Affiliate Marketing: Tips, Tricks & Recommendations To Get You Making More In 2019
Imagine waking up in the morning, opening your inbox and seeing hundreds of dollars in commissions made that day from affiliate marketing. It's this kind of passive income, that excites people the most about starting an online business, but is making money from affiliate marketing actually as good as it sounds?
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing works in 4 simple steps:
- You join an affiliate program.
- You promote products through special affiliate links.
- You track sales in your account.
- When a sale is made, you earn a commission.
Let's start by explaining the 4 major parties involved in most transactions.
The merchant, also known as the seller, is the owner of the products being sold. They handle payments from the customer as well as fulfillment and support.
They're also in charge of ensuring their affiliates get paid out on a regular schedule (usually once a month).
Of course, there are many different types of merchants ranging from the largest online retailer, Amazon.com to smaller online stores and even brands like Authority Hacker, EOFire.com, Amy Porterfield and SmartPassiveIncome.com who all sell online courses.
For an affiliate to promote a merchants products, there must first be an affiliate program. For example, the most common affiliate program (which you can sign up to today) is Amazon's Associate program.
Once your account has been approved, you can start generating affiliate links for any product listed on Amazon.com. (shown below)
Some merchants may NOT offer an affiliate program and so to check to see if they do, I recommend the following 2 options:
- Reach out to them via email and ask if they do
- Check in the footer for a link to their affiliate program. (shown below)
The affiliate is, well, you!
Your job as an affiliate is to sign up to affiliate programs and promote your merchants products through various methods including:
- Video marketing (think YouTube).
- Paid advertising (eg. Facebook/Google ads).
- Email marketing.
- Social media.
A little later on I'll be covering more specific marketing strategies you can use to generate commissions.
The customer is the person purchasing products from the merchant after clicking on your affiliate links.
In order for you to convert a prospect into a customer, it's important that you first build trust.
That's why it's important that when recommending products, you always tell the truth! If a product is subpar, feel free to mention why before suggesting a better alternative.
The final party you'll eventually come across are affiliate networks. They're exactly how they sound, a network of multiple affiliate programs.
As an example, one of the more popular networks which you can sign up to today is Shareasale.com. After signing up you can then search through their database to find relevant merchants to promote. (see below)
There are 2 main benefits to joining an affiliate network:
- You can promote multiple merchants under the one account
- You get access to information that shows the conversion rate of each merchant (see below)
Each affiliate network is different, however the main stat you want to look at is called EPC, which stands for earnings per 100 clicks you send to the merchants website.
We also have this full list of affiliate networks that you can sign up to for free and get started with today.
To recap, the 4 parties involved with any affiliate business are:
- The merchant who is the owner of the products that can be promoted.
- The affiliate who is you in this case and the person recommending and promoting the merchants products.
- The customer who is the person being referred onto the merchant to purchase products.
- The affiliate networks who act as middlemen between affiliates and merchants.
Note. Rather than go through an affiliate network, some merchants decide to host their own self-managed affiliate programs. That's why it's always important to check the footer on their website or reach out and ask.
Strategy #1: The Tools Or Resources Page.
The first technique is to set up a tools or resources page on your website that lists out any of the products you yourself use.
You'll see on our resources page, we list out the most common tools we use to run our business, Screw The Nine To Five.
For example, an essential service for any online business is website hosting. We mention both an affordable option and a higher priced, higher performance option.
You can see that we are providing our affiliate link via the LEARN MORE buttons and the logos themselves.
For example, if you hover over the learn more button for WPengine, you will see the URL path: screwtheninetofive.com/recommends/wpengine
This is what's called a cloaked link. When you click on it, it will redirect you to our affiliate link. Any sales made will result in a commission for us.
To be clear, the person buying the product or service WILL NOT be charged any extra. The margins are only reduced for the merchant.
FYI: we use a free WordPress plugin called Thirsty Affiliates to create these links.
As an added layer of value, it's worth reaching out to any merchants whose products or services you are wanting to list on your resources page to see if they can hook you up with a special coupon.
