How to make money with affiliate marketing?

There are numerous ways of how you can make money with affiliate marketing, and there are many strategies and hundreds of approaches how you can become a great affiliate. In this article, I will introduce you to the basics of affiliate marketing and give you useful tips and advice you can take when performing as an affiliate. Let’s begin with a source question…

What is affiliate marketing?

You probably have heard about affiliate marketing that it is a way to earn money online working from wherever you like, no technical skills required, all you need is an Internet and a computer. Sigh…

A general explanation that runs into the air but does not give answers, so let me explain what you need to do to be a good affiliate, and give you examples as simple as possible!

I always like to think of an affiliate marketing as a process that involves three kinds of people: a publisher, an advertiser, and a consumer – all these people make an affiliate marketing work in a cycle.

To better describe these people, I will introduce you to them and explain what they do and how does it work:

  • Publisher – meet Andy, he is an affiliate, and he has a blog about skateboarding;
  • Advertiser – meet Oscar, he is a merchant, and he runs a skateboard online store;
  • Consumer – meet Leo, he is a shopper, and he wants to buy a skateboard.

This is how it goes: a merchant (Oscar) has an affiliate program to which an affiliate (Andy) signs up to, and gets a unique tracking link which he uses to hyperlink keywords, images or banners that out-links to the merchant’s store. This is where the shopper (Leo) joins in the process – he reads about skateboarding on affiliate’s blog and decides to click on the unique link that takes him to the store. In the win-win scenario, the customer makes a purchase, conversations are tracked by special software (merchant’s responsibility to maintain it) – the affiliate gets a commission, a merchant gets a sale, and a shopper gets a product. Everyone’s happy!

Ways to promote affiliate products

There are dozens of different ways to advertise affiliate products. You are the owner of your online platforms, and you know your readers the best – I am here to give you ideas – the decision what to use and how to approach your audience is still yours!

Through a website

In my opinion, having a website is crucial for affiliate marketing. It makes sure that your content is always static, indexed by search engines and is searchable. Although doing affiliate business without a website is possible in many ways (AdWords, E-mail marketing, Social platforms, etc.), however, having a website builds trust in your readers’ eyes. They most likely will listen to your advice and use your resource over and over again. All the other channels help to promote your website, so they are crucial in the process of you being a successful affiliate.

If you don’t have a website, you can build your own in just a few days – today technology and tools are designed so everyone can create a website without being a code expert!

Here are examples you could use to promote products on your website:

  • Write Reviews – according to the research, 91 percent of people regularly or every now and then read online reviews before making a purchase. 85% of them trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation from friends or family. People want to know the product before they buy it. So, get a product sample, if possible, test the product yourself and write a dedicated review (or a product tutorial post) to help your readers make the right choice.
  • Create a List Article – once you have reviewed a number of similar products in your niche, create a “Top 5 Products in the Market” or “Best Products in the 2018” list.  Pick your top five or ten, and compare them. Show your readers the pros and cons of each, emphasize what makes them great and what benefits will your reader get using the products. Remember, don’t cross the line being too pushy – your readers are your best assets.
  • Do a Product vs. Product Post – with a more detailed approach, write a post in depth accenting your two favorite products or on the contrary, two products that most likely would be relevant to your readers. Choosing from two options is always easier than from five, so this way you have bigger chances to convince your readers to choose one or another. Style the post as if these two products are the best in the market (in your opinion), that you have done the hard work researching the products for your readers, and the only thing your reader needs to do is choose one of the two bests.
  • Place Ad Banners – most of the publishers have created various type banners for affiliates to place on their sites. You can get the banners on affiliates dashboard, usually, they are prepared including your unique tracking link, so all you have to do is copy a code (HTML) and paste it on your website – a sidebar, a header, in between the posts – any place you think will be catchy for your reader to click on it.

Via e-mail

You might already have an email list of your readers to whom you send useful emails with helpful information, tips, and advice. Why don’t you use that? Write a nice copy including affiliate products in a modest way of introducing them to your readers – let them know that from your perspective these products may be benefiting them. Another idea – create a course around the product and send it as a PDF file.

Use your social network

  • Facebook and Twitter – accounts that let you reach your audience in various ways: if you have a big followers circle, post on the wall, share your blog entries, or put together a product giveaway. If you wish to reach a bigger audience, start running ads on the Facebook Ads Manager – create Ad Sets choosing the right audience by its interests, country or behavior, and boost your posts that contain affiliate links.
  • YouTube – if you are a video admirer who loves to be in front of a camera, then creating a YouTube video tutorial highlighting the product would be your great opportunity to promote affiliate products to your subscribers. Statistics show that there are 30+ million monthly active YouTube users! Do a training webinar around the product and watch your affiliate incomes grow!
  • Pinterest – one of the easiest ways to promote physical products. If your niche is clothing, gadgets, interior decor, etc. – grab your affiliate link and create boards with inspirational pins to be shared all over the Pinterest! Since Pinterest has allowed pinners to add direct affiliate links to their pins, this means that you can reach over 175 million active Pinterest users marketing your affiliate products for free!

