Affiliate Marketing Guide

One way to grow a business is to create a strong sales force. Building your own sales force used to be very expensive, and due to that, it was a substantial barrier to entry for product creators. Thankfully, due to the advent of amazing online tracking technology, you can not only become a salesperson yourself for many different products and creators, but you can also create your own products to sell.

Using affiliate technology, you can also build a sales force that can bring in multiple six figures and even millions of dollars – all without hiring employees. You only pay your sales force (affiliates) if they make a sale. As an affiliate (salesperson), you only earn money if you make a sale.

It sounds simple, and it really is. However, it’s a good idea to learn all you can about affiliate marketing before you jump in. Learning about affiliate marketing and the various ways you can maximize your earnings will push your business to the next level and take you toward being the true CEO of your business.

To be successful with making affiliate marketing profits you’ll need to find your niche, discover the right products to promote, create your own products, find the right affiliates to market them and keep your affiliates motivated. It all starts with finding and understanding your niche.

Finding Your Niche

The very first thing you need to do if you want to make money as an affiliate marketer – whether you’re going to make money selling other people’s products or your own (best to do both) – is that you need to figure out who you want to work with and what niche you want to be part of.

Who Do You Want to Work With?

One way to figure out the type of people you’d like to work with or help is to look inside yourself to find your interests and passions. If you really enjoy being around certain people and you know about their hopes, desires, and needs due to being part of that audience yourself, that’s one way to do it as you will already have insight.

However, don’t let this give you an excuse not to do your research. Your experiences, even as part of your niche audience, are subjective and real results may be very different than you imagine. Try describing your ideal customer in one or two sentences to help you move forward.

Who Serves That Audience Now?

Once you have identified a potential niche audience, it always helps to look at the competition. After all, if this niche has no competition, is it really a profitable niche? Some people will say that you should go for the low competition niches, but it’s better to go for the niche that offers enough potential customers for you to reach your income goals if your conversion rate matches industry standards.

For example, if there are 1000 potential customers, and according to your research there is a 4 to 7 percent conversion rate, and you know that you can get your materials and information in front of those 1000 customers, you may get at most 70 customers from a campaign. Is your price point high enough for those 70 customers to make you profitable?

What Skills and Solutions Can You Offer This Niche?

Do you have specialized education, experience, or knowledge that makes you particularly suited for this niche? You don’t have to be part of the audience to do well in a niche.

For example, if you have identified a niche that needs someone to advise them on products to use for their love of camping which are different from what’s out there, you can still learn about it and serve the audience even if you have no camping experience or appreciation of camping. Maybe instead of direct experience, you have resources that enable you to pay people with subject matter expertise to create your business.

What Makes You Different?

Always look at yourself too. What makes you different from your competition? What skills can you offer to this niche that others can’t? How can you stand out from the crowd? Are you going to approach the niche in a different way than the others? For example, if you’re a business coach, are you buttoned up or a free spirit? Whatever you are, you’re going to attract an entirely different segment of your audience base than someone who is different from you.

Check an Affiliate Network for Products That Serve That Audience

The other thing you want to do is ensure that any niche you choose is profitable. Asking yourself if it’s profitable is an important question. Just because you have internet and passion doesn’t make it a profitable niche. What makes it profitable is that the target audience exists in enough quantity and has enough money to buy the solutions you create and offer.

Once you narrow down some options, the primary considerations are whether your niche idea is profitable or not, and whether you have the skills to proceed or not – either skills you learn or skills you buy from others. Choose a niche that you like that can provide enough profit and that you know how to serve.

Finding the Right Product or Service to Promote

Now that you know who your audience is and the niche you want to be part of, it’s time to find the right products and/or services to promote to them. There are numerous ways of finding the products or services to present to your audience.

Problems and Solutions

Once you have an idea of who your audience is, you can focus on figuring out their problems and then locating solutions to help them. Make a list of at least three problems that you want to solve for the audience, based on the niche you’ve chosen.

Here is an example:

  • Audience: Married working moms of school-aged children who thrive on order
  • Problems: Keeping a family calendar, meal planning, organizing
  • Potential Solutions: Digital calendars, DFY meal plans and shopping lists, organization tips and organization products

Once you have a list of problems and solutions, go to some known affiliate networks to look for the products you have identified as a good fit.

A quick search on ClickBank.com – a popular affiliate network where you can find products in any niche to market as well as use to promote your own products – reveals several products that you might want to promote, such as Get Organized Now

Don’t just start promoting that now, though. Make a list of several products. Then, do some research on each product. Find out about the creator, look at the conversion rate for the product, and think about how the creator’s values and style fit in with the brand voice you want to display.

