Affiliate Marketing for the Absolute Beginner

I’ve mentioned affiliate marketing a number of times in recent posts because it helped us during some rough times. More than that: it’s also a fantastic way to monetize blogs and earn money from your hobbies.

Affiliate marketing can be confusing, though, so here’s a quick five step guide to getting started.

What is affiliate marketing?

In short: affiliate marketing is promoting products or services as an outside sales person.

You help convince customers to buy and companies pay a commission for each sale.

I prefer affiliate marketing to being a salesperson because it lets me pick and choose which products and services I want to rep. I’m not explicitly tied to one company or product and can choose to rep any new ones I believe in.

I need that kind of freedom in my life.

How does affiliate marketing work?

In general: merchants give you a special link that you place on your website.

When customers click the link a cookie is placed on their computer to link them to you.

If a customer makes a purchase with that cookie you earn money.

Using a cookie helps both the merchant and the affiliate. Imagine a customer using your link but having to shut down their computer before finishing the sale. Without cookies they’d return and complete their purchase leaving you (the hard working sales person) uncredited.

Using cookies tied to the links helps merchants attract good affiliates, and it helps affiliates earn more money.

Many merchants will set the cookie expiration time so that if a customer makes a purchase days, or even weeks, after using your link you could still get credit.

That means your hard work will keep paying off even if customers are momentarily distracted.

How much can I earn?

There really isn’t any limit to how much money you can make with affiliate marketing.

There are plenty of success stories across the internet with evidence that affiliate marketers can earn six figure incomes.

However: they are not the norm. Most affiliate marketers struggle to make their first sale, which may take months.

For reference: the TMJ site I ran was bringing in a few hundred dollars every month after about a year of work.

The most successful marketers, though, are capable of bringing in six to seven figures in sales every month.

Sample earnings for an affiliate marketer

How can I get started?

Without further adieu, I present:

Affiliate Marketing in 5 Steps

1. Select a Niche

A niche is just a topic that you’d like to focus on.

In my opinion: your first site should focus on something you are passionate about.

Building an audience is difficult and will be easier if they sense you are genuinely into the topic. It comes through when people half-ass their content because they selected a niche for money.

If you do choose to select a niche based on potential income: pay attention to the competition in the niche. There are a lot of marketers out there making a lot of noise, and I swear you can tell when they aren’t genuinely into the topic.

You might spend years chasing sales with no payoff so follow your interests and enjoy the journey.

I chose TMJ in the past because it was a problem that affected our lives. We spent (and spend) a lot of time dealing with it and the audiences reacted positively to that connection.

I suggest finding a problem you need solved, or a topic you love talking about.

You’ll be talking about it a lot.

2. Choose a Platform

Platforms are where you share your content.

Do you enjoy posting to social media and growing your followings? Many marketers focus solely on social media sites for their offerings. If you choose to do this, pay attention to the ToS of the social media sites.

Many disallow certain types of marketing.

Do you enjoy writing? Blogging is one of the easiest ways to build a repeat audience.

Are you creative in front of a camera? Get yourself on YouTube and start streaming.

The point here is, again, to choose something you are familiar with and want to spend a lot of time doing.

You will spend a lot of time doing it.

3. Join an Affiliate Program

There are thousands of affiliate programs out there, all you have to do is search for your niche + “affiliate program” and Google will do the rest!

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that my personal favorite is ShareASale, a fantastic affiliate network with thousands of merchants to choose from in every niche imaginable.

As a Boise area native I think it would be a crime to not mention ClickBank as well. I have never repped a product from there, but I see that building daily and I feel an odd fondness for them.

Other notable mentions include:

These programs offer a wide range of products that people purchase every day, so they are great for beginners.

4. Create Incredible Content

Whatever platform, niche, and affiliate programs you have chosen it is now time to create your content.

Incredible content is content that makes you want to come back for more. The kind of content your visitors and customers are looking for.

Most importantly, though, is that incredible content is genuine.

The next most important thing?

Understanding what your customers need.

Do they need help with back pain? Write content about how to deal with, live with, cope with, or even treat back pain.

Are they arts and crafts lovers in need of a project? Put together a video of you demonstrating how to do a craft.

Are they business owners in search of the best web host? Write an article about your favorite and why you like them.

As long as you are solving problems that people are having you will be well on your way to success.

5. Add Your Links

Now that you have produced your amazing affiliate content, it’s finally time to monetize.

Remember the links we talked about earlier? Make sure you add them to your posts and videos.

If you’re running a blog: try placing more than one link on the page, and try linking high quality images.

People don’t always read to the end, so make sure some of your links are placed towards the top of the page.

If you are putting content on YouTube or a similar site, make sure your links appear in the description.

If you are relying on social media only, make sure you are following all their applicable external linking rules.

Final Thoughts

You are well on your way to becoming a successful affiliate marketer.

It may take over a year to make your first sale but until then just keep at it. Product as much amazing content as you can, and try to build an audience that keeps coming back.

Building an audience, driving traffic, and optimizing your conversions are all topics for further reading.

Let me know if you have any questions!

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