Just another way to hook your audience up!
Strategy #2: Blog Posts, Show Notes & Youtube Videos.
If you are a blogger, podcaster or YouTube personality and you're not using affiliate links when mentioning certain products or services, then you are losing money every day!
Ultimately, it's a simple 4 step strategy:
- You create a piece of content (blog post, podcast or video).
- If you mention a product, see if the merchant has an affiliate program.
- If they do, sign up and create your tracking link.
- Insert the link (in the blog post, podcast show notes, YouTube video description).
Here's an example of us placing affiliate links in the show notes of this podcast episode.
I've spoken to a lot of people who are not taking advantage of this opportunity.
It's clear the reason why is either, they didn't know there were affiliate opportunities or there were too many and they didn't know how to stay organized.
Here's how we stay organized at Screw The Nine To Five.
Step 1: We Find & Apply For The Affiliate Program.
Most of the time, the link to the affiliate program can be found in the footer.
Go ahead and sign once you've found the affiliate program.
Step 2: Create Affiliate Link Using Thirsty Affiliates.
As you can see, Amazon makes it easy to generate affiliate links.
Next, go ahead and create the cloaked link using Thirsty Affiliates.
Step 3: Add To Your Affiliate Link Tracking Sheet.
The next thing we do is take the newly created affiliate link and add it to a tracking spreadsheet. This way we can easily grab it the next time the product is mentioned.
I also like to include a few extra columns like category, affiliate network, commission and login information for the affiliate program.
You may find over time that your list of affiliate links blows out to several hundred and so staying organized is KEY!
Step 4: Insert The Affiliate Link.
The last step is to insert the affiliate link into the desired location. Simple as that!
Strategy #3: Email For Affiliate Marketing.
Next, let’s talk about using your email list to generate additional affiliate revenue.
If you have a growing email list, then you have a great opportunity to suggest products and services to them, without coming across desperate.
We do this through our weekly newsletter called The Hookup, where we frequently mention books we’re reading, courses we’re taking and tools we’re digging.
In fact, we even have a section inside The Hookup dedicated to mentioning a tool we’re loving called What A Freakin’ Tool, as shown below:
The most important thing to keep in mind is creating a structure that contains a section like this in your own newsletter.
And this could be for anything.
If you’re a health coach, you could mention a supplement or a book you’re loving right now.
If you’re in the pet space, you could have a section dedicated to the latest toys for your pets.
The list goes on!
I also recommend giving your weekly newsletter a unique name. This has been proven to be a successful concept as shown by the popular newsletter, The Skimm.
How To Become An Affiliate Marketer Full Time
This next section is dedicated to anyone looking to earn a living primarily from affiliate marketing.
I’ll be covering a particular strategy called The Authority Site System.
The Authority Site System.
Let me start by saying that we are not the official experts when it comes to creating authority sites.
Therefore, I recommend attending this free training on building Authority Sites by the guys over at AuthorityHacker.com.
I promise you won’t regret it.
Note. Authority sites are not specifically all about making money through affiliate marketing, however it is one of the better options for monetizing these types of sites.
Mark & Gael break it all down into 5 easy-to-understand steps:
- Find a profitable niche.
- Keyword research & structuring your website.
- Setting up your website.
- Creating content & outsourcing.
- Promoting your website (building links).
The great thing about their approach is that they talk a lot about using one merchant, being Amazon.com, to earn money.
This is good because it means that your payouts are consistent and it’s easy to track your growth, month-to-month.
I’m going to simplify this even further into 3 steps:
- Find a profitable niche.
- Create & promote content on your website so you can rank on Google.
- Refer people from your website to your merchants.
Most, if not all of the traffic you will receive to your website will come from ranking on page 1 of Google.
This is called search engine optimization.
Step 1: Finding A Profitable Niche.
The first step is to uncover a profitable niche.
This is based on a couple of factors including:
- SEO competition (how easy is to rank on Google).
- Commercial intent (finding keywords that could lead to a purchase – ie. best collars for small dogs).
- Monetization (are there many products on Amazon and how much do they cost?).
