
• Banners availability
• Payment method
• Minimum payout amount
• Tax form (required or not)
• Affiliate control panel clarity
ADVICE - Select the hottest selling product(s) in your niche for promotion. Create an affiliate marketing strategy, set promotion mediums, write reviews, and, if possible guidelines about the product. It will boost your conversion rate. If you are not familiar with the product, try a product before recommending it!
Three Main Traffic Generation Methods for Affiliates
Affiliates make money through sales commissions, either with affiliate programs or directly with business owners. Now, the very important factor in their efforts to sale is the traffic. Many beginners forget that traffic means sales. If you are an affiliate or becoming one, you need to work on increasing your traffic. There are many ways that you can take to increase traffic to your website or blog (which was elaborated in “Generating Traffic SEO Way” guide), but here we will outline 3 ways that will help you in that effort.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
If you already work as an online marketer, you already know what SEO is. If you are beginner, you should familiarize yourself with it. SEO, which is the abbreviation for Search Engine Optimization, becomes an important part of website maintenance if you are interested in visitors that come from search engines. If SEO is done well, it can have a good impact on the success of your website in terms of visits.
The goal of search engine optimization (SEO) is to increase your search engine ranking, which means more visitors on your website or blog. In other words, more traffic sent your way from search engines.
Search engine optimization encompasses a number of different methods, but two most important are the keywords and content.
Keywords are the words that people use for searching on search engines. That’s how they can find you, but this issue is more complex than that. You need to use keyword research/tracking tools. They enable you to determine what keywords or keyword phrases internet users are searching with. If done properly, using those keywords or keyword phrases on your website will increase your website traffic. I will not talk more about keywords here, because in “Keyword Research” guide you can find in detail how it’s done.
Content is another important issue. You need to have good, quality content on your website or blog that relates directly to product(s) that you promote and sell. Your content has to be unique or search engines will not consider it as relevant. In section “Content Management” was explained the importance of it. Just remember, people come to your site or blog because of content, not because of fancy design.
This method of traffic generation is widely used. This is all about writing articles related to your business or product(s) that you promote and sell, and submitting them to article directories. Article directories are websites that act as hosts for collections of articles. These sites contain a large collection of articles in almost all areas of public interest. In exchange for providing your content, free of charge, article directories will allow you to insert a link at the end of your article. This link will direct readers to your website, namely the page that outlines the affiliate products that you are selling.
This will help you to increase your website traffic, and sales should also increase.
It is advisable that you place, at least a few articles per month if you have time. It will increase your chance for traffic. You can read about this in more detail in guide “Generating Traffic SEO Way”, under Article Management section. There you also can find lists and links to top 10 article directories where you can submit.
Note – Articles that you submit to article directories has to be unique and relevant to your web page or blog content that you link that article on. Otherwise, you are misleading reader, and that is not good.
How to make article marketing effective you can read in "Effective Article Marketing" section.
In earlier years, a blog was a personal website or web page on which an individual recorded his/her opinions, put some pictures, etc., but today, blog becomes a tool in the hands of online businesses and online entrepreneurs for traffic generation and trust building. Blog have to be written in an informative style and updated regularly, and should be used by its owner to stay in contact with its audience and to share the knowledge.
You can create your own blog, free hosted blog or you can pay to have your blog hosted under your own domain name, which is, of course, the better option. I wrote about this in detail on page “Email Marketing – Place Where to Start”, in section “Register Domain Name and Hosting”. You can visit the page to read all, or you can enlarge picture from below (just click on the picture) and read the main point.
As I mentioned it earlier, if you don’t have time, or you are not fan of writing, you can outsource. All that is important is that you have quality and unique content on your website/blog and that you update it on a regular basis.
Articles that you submitted to article directories, link them to the relevant page on your website/blog. Don’t forget to include product(s) reviews and recommendations on your site.
Summary – The above mentioned ways to increase traffic are just three of many. Visit “Generating Traffic SEO Way”) to see a lot more. Just put some effort in those three methods and you will experience results. Be patient.
Importance of Newsletter
As we all know, affiliate programs enable us to sell other peoples’ products for commission. Those programs are widely used on internet by marketing entrepreneurs who don’t have their own product.
If you want to participate in an affiliate program, it is advisable to have your own website or blog. Some marketers don’t have their own site, but it is a requirement for many affiliate programs. Besides, having your own site or blog gives you more freedom and space to introduce yourself, promote those products that you sell, build email list and get traffic, which is very important help in your marketing efforts.