If you don’t know someone who knows them to vouch for their professionalism, test them out by buying the product yourself so that you can evaluate the quality of the product and the company for their customer service. After all, as an affiliate marketer, you are turning your customers over to someone else to serve. You need to make sure they will take good care of your customers so that your audience continues to value your recommendations.

Different Programs

There are numerous affiliate networks that list opportunities for you to promote to your audience. Each has its own quirks and issues that you’ll have to learn about as you join a network. You can also find affiliate products through direct programs that are not listed in affiliate networks.

For example, many individual publishers like using technology like aMember.com to set up their program, in which case they won’t be listed on the affiliate platforms. To find those products, simply look up solutions using keywords that you think will find them.

For example, in the example above, we searched for Household Organization on ClickBank. Search for Household Organization on Google to find out what it shows. The first result in our case is a website called Getorganizedgal.com which offers solutions that the audience would need and want.

However, you cannot see an affiliate program, but with more investigation, she uses Teachable to deliver her courses. Teachable has an included affiliate module. You could send her an email explaining how you like her products (after you buy some) and that your audience would too if they open an affiliate program for you.

Another that shows up is Cozi.com, which is a family organizer. It includes a calendar, shopping lists, to-do lists, recipes, and a meal planner and even a family journal. You can promote Cozi and earn money through their affiliate program if you meet the requirements.

A few programs to check out are:

  • JVZoo.com
  • Affilorama.com
  • ClickBank.com
  • ShareASale.com
  • Amazon Associates
  • eBay Partner Network
  • CJ Affiliate 
  • Thrive Market
  • Udemy.com
  • Skillshare.com

Each network has its pros and cons, and there are many more than these. You can find huge lists of affiliate networks by searching Google for “affiliate networks,” and you can also find specialized networks. For example, if you want to sell organic goods only, you’ll find many options.

You can also lookup specific products you’d like to promote, find a link to their affiliate program, or email them for information about it. Some business owners don’t use affiliate networks, but so many do that you’re sure to find many profitable products that you can promote. Even if you don’t see one, you can always email the creator to offer your services by showing them your social proof.

Determining Profitability

Before you choose a product to promote, it’s imperative that you check out whether the product is profitable or not. If it’s listed on an affiliate network, you can see the metrics listed to help you determine how profitable the product is. If you are working directly with a product creator, you may need to test your assumptions after trying out the product yourself.

Here are some things to think about.

  • High Commissions – When it comes to digital products, less than 50 percent commission is probably a waste of time.
  • High Sales Price – If it’s a commission lower than 50 percent, is the sale price high enough that you’d make a per-sale price that makes it worth your time?
  • Conversion Rate – Most affiliate programs will list something to do with the conversion rate, how many sales have been made, or other information to help you determine if this is a good choice or not.
  • Sales Page – What does the sales page look like? While it may not please you to know, the longer sales pages sell better than shorter ones for many audiences. Is the sales page thought out? Does it convert?
  • Buy It – When you find a product that you think you want to promote to your audience, buy the product. If you have enough influence, you may be able to get it free or a sample copy of some kind for you to evaluate. However, buying it as a customer is the best way to learn how they do business and whether the product is right for your audience.
  • Is There Competition? – If you do a search and find other products like this one that you want to sell, that’s a good thing. You won’t have to educate your market as much if it’s already something they want and are searching for.
  • Can You Come Up with More Search Terms? – Once you have determined that a product is something you want to promote, can you come up with more search terms for it so that you can start developing content for marketing?
  • How Will You Promote This Product? – The other question you want to ask yourself is how you’ll promote the product. Will you do an all-out campaign or are you going to slip it in as an in-content link on your blog? Will you promote it to people already on your list? Which segment? The more you can plan out exactly how, when and where you’re going to promote the product, the more likely it is to be profitable.

Finding a profitable product isn’t really that hard if you’ve chosen a good niche that has a healthy audience clamoring for the solutions they need to make their life better. It’s your job to figure out what your niche is, the products your audience needs, and how you will present them to that audience.

You can also create your own products for the niche. Let’s look at that next.

Creating Your Own Products or Services

Another way to make a profit as an affiliate marketer is to start creating your own products and/or services to promote to your audience too. As you work with your audience and gain customers due to the products you promote and the content you publish, you may gain insight into the audience that gives you the idea to create a brand-new product for them. Your product can be free or for a fee, depending on how you’re going to use it.

Offering Bonuses

One way that you can add your own products to the mix is by offering a bonus for the purchase of a different product for which you are an affiliate. The bonus product offers you the ability to add them to your list, boost your revenue, and perhaps demonstrate more of what you can do for the audience regarding their problems.

