What is affiliate marketing? A complete guide to getting started
Updated: Apr 21, 2022
Imagine you are on the beach in Bali, sipping fresh mango juice, swaying back and forth in a hammock and making money at the same time. This idea - to escape 9 to 5, earn passive income and live on our own terms - is a dream many of us share. However, most of us struggle to put those thoughts into practice.
One way to make this dream come true is through affiliate marketing, a sales tactic that can generate high revenue online. Whether you're creating a website and blog, making YouTube videos or building an audience on social media, you can use affiliate marketing to monetize your content. This affiliate marketing introduction guide will teach you everything you need to know to start your online business idea, from the definition of affiliate marketing to the benefits and best practices.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a process in which one party earns a commission from marketing another company's products. This party - called an affiliate - searches for a brand partner, markets their products on their social media accounts, blogs or other platforms, and then earns on every sale.
Companies then provide affiliates with a unique link - called, not surprisingly, an affiliate link. That way, they can track their partner's performance and compensate them based on the number of sales.
Benefits of affiliate marketing
There are several reasons to become an affiliate marketer:
Low risk: Joining an affiliate marketing program is free, so you do not need to make an investment to get started.
Passive Income: When you add the affiliate link to your post, you can profit from the sale without any extra effort.
No customer support: When customers have questions or complaints, the company - and not you - will be responsible for solving their problems.
Flexible work schedule: Instead of sticking to a traditional schedule, you can work as an affiliate marketer on your own time.
Minimum Business Costs: You do not need standard business infrastructure to become an affiliate marketer; all you need is a laptop and an internet connection.
How does affiliate marketing work?
To gain a better understanding of how this type of marketing works, you need to know about the three major players involved: salespeople, affiliates, and consumers. Together, these three parties make up the ecosystem of affiliate marketing.
Sellers: Seller is the company that makes or delivers the product. This could be a nationwide franchise like BestBuy or a small independent store.
Affiliates: The way most people get involved in affiliate marketing is by becoming an affiliate. The partner, also known as the publisher, markets the seller's products. They do this by marketing the products on their own platforms, such as a personal blog or social media page.
Consumers: These are the buyers of the product. When they make a purchase by clicking on the affiliate link, the affiliate earns a commission on the sale.
How Do Affiliate Marketers Get Paid?
As an affiliate marketer, there are a few different ways you can get paid. Although pay-per-sale is standard practice, it is helpful to be familiar with the other methods as well:
Pay Per Sale: This is by far the most common way affiliated marketers make money. Consumers must purchase the product after clicking on the affiliate link, and the affiliate receives a percentage of the sale price.
Pay per lead: Although less common, the salesperson can also pay the partner to generate leads instead of selling. In this case, the partner must persuade the consumer to complete an action such as filling out a contact form or signing up for a free trial.
Pay per click: Another unusual method is for affiliates to make money when consumers click on their link - whether they are converting to a lead or making a purchase.
How to start affiliate marketing
Now that you have some general knowledge about affiliate marketing, here is a step-by-step overview on how to get started:
Choose a platform
Find your niche
Build an audience
Get in touch with brands
Create affiliate content
01. Select a platform
You can do affiliate marketing on most platforms or social media channels of your choice. Instagram is a popular option, but using your blog or YouTube channel tends to yield the most effective results.
Blogging: If you are interested in affiliate marketing as part of your blogging strategy, creating a blog is easy and free. You can monetize your blog by incorporating affiliate links into your articles in ways that are truly useful to your readers. For example, if your post is about baking a cake, you can include a link to buy your favorite kitchen mixer.
YouTube: Affiliate marketing is a proven way to make money on YouTube. If you choose this as your main platform, you need to easily incorporate branded products into your videos. Some YouTubers choose to create videos that focus on a specific product or brand, while others view the product as part of a broader theme.
Instagram: Since Instagram does not offer you the same opportunity to describe the product in the long run and make it part of a larger story, the platform is not as effective when it comes to converting your audience. Nevertheless, it is a common choice that gives profit to some. If you go this route, post Instagram photos that contain the product and include a link and explanation in the description.
Whichever option you prefer, it's a good idea to post across a variety of platforms so you can cross-promote your content and expand your reach. This will also give you an understanding of the types of content that work best for you, and help you optimize your marketing efforts.
02. Find your niche
The web is full of competition. YouTube alone has over 31 million different channels, while Instagram has over 1 billion active users. In the meantime, there are over 600 million blogs - and these numbers are only growing.