Having a website is one thing, but to make real money with affiliate programs, you need to have a website that receives a fair share of traffic. If you would like to increase the amount of traffic that your website gets, you should think about introducing a newsletter to your audience. They are a great way to increase website traffic. In “Email List Maintenance Methods” guide – section Main Methods of Email List Maintenance – I talked about newsletter and e-zine (electronic magazine).
Before looking into how newsletters can help you increase your website traffic, let’s first understand what is newsletter. Newsletters come in many different shapes and styles and they are all used for different purposes.
Newsletters are basically emails that are sent to those who have requested to receive them (they subscribed to your email list for that reason). The main use of a newsletter is to update and inform customers and prospects about news in their market segment (niche) of interest, tips, and new developments in your business. It is a medium of regular communication with your audience. There are other purposes of the newsletter, but it all comes to traffic generation (see also “Traffic Generation SEO Way”).
Many newcomers to online business and affiliate program wonder why they should even bother writing and then distributing a newsletter. Well, there are many reasons why you should write and distribute newsletters to your customers and wider audience.
The main reason is to stay in touch with your customers and audience, and to give them news from their area of interest. Newsletters should be created and sent on a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly basis, all depending on your business and your subscribers. But remember, if your subscribers use to receive newsletter from you every week, stick to that schedule. Don’t send it too much later, because they might forget you, or you may appear to them as unprofessional because they are expecting that newsletter at the usual time frame.
You can use your newsletter also to promote your affiliate products, not just to increase your website traffic. The best way for promotion is to write a quick review or recommendation of the product(s) you are selling. Be careful here, if you haven’t tried the product yourself, better find somebody else who did and ask him/her to write a review for you.
Note – Never overwhelm your subscribers with promotional material. Be moderate.
Now, let’s talk about newsletter content. The content of the newsletter has to be easily understandable and directly to the point of the topic. If you like writing and have time, it is always better that you write your own newsletters. But if you don’t like writing or you don’t have time, the alternative is outsourcing. Hire somebody else to do it for you. At the bottom of my Resource page, you can find a good and cheap company that will provide outsourcing professionals for you.
If you will not do writing yourself, and you are looking for a free way to make a newsletter, then you look for article directories that give out free usage rights for their articles. Of course, articles have to be related to your email list niche and to the affiliate product(s).
NOTE - Don’t ever forget, the topics of your mailings to subscribers can only be in their own interest areas – the reason why they subscribed. This was elaborated in “Email List Maintenance Methods” guide.
Summary - As you can see, there are a number of reasons why you should create a newsletter. They are an effective way to stay in touch with your audience and to promote. Whether you write your own newsletters, hire a professional through outsourcing, or use free content from article directories, it will help your marketing efforts.
7 Things to Include In Your Newsletter
When we are talking about newsletter, there are some elements of it that most likely will increase conversion. All depends on how you use them and in which combination. An Affiliate marketing newsletter should be an ongoing story about all aspects of the product. Always keep your newsletter with engaging and interesting content. Here is what you should consider covering in your newsletter.
Add Social Sharing Links
By adding social sharing links to your newsletter, you can widen your audience and bring in new clients. Good place to put it is below the newsletter content.
Do some short video presentations to show people how the product works, how easy is to use the product, how work will be easier with the product, etc. Put the video on your blog/website and on video sharing sites like YouTube and Vimeo and place a link in the newsletter.
Write Product Review
What you did in the video, put it in writing. Besides technical features, write about product history, how was made, and what was the idea behind making the product. Put some statistics in technical and sales terms.
Write About Your Relation to the Product
Share with your audience how you get involved with the product and why you choose that product to promote. Get personal. We all like personal stories behind marketing curtain. Actually, how you behave in life toward people, neighbors, people on the street, you should do the same in marketing if you want real, ethical and honest success. The more personal you get - the more respect and trust you get.
Keep Your Audience Up To Date
Monitor producer’s website for any updates or news they release. Inform your audience about it.
Include FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
Naturally, we all want to know more about some product before we decide to buy it. We ask a lot of questions. Make a database of those questions and your answers on your blog/website and make it visible to everyone. Also, include some most frequently asked or most recently asked in your newsletter.
From time to time, within the same campaign, place 1 or 2 testimonials. Look for satisfied customers everywhere (your social media, your comments, etc.) who have nice things to say about the product you sold them. Don’t forget to inform them that you are planning to include it in newsletter testimonials, and ask for permission. Use everything that proves how effective your product is.
NOTE - This article is not yet finished, it's under construction!