Some affiliate systems enable you to add your bonus product right to their funnel on the affiliate platform (such as is offered via aMember.com or JVZoo.com) if the product creator activates that ability for you. In other cases, you may have to get creative and send the bonus another way. However, there is a lot of technology that will do it automatically for you too.

Building Your List

As an affiliate marketer, you can create your own products that are only for list-building purposes. A good example might be a checklist to help your audience choose the right affiliate marketing software or help them set up their first webinar. Anything that your audience really needs and wants that is simple to create makes a handy list builder.

Another Income Stream

Additionally, as a product creator, you can create products as a separate income stream over and above your income generation as an affiliate. Maybe you can make a better cleaning organization calendar than the one that you’ve been promoting. Perhaps you have written a course about keeping your home organized that you want to market. Once you create the product, you also can recruit affiliates to make the sales for you.

As a product creator, you’ll need to ensure that you have the right software like aMember.com that helps you set up a shopping cart and even a membership site that enables you to distribute your digital products and services to your audience. You can also use any number of affiliate networks mentioned to list your products and attract affiliates to boost your income.

Finding the Right Affiliates (and Ones to Avoid)

Once you create your own products for sale, it’s time to set up an affiliate program of your own so that you can maximize your reach. Having your own affiliate program is like having an army of salespeople on your site building your business every single day. But finding the right affiliates takes a little thought and consideration.

Quality not Quantity

Having 1000 affiliates will not help you if they are not good salespeople. If the people who want to promote your product use unscrupulous means to make sales, that can also affect you very badly. By focusing on recruiting quality affiliates over a lot of affiliates, you can avoid most of the problems that can come with affiliates – namely fraud and spam.

Their Website

Check out any applicants’ websites. Do they have an active blog? Does the content fit your audience? Is the website secure? Are they following all the pertinent laws for their country and yours regarding spam, privacy, and other issues? Do they appear honest and confident based on the information you find on the website?

Their Domain Name

One way to find out about the person behind the website is to do a “Who Is” search. Some of the websites are going to have the information hidden. If that happens, do a little more digging on to ensure that the people behind the site are honest people that you’d want to deal with in person.

Their Content and Information

When you go to the site and read the content and information, does it speak to your audience such that they will choose to buy from them? What sort of keywords do they use? Is the content and information direct and above board? Would you feel safe sending your mother to that site to get information?

Financial Validation

The other thing you will want to do when you get an affiliate is to ensure that they fill out all the right legal forms required. Even if you are not going to send out 1099s because you pay via third-party like PayPal, getting that information is still important because it establishes their legality and validates them in a way that helps you keep your customers safe. Additionally, have they proven themselves to be effective affiliate marketers?

When you are first starting out as a product seller, you may not be able to be too picky about who becomes affiliates, but at the very least ensure that they are who they say they are, that they are not criminals and that they serve their customers honestly and transparently. Just realize that if you choose people who are new to affiliate marketing, you need to offer training and encouragement to them so that they make more sales.

Helpful Technology for Affiliate Marketers

Once you have made a choice to become an affiliate marketer, there are tools and technology that will make your job easier. The technology that is available today includes website building tools, email marketing tools, market research tools, and more.

Website Tools

To build a highly converting website, you need to choose the right type of domain name, hosting, website builder and landing page automation so that you can get more done with less work and worry. The following tools will help you get it all done.

Domain Name

One of the first things you need to do to get started with your affiliate marketing profits is to buy a domain name so that you can build a website that attracts your ideal audience. Choose a name that includes a keyword, that’s short and easy to remember, and that uses a dot com extension. An excellent choice for buying domains inexpensively is Namecheap.com. 

Website Hosting

The next thing you’re going to need after you buy your domain name is website hosting. You might want to check with the host before you buy your domain, as sometimes they offer a deal where you get the domain free by paying upfront for hosting. A good website host offers at least 99 percent uptime, good customer service, and an easy to navigate website. A good choice, especially if you’re a newbie and don’t understand what you’re doing, is MomWebs.com. They have great customer care and service.

Website Builder

You also need to build or have a good affiliate website built. One of the best and most used choices for this is self-hosted WordPress. You can learn more about it at WordPress.org. (Note: This is not the same as WordPress.com, although that dot com is run using self-hosted WordPress.) This builder is easy to use, inexpensive or even free, and what is most important is that it works great and search engines still love WordPress.

Landing Page Builder

Once you get everything done, you’re going to need some form of landing page builder. Now, you can do this for free using self-hosted WordPress just by making a new page, but it won’t have as much automation on it.

