How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
If you are looking for a way to make money online in addition to/instead of selling your own products or services, then affiliate marketing may be the way to go. The way affiliate marketing works is, when someone clicks an affiliate link on your site and then makes a purchase, you earn a set amount or percentage from that referral. Long-term this revenue can really add up and be a solid component of a passive income strategy. Generally speaking, to get a decent payback from affiliate marketing, you need to have a sizeable group of followers, but more importantly, they need to be loyal followers/ repeat buyers who visit your site regularly and trust you. These people will be more likely to buy the products or services that you recommend via affiliate links. Getting started is simpler than you might think. Here are six steps to help you get in on the action.
1. Find an Affiliate Program
First things first, you need to find an affiliate marketing program that works for you. Let’s highlight a few noteworthy options.
Probably the most obvious choice is Amazon Associates, especially for beginners. Amazon basically rules the world of eCommerce, and their reach is continuing to expand. That means that becoming an Amazon affiliate gives you access to a ridiculous variety of products you can recommend. So highly specialized niches fear not! Anything from cosplay outfits, to chicken-themed t-shirts, to the latest and greatest in coffee brewing gadgets – it’s all at your fingertips. Plus, Amazon has that trust factor working for it. We’ve all bought something on there at one time or another. For some folks, it is their go-to source for pretty much everything.
Their affiliate program is free to sign up for, easy, and flexible. You can link to any product and earn up to 10% (but usually more like 4-6%) of whatever you sell.
Rakuten has been around a while, and while their network of partners is considerably smaller than Amazon and other contenders, they tout some nifty features including ad rotation and deep linking options. In addition, many people enjoy working with Rakuten because of their user-friendly interface, which makes it easier for beginners to learn the ropes. Publisher registration is simple, and you’ll earn 3.5% on average (on non-tech items).
CJ Affiliate (formerly Commission Junction) is the biggest and one of the oldest affiliate sites out there working with some of the largest online retailers. With powerful reporting options, reliable payments, and a large partner network, CJ Affiliate is a solid option, though their UI and reporting tools take some time for beginners to get the hang of.
Consider an Affiliate Partnership
Another option is to create an affiliate network of influencers in the same sphere as you. Is there anyone whose products or services you love and would wholeheartedly recommend to your followers? Check their website for an existing affiliate or referral program and apply or reach out to them to see if they’d be open to discussing an affiliate relationship.
Need More Ideas?
These are only a handful of the options out there. The point of this post is not to review every affiliate website, but rather give an overview of some of the avenues you may want to explore and how to actually get started with affiliate marketing. If you are looking for a more comprehensive list, along with the pros and cons of each affiliate network, give this post on the Top 10 Affiliate Programs a read.
2. Set Up the Affiliate Links
To get started, you’ll need to place the links to your affiliate products on your blog or website. However, don’t just haphazardly add links wherever you feel like. Remember, your ability to be a successful affiliate marketer is dependent on the number of clicks you can generate and the purchases from those clicks. The products or services you’re recommending need to make sense within the context of the content. If it feels random or forced, people are not going to feel inclined to click, and you’ll miss out on your opportunity to convert them to a buyer. To make the products more enticing, simply note why you love the product and/or how it makes your life easier. You can even write entire products reviews, and if you do enough of them, you can create a blog category or section on your site to aggregate that content so it’s easier for users to find.
Lastly, make sure your text links actually include the name of the product you are promoting. This is called the anchor text, and in general, it’s best practice to use specific language over phrases like “click here” or “check out this product.”
3. Always Provide Valuable Content
As previously mentioned, affiliate marketing is far more effective if your website receives high traffic, but also if those users are engaged and loyal. In order to grow trust and loyalty, you’ll need to write content that you know your users want.
Maybe your website is all about caring for backyard chickens. You know people want to know more about how to choose the best heated waterers for winter. To include your affiliate links in an organic way, you could write about the best heated chicken waterers on the market (or even ways to build your own & what supplies you’d need). When you reference those products or supplies, this is where you would include your affiliate links. This way you are giving your audience great content that they’ll truly find useful in solving a problem that they have and not just throwing products links at them. Not only that, but providing valuable content first and foremost ensures that you’ll make Google and other search engines happy when it comes to ranking and sending traffic to your website.
4. Create a Favorites Area on Your Site
You can also create a dedicated area on your site for your favorite/recommended products. This makes it easy for people to find what they want if they came to your site with that specific intent.
We have seen this work especially well on lifestyle blogs and websites using our Mai Theme compatible add-on, Mai Favorites. Mai Favorites allows you to manage and display affiliate links on your Mai Theme powered website. It also creates a post type called ‘Favorites’ where you can easily add and manage each link and additional information you’d like to include with it in your Favorites area, including a featured image, description, the button text, and category.
Want to see an example of Mai Favorites in action? Check out The Paleo Mom’s Recommended page.
5. Promote with Email and Social Media
Email marketing is another way you can increase your affiliate sales, especially if you have a large email list. By the same token, endorsing affiliates on social if you have a large following is also a good idea. Using these online marketing strategies really makes sense if you want to promote a sale, a timely event (such as the release of a new book), or some other campaign an affiliate partner is running.
Additionally, tuning your followers into what your partner is doing could also help them increase their own list and traffic. This helps to create a reciprocal relationship where they’ll also be more likely to promote your products and services to their own followers.
6. Continue to Grow
Once you have a system in place and have it down, affiliate marketing can really help you make money to supplement your existing revenue streams. If you decide to treat your website like an affiliate marketing business and you’re not monetizing in other ways, you may want to seriously consider some strategic partnerships with your peers where you can earn much higher commissions.
Understand that just like any other type of internet marketing, whether it’s advertising with Google Adsense, social media marketing, SEO, or SEM, it takes time and effort to see results. Whatever you decide, there really is no limit to what you can make with affiliate marketing, it just depends on how much time you want to dedicate to it.