- Personal Interest (whether or not you have some interest in the niche).
- Avoid mass market niches (things like phones and laptops should be avoided due to a high level of competition).
If you’re having trouble thinking of some niche ideas, then the following 3 categories may help (this approach is borrowed from this podcast episode on the Authority Hacker Podcast):
Think of hobby-style niches that people are obsessed with like, paintball, horse riding or drones.
These are niches based on how someone would describe themselves like, I’m a vegan, I’m a runner, I’m a pug owner or I’m a kitesurfer.
These are niches based on a specific problem like weight loss, rosacea, diabetes, etc.
An example of a good niche would be biohacking, which, if you don’t know is based on taking steps to hack your body whether it be for sleep, weight loss or even brain function.
There are a lot of books, supplements and more available for purchase on Amazon.com like infrared sauna’s, which supposedly are used for detoxification purposes.
This is a great niche for anyone who has an interest in this area.
I recommend taking some time to group together a list under each of these categories. Then, use the 5 factors mentioned above to see if you can come up with a suitable niche.
Step 2: Create & Promote Content.
Next up, after setting up your website (watch this free training to see how) it’s time to start creating content that Google can find and index in their search engine.
There are essentially 3 different types of content I recommend creating for your authority site:
- Information style content (eg. are infrared saunas safe).
- Comparison style content (eg. best infrared saunas).
- Review content (eg. jnh sauna reviews).
Of course, before you can start creating content, you first need to find keywords to target and for this, we use Ahrefs and their Keyword Explorer.
I don't want to spend too long explaining how you can find great keywords to target.
Instead, I'll let Ahrefs show you how in their killer free, 3-part keyword research video training shown below:
Part 1: How To Do Keyword Research.
Part 2: How To Find Thousands Of Keyword Ideas For SEO.
Part 3: How To Measure Keyword Difficulty & Rank On Google
Just keep in mind that you want to put yourself in the shoes of the person doing the searching.
For example, someone searching for best infrared saunas is probably thinking about making a purchase. Whereas, someone searching for benefits of infrared saunas is most likely looking for information only.
Keywords that have purchase intent are more likely to convert into affiliate commissions over keywords with information intent.
Creating A Content Calendar.
Once you understand the fundamentals of keyword research, it's time to build out a schedule so you can start producing consistent content.
For this we use a tool called Monday, which allows us to create boards specifically to use for content calendars.
The great thing about Monday for those looking to build an affiliate marketing business, is that when you start outsourcing content, it's easy to slot in freelancers to take over the work you were once doing.
There are also multiple views that make it even easier like the calendar view as shown below.
When creating a content calendar, I recommend working month to month initially before planning out and scheduling on a quarterly basis.
Once you have your content calendar in place, every Monday just sign in and click on My Week to see what tasks you have to complete.
Simple as that!
The next step is to start creating your content and for this I'll show you a couple of examples.
Firstly, one common type of content which is great for earning affiliate revenue are product reviews.
Take for instance this review of the popular landing page tool, ClickFunnels.
Shown in the image above, you can see a simple table of contents:
- ClickFunnels Pricing & Features
- ClickFunnels Tutorials
- ClickFunnels Vs LeadPages
- ClickFunnels FAQs
- Should You Use ClickFunnels
Typically, we keep to the same structure with all of our reviews.
The most important thing to keep in mind when creating reviews is to remain honest and trustworthy.
Your goal is to rank on page #1 of Google for keywords like, product name review, product name reviews, buy product name and many more.
Therefore, if someone lands on your review after searching on Google, they're likely wanting to read an HONEST opinion of the product before they buy.
If it's not the best option available to them, feel free to say so and recommend something else instead.
Next up, we have what we call comparison content.
These are designed to compare different products next to each other. Take this example for instance, which compares all the best WordPress page builders.
SIDE NOTE: This website uses a page builder called Elementor in case you were wondering.
As you can see, the goal is to list the best products in an easy-to-read comparison table.
SIDENOTE: There's also this tool called AAWP that allows you to quickly generate comparison tables for products listed on Amazon.