One thing that can help you earn more money is automation so that you don’t have to do everything manually. A good choice for automated landing page software is Instapage.com. If you use a robust system like Infusionsoft.com for your marketing, you already have it included. This type of software will automate your funnels in a way that will seem to turn your site into an ATM some days.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is not something you can skip out on. It’s one of the most effective and valuable forms of marketing that exists today. Even social media marketing cannot match the power of email marketing. This means you’re going to need to both capture leads and send out emails automatically. One of the most popular choices today is AWeber.com although there is also a lot of love for ConvertKit.com and ActiveCampaign.com. These, along with your landing page builder, will automate so much.

Market Research

As an affiliate marketer, you’re going to have to do a lot of market research to ensure your efforts do not go wasted. If you don’t do the research, you’ll take a lot of action that is not going to produce results. Don’t make assumptions; do the research. You can research your competitors using software like iSpionage.com, and you can research trending topics using something like Google Trends.

Traffic Generation

Investing in tools to help with traffic generation is also a meaningful way to create a successful affiliate marketing business. After all, you need a lot of targeted traffic to get the results you wanted when you set your goals and objectives.

  • AdEspresso.com by Hootsuite – If you plan to run a lot of ads on social media, this app is something that is going to help you make it easier. You’ll be able to run ads that are beautiful and optimized in all the top social media platforms.
  • Facebook Ads – You can use Facebook directly to do retargeting and remarketing campaigns by using the Facebook pixel on your site. Then you run an ad that only former visitors see, which has been shown to increase traffic and sales.
  • RecurPost.com – This software, once set up, will grab your blog posts and push them out to the social media sites you recommend randomly and automatically.

Don’t forget to send an email out too. When you have a new blog post, go ahead and tell your email audience about it using your email marketing software’s automatic blog post sharing features. 

Tracking and Converting

The other tools you need to help you become a profitable affiliate marketer are tools that help you track the effectiveness of your efforts and convert your audience. Every website needs to install Google Analytics. It’s free and it works great. After all, Google is still the leading search engine. That means you need to follow their recommendations.

For link tracking, a good choice is PrettyLinks.com. You can set up your website so that any time you mention specific terms, the software automatically inserts an affiliate link in that term. That’s a great way to automate your recommendations and track clicks and conversions.

Content Marketing

One of the ways you’re going to generate more traffic for your ideal target audience is to publish content that they’ll be interested in. In order to produce compelling content, you’ll need to do your research, ensure it’s understandable, and that it’s attractive. Not only that – you also want to ensure that you are posting content on a consistent and regular basis. These tools can help you accomplish that.

  • Research – When you want to do research, the most natural place to go is, of course, Google Search and Google Website Tools. That is where you should start. But there is also wonderful paid software that you can use even more effectively depending on what you are researching. A few tools you may want to try are social media platform searches, competitor searches, and their internal data by buying their products. 
  • Editing – When you publish anything, whether it’s a blog post or a product, you want to ensure that it’s readable to your audience. To accomplish that, first you need to know who the audience is and what terms they like using, then you need to be native in the language or hire someone who can help. You can also use tools like Grammarly.com to help you edit. However, the main issue is that if you don’t know what is right, the software can confuse you.
  • Graphics – At some point, you’ll want to create graphics to add more interest to blog posts, social media updates, to create eBooks and more. A good option for a non-graphic designer is to try Canva.com, although there is merit in hiring an experienced graphic designer to do that for you too.
  • Scheduling – There is a lot to do when it comes to marketing and scheduling, as well as planning what you are going to do to market your affiliate business. But software like CoSchedule.com can help; this is an entire marketing suite that has a marketing calendar, a content organizer, social organizer, and more all in one spot.

You may also need to hire someone to help you plan and create content for your affiliate business. You don’t have to do everything yourself. You can hire a content writer to help, and you can also use private label rights content to help you fill in the gaps in your content.

Using helpful technology that is made for marketers is a vital way to get ahead as an affiliate marketer. Always read the fine print for any technology you want to buy or use because some of them expressly prohibit activities that include affiliate marketing. It’s always good practice to read the rules because it’ll also give you full insight into using each tool you buy. 

Marketing for More Sales and Profit

As an affiliate marketer, it’s going to become clear that the saying, “always be marketing” applies to you in a big way. For the word to get out about the solutions you are marketing, you have to tell people and promote. Thankfully there are numerous ways that you can promote your affiliate business that are not expensive, and some are even free other than the time it takes to do them.

Remember that you may have different aspects of your business to market too. You will need to market your own affiliate program to those who might want to make money. You will need to market the products you create or find to those who need them. Therefore, it’s a business to business and business to customer situation, and they should be marketed totally separately from one another.

