In-fact today there are many people online that will try to sell you various courses and some other products while having you believe that very thing. While many of the others focus on “how to start”, I will focus on the question: How to start a successful affiliate marketing business.
Because there is a difference… a huge difference.
When you start a successful Affiliate Marketing business, you first need to understand:
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate Marketing is getting people to complete actions online, such as turn into a led by submitting a web form, all the way of buying products and services.
This all happens through coupon code or your personal “affiliate link” placed on your website.
As you send traffic to your affiliate link, some of those people (hopefully) will convert into a sale or lead.
Depending on the action that the advertiser wants to be performed you will get paid a commission.
Once again… on paper, this sounds EASY, right?
You need to get some people to your link, have them buy XYZ and finally make money!
Pump the breaks…
Not so fast!
You’ll see not all traffic is created equal.
Most inexperienced affiliate marketers think this is all a numbers game. Send as much traffic to a link and earn more money… But this line of thinking will probably end up in failure… even worse, you can get kicked off an affiliate network for sending untargeted traffic. Just because you’re getting people to click your link, doesn’t mean they are interested in what you have to offer.
In affiliate marketing quality traffic is much more important and more valuable than the quantity of your traffic.
What is targeted traffic?
This may sound obvious, but it would surprise you how few people understand this concept…
Targeted traffic is finding people who would have a high likely hood of converting. If you were an affiliate for a dog product, it wouldn’t make much sense to try to get a cat owners to click on your link.
Some of these boils down to some common sense, but to really build a successful affiliate business online, you have to go deeper than that. You have to fully understand exactly who is most likely to convert for your offer.
Now we will get into how to get this kind of traffic in a moment, but first lets better understand how to find people that will convert on our offer.
Understanding The Purchase Funnel
This diagram above is the purchase funnel.
A purchase funnel is the theoretical customer’s the journey towards the purchase of a product or service.
I’ll explain each step of the way, but when first starting out you’ll want to focus on the bottom of the part of the purchase funnel.
- Awareness – Getting a person to know of a product or service. At this stage, they may not even know a solution exists for their problem.
- Opinion – A person decides if this product or service is even appropriate for them.
- Consideration – Is the information stage, this is where most people learning about their current problems and all the available solutions to fixing it. (Informative videos, blog posts, etc work great here)
- Preference – The customers are deciding which type, model or brand they would like to purchase. (Review posts or landing pages work great for people in this stage).
- Purchase – The final stage just before making a purchase. They know they want to buy and they are ready to pull the trigger. (If you can get a coupon code for your affiliate offer, this will sweeten the pot and make sure they purchase with your link with others).
As you can see, there are many stages in the purchase funnel. I.e. a lot of different mindsets a person may be in when you’re trying to promote your affiliate offer.
Just like I mentioned earlier when first starting out you’ll want to focus on Preference and Purchase. Creating a review articles/videos or even comparison content of multiple different products in a niche makes it easier to be sure you’re the one that gets the affiliate commission.
This all brings me to my next point…
Choosing a Niche!
Another common mistake I see most new affiliates making is not choosing a niche. There are many ways to choose the right niche but it really depends on your goals. The two most common ways to choose a niche are:
- Does the niche make a lot of money?
- Am I passionate about this niche?
Making sure that a chosen niche has enough money flowing around is very important. Personally, I suggest considering choosing a general niche, such as Pets, Home Gardening, Kids, etc.
The reason I recommend choosing a niche like “Pets” is I know the people within this niche are very passionate and they spend a lot of money on their pets. That means there will be a lot of affiliates offers that you can promote on your website or blog. If I were to choose pets, I would make sure I’m passionate about pets.
You’re welcome to skip this part, but believe me… having some interest in your chosen niche will improve your odds of success. Your passion, or lack thereof, will shine through your promotional material, such as videos, blog posts, landing pages, etc.
Now, I mentioned choosing a general niche but once you’ve chosen that I’d like you to choose a sub-niche to start. This will make it much easier for you to promote your affiliate offers. Instead of just targeting pets, target offers for indoor dogs/cat owners with small children.
If you find a sub-niche like that, after that it makes it much easier to find targeted traffic locations for people that would be passionate themselves in what you have to offer.
You can also read: How to Add Amazon Affiliate Links to WordPress
Finding Affiliate Offers
The easiest place to find an affiliate offer is through an affiliate network. Nowadays affiliate networks are a dozen, but they are not all created equal. As an affiliate, you are already a middleman, for the value chain of selling products. Affiliate networks are just another link in the chain.
So as an example: on a $100 product, the affiliate network will make $18 per sale, and you as the affiliate will earn $10 per sale. One thing that isn’t so much known in public is that in this industry is that affiliate networks broker to other affiliate networks. So as a for example affiliate network #1 will make $18 a sale. Affiliate network 2 will make $12 a sale.
Now if you are an affiliate for affiliate network #2, you are now only making perhaps $7 a sale instead of $10.