Marketing deals & coupons

Negotiate with a product owner for an exclusive deal for your readers and offer them a discount. Using coupon codes is a common practice to boost sales during holidays like Black Friday, Christmas, and others. You being a dedicated affiliate, will be appreciated by your publisher who will be happy to share such deals with you, so step out of a comfort zone and find your way to prove to the publisher that such marketing deals will benefit you all. You can use coupon codes in emails and blog posts; share them via Facebook, Twitter or Snapchat – whichever platform is relevant to you.

Using AdWords (PPC)

If you are an expert on using AdWords or other similar bidding platforms, affiliate marketing can be a very lucrative business. Doing it right, and having enough budget, PPC marketing can really boost your incomes! Usually, when using this method, a publisher has restrictions on bidding with keywords that contain its brand or trademark names. With this in mind, you can go pretty big advertising your website that includes valuable affiliate links.

Digital vs. Physical affiliate products

What products to choose for your affiliate marketing? The question that has crossed many minds.

First of all, choose the products you know the best, the ones you are passionate about. Second of all, it is great if you can learn new things and try your skills in promoting something you never have before. My advice is: be brave and opened to new trends, that way your blog or a website will always be fresh and tuned for hungry readers.

Anyway, the truth is that we are in a time where a digital product rocks the parade, love them or hate them – sales of digital products such as online course, software, audio-books, music, and movies are roaring.

Digital affiliate products usually offer higher affiliate commission ($) than physical ones which are more costly for an advertiser who needs to pay for product manufacturing, packaging, and shipping.

A big plus of marketing a digital product is an immediate delivery – a buyer gets the product right on the spot as a download file or as an attachment in the email. Whereas, physical products take days, sometimes even weeks to be delivered at consumer’s door.

Apart from the much higher commission and instant delivery, there are other numerous benefits of digital compared to physical products: no inventory, no limits, no cost of goods sold (COGS), digital products are easy to produce and easy to update, they don’t have a size limitations, no expiration, and no waste – all of that is challenging barriers to physical products.

Affiliate commissions $$

The range of affiliate commissions is as wide as “1% to 100%”. At one end of the rainbow, there are some worldwide brands that pay affiliates a very little commission (1% to 3% per a conversion), and on the other end, there are industries in which merchants are willing to pay as much as 100% in affiliate commissions.

Being in affiliate business for quite a while, I have observed that high commission payers are digital product owners (SaaS companies), whereas, a lower commission is offered from merchants selling clothing or electronic goods. Not only the commission is decisive but also the product price. Sometimes 3% commission can be a quite a number if you manage to refer a customer to buy a product worth $1000, and opposite to 100% commission – referring a customer who buys something worth $10 for example.

The market is huge and so is the commission level. I advise you to find the right products and dedicate your time and other resources to promote only high-quality products or services from merchants that pay reasonable, yet steady commissions.

Affiliate platforms

There are two types of affiliate platforms:

1) Affiliate programs – individual programs maintained by a company itself where you sign up through its website (e.g. Amazon). To run an affiliate program individually, companies have to use a third-party service to do the tracking right. Affiliate software such as WP Affiliate and iDevAffiliates are samples for web hosting affiliate programs.

Screenshot of iDevAffiliate Affiliate's Dashboard
Screenshot of iDevAffiliate Affiliate’s Dashboard (Demo version)

2) Affiliate marketplaces (networks) – platforms which have thousands of merchants to choose from (e.g. ShareASale, CJ Affiliate, Rakuten). This way you have one login to access all your affiliate links and follow the merchant’s updates. One obstacle though, many programs aren’t part of marketplaces so you would need to use both ways anyway.

My advice is, don’t focus so much on the platform itself as on the products you promote. Yes, it might get messy keeping all the affiliate links fresh and follow the updates from each merchant, but there are solutions to this – for example, if your website is built using a WordPress then you are saved by some great plugins that help to keep your affiliate links in order. One of them a ThirstyAffiliates WP plugin will not only cloak your affiliate links to make them look pretty (no ugly http://example.com/c/174127/212721/3713 links anymore) but also will manage and organize them as you grow as an affiliate marketer.

Does affiliate marketing mean easy money?

Yes and no. Like all projects, affiliate marketing requires time, understanding and continuous work to keep the pace with your readers and followers, delivering them a qualitative content that can lead to the success in your affiliate marketing activities.

To be successful, there are important factors that can affect your affiliate approach:

  • Traffic (high traffic is a king);
  • Finding relevant products;
  • Promoting quality products;
  • Building trust with your readers across the media;
  • Having a readership who is in a ‘shopping mood’;
  • Your skills as a sales copywriter;

Keep a pulse on these factors and make sure, to be honest with your readers, don’t push too hard promoting affiliate products, as it could burn your readers that way risking your reputation.

Have you had any luck promoting affiliate products on your own site?

I’d love to hear about any affiliate programs that you have been successful promoting. Feel free to share in the comments.