You can market both in the same way, but the material will look different based on the audience and the product you’re promoting. The primary way to market your business is via content marketing.

Content Marketing

This type of marketing includes any kind of marketing you are doing with content – including social media marketing, blogging, and email marketing. Create a plan for every single product that you want to promote. Know who you’re creating the content for, where it will appear, and what the call to action should be.

Search Engine Optimization

Learn what you can about SEO because it’s essential for your success. It will help you create better headlines, better subject lines, and indeed much better content that is targeted correctly. Remember that SEO includes both on-page and off-page options – from internal link building to getting links to your work, and all should be considered. Adding software like Yoast SEO to your blog can help a lot.

The most successful affiliate marketers use paid marketing in addition to the free choices. Remember that there really isn’t any free choice, though. You’ll either use your own time or your own money. Which you choose depends on the priorities you have and the skills you possess.

Social Media Marketing

Develop each platform that you use so that it shows your brand voice and the image you want to project on the world. Use the content you create to get the word out to the masses regularly – using both free and paid options.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is part of content marketing, but it needs to be stressed that email marketing is not something you can skip if you want to be a successful affiliate marketer long term. Building your own list based on your target audience is what’s going to keep you in business, even as your ideal audience grows and changes with time and social media platforms die out.

Affiliates

We already talked about starting your own affiliate program to sell your own products that you create based on what your audience needs. This is an excellent way to generate buzz and get the word out faster about any product you produce. Once you have your own products, start bringing on affiliates. Start with your happiest customers and train them to be effective money-generating affiliates.

Joint Venture Partnerships

One way to market your business is to form partnerships with others who serve the same audience as you do with complementary products and services. By the way, these are also opportunities for you to promote their products as an affiliate and vice versa.

The way a JV works is that you agree to work together for a common cause on a temporary or long-term basis, while remaining separate business for everything but the joint project. For example, you might get together with a bunch of your friends with affiliate programs, who offer programs to working moms of school-age kids such as meal planning, household organization, self-improvement and more.

You can put on a webinar with a few different experts in this area, each offering their own product or service to the audience. Everyone markets the event together at the same time to create buzz. Then you host the webinar live, and you can even replay it as live to generate even more leads.

The only way to make more sales and profit is to market more. Get more people involved and ensure that as many people as possible are talking about your products and services. Don’t be afraid to aggressively tell your audience about your offers. After all, you know they work, and you are proud of them. Why wouldn’t you tell people about them as much as you can?

The Steps to Getting Started

Every successful venture starts with learning and then planning. Use this getting started list to help you truly get organized and take that first step toward affiliate marketing profits.

1. Know Your Audience – Conduct research so that you know as much as you can about your audience. Where do they hang out? What keeps them up at night. Who do they like getting info from?

2. Know Your Audience’s Pain Points – What are at least three pain points that you can solve with your knowledge and the products you have created or discovered?

3. Know Your Why – It’s imperative that you know why you care about this target audience and why you are the right person to find or create the products that become solutions for them.

4. Create a Branded Website for Your Audience – Your branding is essential because it needs to speak to the audience in such a way that they understand what your brand stands for right away.

5. Set Up Branded Social Platforms – The same with your social platforms; they should be branded correctly so that everyone knows it’s you.

6. Set Up Your Email Autoresponder – You cannot be successful without email marketing so start building your list before you have any products, using freebies and checklists and your blog to attract them.

7. Set Up Your Funnels – Use technology to automate your marketing funnels for each product that you are going to promote to them.

8. Fill Your Website and Social Media with Targeted Content – Set up your content marketing plan based on each product, service, and problem that your audience has.

9. Find a Product to Promote – Knowing your audience, seek high-quality products that you can be proud to promote with companies that offer top-notch customer care.

10. Become an Affiliate for That Product – Sign up as an affiliate if you can find the information to contact them about it. Don’t give up if you get turned down at first; build yourself up and come back if needed.

11. Create Content Based on the Product – Remember to create content based on the products you want to promote to everyone based on their stage in the buying journey.

12. Promote the Content Everywhere – Use technology to promote your content everywhere, even when it’s free. Promote it as if it’s the most expensive product you have.

13. Check Your Numbers – Always keep studying your numbers to ensure that the actions you take get the results you wanted. 

14. Repeat – Don’t stop. Be consistent and keep doing it. Adjust based on your metrics.

The only question now is, what are you waiting for? Affiliate marketing is a lucrative career to start, even on a part-time basis. You don’t have to do it all today. Start at the beginning and work your way through the process. Before you know it, you’ll start seeing the first income flow into your bank account.

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