For this reason, it is important that you stand out by centering your posts around a specific category - for example, you can choose Indian food instead of just cooking, or ballet instead of dancing. If your niche is too wide, the competition will be high and it will be much harder for the target audience to find your content.
03. Build an audience
After determining your preferred platform and niche, you need to build a fanbase to gain exposure. Whether you're focusing on expanding your Instagram account or becoming a successful YouTuber, having a dedicated audience will increase the likelihood that some of them will click on affiliate links. These strategies will help you draw attention to your posts:
SEO: Abbreviation for search engine optimization, SEO is the process of strategically aligning your content to rank high on Google and other search engines. When your blog or YouTube channel appears as one of the best search results, users are more likely to click on the link and navigate to your page.
PPC: Another way to appear as a leading result on search engines and get more traffic is to invest in PPC (pay-per-click) advertising. Keep in mind, however, that the amount you spend on ads may be more than the amount you earn on affiliate marketing.
Email Marketing: If you already have email subscribers through your personal website, send out newsletters that point your audience to your content. You can also add affiliate links directly to your email.
Social Media Marketing: Get more exposure by spreading the word about your Youtube channel, blog or Instagram account on your other social media channels.
04. Connect marks
Once you have established your platforms and developed a fanbase, it's time to start looking for opportunities for affiliate marketing. There are two main ways you can find brands to market:
Join an affiliate marketing program: The easiest way to get in touch with brands is by joining an affiliate program. Although there are a number of programs out there, some of the most popular include Amazon Associates, CJ Affiliate and ShareASale.
Reach out to brands yourself: If you have a particular brand or product in mind that you would like to market, you can also reach out to companies on your own. Be sure to emphasize how they will benefit from the collaboration. You need to explain why reaching out to your audience can bring them new customers.
Remember that if you are targeting consumers, it is better to work with companies that have high sales volumes, even if the commission is low. If, on the other hand, you are targeting companies, join a partnership that offers high commissions with lower sales volumes.
05. Create associated content
Sellers will provide you with an affiliate link to build into your content. Instead of marketing your products directly, try to make them fit naturally into your content. By incorporating your campaign into a larger, more engaging story, you can gently guide your audience toward making a purchase.
Here are some examples of powerful content:
A list of product recommendations, either in the form of a YouTube video or blog post, with promotional items included as suggestions.
A YouTube tutorial where you show your audience how to use a range of products, including what you market.
A webinar where you teach viewers how to perform a specific task, with a relevant product recommendation included in the presentation.
A blog post that provides tips or advice, with a suggestion that includes the promoted product.
An Instagram photo that shows you how to use the product.
Once you get started as an affiliate marketer, you can experiment with a variety of strategies to determine which ones reach the largest audience and generate the most profits.
06. Get clicks
Now you should have an idea of all the key affiliate marketing ingredients: a strategic platform and niche, a dedicated audience, brand partners and, of course, great content. The only thing left is to convince consumers to click on affiliate links.
To get clicks, you need to place your links in the right context. Think about it: If the name of a product appears completely out of the blue, no one will be persuaded to click on the link. But if you tell a story that shows how that product improved your life or helped you solve a problem, your audience will be more compelled to click on it and make a purchase.
You should also optimize the location of your links. If you add the link to a blog post, place the link at the beginning and end of your article in the form of a compelling CTA (call-to-action). You should also make sure that the link visually stands out on the page by making it a different color, adding a CTA button or using a banner ad.
Affiliate marketing strategies and tips
When starting your affiliate marketing journey, keep these tips in mind to maximize your success:
Choose Sellers With High Conversion Rate: Before working with a seller, take the time to research them. Do not waste your time marketing a product that has low demand. If you market a brand with a high conversion rate, the greater the chances the audience will buy - and the more you earn as a result.
Market products you believe in: Market only products that you can sincerely recommend to the public. That way, you will offer real value to your followers while making your personal brand credible and reliable.
Stay up to date with trends: Whether your niche is fashion, technology or travel, keep up with the latest industry trends. It will help you market the most competitive products with the highest demand from the consumers.
Do not put all your eggs in one basket: You do not want your entire strategy to rely on a single seller's website, landing pages and conversion rate. Rather, maximize your chances of success by marketing products from a variety of retailers.
Test and optimize: Continuously adapt your various marketing strategies to find out which methods yield the most profit. Should you expand your blogging efforts? Redesign your landing pages? Target your target audience with email marketing? Play with different marketing strategies to find out which ones work best for you.
Freddy Fix borrowed from Wix