In this case, we are hoping to eventually rank #1 on Google for the keyword term, best wordpress page builder. The monthly search volume isn't high, however there is commercial intent, which is the main thing.
The final type of content you are likely to create are called information posts and right now you're actually reading one of these!
This is what we call an ultimate guide, and its goal is to cover everything someone would need to know about a topic. In this case, the topic is affiliate marketing.
Not only are these articles extremely informative, but there is also a chance to suggest certain products you think the reader may find useful.
In fact, throughout this guide you have probably noticed me mentioning products periodically.
My goal isn't to push unnecessary products and services your way. Instead, the goal is to mention products we use, or that we think will be helpful to you as an affiliate marketer!
This is by far the most important part of the process and is normally the biggest roadblock for most people.
As we've already discussed, your goal is to rank on page #1 of Google for as many keyword terms related to your niche as possible.
We call this process, search engine optimization (SEO) and there are many different factors that will determine your ability to rank.
More of them are discussed in greater depth in this free training, but for now I'd like to introduce you to the idea of building inbound links to your website, also referred to as backlinks.
An inbound link is when someone else places a link on their website that points to your site.
Take for example this guest blog we wrote for entrepreneur.com. Firstly, as part of our bio, a link gets placed at the top which points to our homepage. (shown below)
And secondly, there was an opportunity to place a link to another one of our pages within the article itself. (shown below)
This method of building inbound links is known as guest blogging (covered further in this podcast episode) and is by far the easiest strategy to get started with.
Google places a high amount of importance on inbound links.
It shows their algorithm that if many other sites are willing to link to your own, then it assumes that your site is an authority and should be ranked high in their search engine.
We are working on creating an ultimate guide to SEO which will be available in the near future.
For now, I really do recommend watching this free training by the guys over at Authority Hacker to learn even more strategies.
Step 3: Track Your Affiliate Commissions.
The final step of this strategy is to make sure you are tracking your affiliate commissions.
If you plan on just promoting products through Amazon, then it will be easy to track your sales.
If on the other hand you are using multiple affiliate programs, then I recommend getting into a monthly schedule of checking your sales and entering them into a Google spreadsheet.
Generally speaking, as your website traffic grows, so too should your commissions. If not, then reach out to your merchant to make sure your links are being tracked accurately.
SIDENOTE: There's this tool called ClickMeter that helps you better track all of your affiliate links. That way if you feel your merchant isn't tracking commissions accurately, you can show them data that confirm your total clickthroughs.
Affiliate Marketing Tools.
In order to become a power affiliate you should first equip yourself with the necessary tools.
These are all the tools we recommend to up your affiliate game:
Thirsty Affiliates is a WordPress plugin that allows you to cloak your affiliate links. It also lets you track clicks separately, which is handy for ensuring your affiliate programs are tracking clicks more accurately.
AAWP is a must have WordPress plugin for any affiliate looking to promote products on Amazon. It allows you to quickly create comparison tables, product boxes, best sellers and more. Best of all, it's affordable at less than $50 for a single license.
Elementor allows you to effortlessly create beautiful looking pages for your WordPress affiliate websites. Not only is it easy to use, it's also affordable at just $49 for a single website license.
SiteGround is a must have website hosting provider for anyone looking to start an affiliate marketing business. It's fast, affordable and offers great customer support. We use SiteGround for our other affiliate sites and WPEngine for The Screw for added performance.
Ahrefs is the only tool we use for search engine optimization. It comes with everything you need. We happily shell out the $97 a month for the Lite version, because without it, we could never rank on page #1 of Google.
Google Analytics is a must have for any website owner. This is how we track the movement in and out for our website visitors. If you don't have a free Google Analytics account right now, then this should be one of the first things you setup.
Monday is the project management platform we use to run our entire business. Without it, everything would be a hot mess! It comes with a free trial, so you can test it out before deciding to upgrade.
ClickMeter allows you to even better manage all of your affiliate links under one platform. Although Thirsty Affiliates does offer tracking, it's far less in depth when compared to what ClickMeter has to offer.
Affiliate Marketing Courses.
Even though you could probably use the information in this free guide to get started, there are some affiliate marketing courses I recommend taking to get results even sooner.
Here are our top 3 for 2019:
The Authority Site System by Mark and Gael from Authority Hacker is easily my favorite affiliate marketing course. The thing I like most about it is that it's a complete step-by-step system that anyone can follow, no matter your skill level. If you plan on creating an empire of affiliate sites, then this course is for you.
1, 2, 3 Affiliate Marketing is a course by Pat Flynn from SmartPassiveIncome.com, who has earned more than $3 million in affiliate revenue since starting his online business. His course is great for personal brands looking to add on additional affiliate revenue.
Wealthy Affiliate is A LOT more than just a course. With a premium membership starting at $49 a month, you'll get access to hundreds of hours of training videos, live events, a fully built in website generator, tools, a community of affiliate marketers and much more. If you're looking for more of a community experience, then this is for you.
Affiliate Marketing FAQs.
If you're starting from scratch and you know very little about online marketing, then expect about a 3-6 month learning curve before you fully understand what you're trying to do.
After that, it can take up to 12 months before you start making significant revenue. With that being said, I've seen complete newbies go from nothing to full-time income in less than 6 months.
It really depends on how committed you are to growing a successful affiliate marketing business.
If you want to speed up that learning curve, feel free to choose one of the courses mentioned above.
Initially, not a lot. You can get away with spending less than $100 a month on hosting and a few tools. Eventually, the costs will go up when you start hiring help.
Creating high-quality content will be your biggest roadblock and for that, you will eventually have to think about outsourcing.
All-in-all, you're sitting pretty as this is by far the highest margin online business you could possibly build. Like I mentioned above, it just takes some sweat equity and patience to get up and running.
It's hard to say. The thing I like to remind myself of, is that all you are doing is acting as a middle man between customers and merchants.
This isn't a new concept by any means. It's been around for a long time in the offline retail space and so knowing this, I feel as though there will always be a place for affiliate marketing in the future. So long as the internet is around, you're good!
On top of all this, the industry looks to keep expanding, especially with the ramping up of the Amazon Associates program.
Affiliate marketing is basically for anyone who is building an online brand.
For those looking to earn a full-time living from affiliate marketing, normally the following personality traits work best:
- You're a fairly pragmatic person
- You probably prefer being the person behind the scenes in your business
- You can't think of a specific passion you can turn into a business
- You like systems & procedures
- You're organized
- You don't mind spending time at the computer
- You appreciate your free time and independence
If at least 3 of these sounds like you, then you're probably well-equipped to earn a full-time living from affiliate marketing.
Good question! The answer is no, however I always believe it's a good idea to use a product before writing a review or suggesting it to other people.
Trust is the engine that will drive your business forward and so why not reach out to your merchants and ask them for a sample to try out their product? This way you can offer some first-hand experience to your people
You'll be surprised at just how many merchants are willing to send out samples to their affiliates!
This is one of the most asked questions we get about affiliate marketing.
The truth is, it's difficult to determine if your merchant or networks are scrubbing your commissions. That's why it's always a good idea to track clickthroughs separately using a tool like ClickMeter.
This way, you can see how many clickthroughs you are driving and see if it lines up accurately with the stats shown inside the affiliate program. If not, then reach out to your affiliate manager and see if there's an issue with your links.
Ultimately, merchants want to do everything they can to help their affiliates out, not screw them over.
More Affiliate Marketing Training
Ready to get started or looking to expand your knowledge with affiliate marketing? I recommend your next step be to learn more about the concept of an “Authority Site”.
Think of these are the vehicles you'll be using to drive your business forward, whether it be through multiple sites or just one like this website.
Your next step is to learn exactly how this happens and I couldn't think of a better free training to attend, then the one put together by Mark and Gael from Authority Hacker.
These guys have been featured everywhere as experts when it comes to building authority sites in any niche, specifically as an affiliate marketer.
When you're ready, hit that button below and devour that free training!
Have questions? Drop them below, we answer every single one...
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