Things to consider with choosing an affiliate network to start a successful Affiliate Marketing business:
Are they a reputable company?
Affiliate networks will hold onto your money until you hit the minimum payout threshold… It’s important that they historically pay affiliates and are not some fly-by-night company.
Are their offers direct with the advertiser?
As we discussed just a bit ago, it’s important to find a network that is paying you the highest rate possible.
It will be hard to compete against other affiliates online if you’re only making half the amount they making per sale.
Does network have a lot of offers available in your niche?
Most affiliate networks have a minimum payout threshold, meaning you need to generate at least $100, $500 sometimes even $1000 with the network before they will pay you out.
If the network you work with only has one offer in your niche, then for whatever reason that offer is paused, you are now stuck with the X amount of money with that affiliate network that you may never get because they have no other offers for your traffic.
Since affiliate marketing as an online industry has grown so much over the last few years, for their very own products many of the advertisers have affiliate programs.
To find out if some company has an affiliate program there are several easy ways to find them:
- Google company name + affiliate or company name + referral program
- Visit the advertiser’s website directly then scroll down to the very bottom of the page and look for anything that mentions Affiliate, Referral or Partners program.
As an example, as you can see in the picture down below, I visited Target’s website, scrolled down to the bottom of the menu and as you can see they have a page called Affiliates.
So using our example from earlier, if you know of a specific pet toy for cats that you would like to promote on your blog, visit their website directly to see if they have any commission structure for sending them traffic. If you see nothing on their website, hope isn’t lost just yet.
Feel free to reach out this the company through email, asking them if they have an affiliate program. You’d be surprised how many different affiliate offers I had gotten access too, just from reaching out.
Finding Quality Traffic
Once you’ve done all of your product research and finally have access to some good affiliate offers… now the next step to start a successful Affiliate Marketing business is to get some traffic!
As I already mentioned, you don’t want just any traffic. You want highly targeted traffic. But where are you going to find this high-quality traffic?
Luckily for us, there are almost unlimited ways to generate traffic for our offers online.
“Free Traffic” – Blog / YouTube Channel
I put free in quotes because nothing is free. To create a blog or YouTube channel takes a lot of work and time. All traffic takes resources, either time or money. The less money something takes will take more time and vice-versa.
First, I always suggest you start your own blog or website. To do this, it’s easy, with platforms such as WordPress, blogger, etc.
Most people get hung up on things such as “I can’t design a website or a logo” Honestly, those things do not matter as much as people think.
What matters is CONTENT, helpful content!
If you create a blog or YouTube channel, podcast, you name it, just be helpful to your target market. The more helpful content you create on your blog or YouTube channel, the more chances of people finding out about you, and even following you. This is the little known secrets that most won’t tell you… Building yourself as an authority or brand in a niche is how you make the REAL money.
Think about this for a moment:
If you owned a dog and you kept searching for helpful dog videos online and the same person kept answering my questions through video content… don’t you think I would be more inclined to buy something from them when the time came? YES!
Other “Free Traffic”
You’ll hear many people mention SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO is great if you know how to do it, but it’s a long-term play and you’re relying on a third party to send you traffic. Most affiliate fails because they don’t see the fruits of their labor earlier enough and give up.
SEO is “free traffic” but it takes A LOT of work and A LOT of time and more luck. The competition is so fierce these days I don’t even worry about SEO.
Want to know the kicker?
If you do what I’m about to share with you, not only will you get traffic much quicker to your site, but if you stick with your affiliate marketing journey long enough (a few years) chances are you’ll start to see Google sending you some SEO traffic as well.
The site above is a little less than a year old. As you can see if I waited for “SEO” to kick in, I would only have had 40k visitors. Instead, I took advantage of all traffic opportunities and generated almost 4 million visitors in the same amount of time. Now yes, 1.7 million of those visitors were from paid traffic. But all the Referral, Direct & Social traffic was all from these other sources.
So what are these other opportunities I speak of?
Nowadays the web is FULL of people that share their pictures, videos, information; you name it; they are sharing it. Most affiliate focus on sites that generate big traffic sites such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, etc. But there are literally millions of websites out there, some of which have your exact target audience as traffic.
Don’t believe me?
A good place to start is SimilarWebs Top Website Rankings. You can filter by category and find the highest traffic sites in those categories that closely match your chosen niche. If this data isn’t good enough, you can also look at Alexa top 500 websites.
Still can’t find websites with your target audience? We will take to Google!
Searching for websites with your chosen niche + “forums” / “blogs” / “communities” etc. Once you find a few sites that have your target audience, it’s time to start… drum roll, please…. Being helpful! Answer user’s questions in the forums, blog comments, etc. The more helpful you are the more likely it is people will visit your site so long as you are not spamming.
Like I said, “free traffic” takes time, so don’t be in a rush here. If you are in a rush, the only other way to speed up this process is with paid traffic.
Now as a warning, jumping right into paid traffic can lose you a lot of money quickly. It’s important that you’re strategic here as well. Each traffic a source has a unique audience that is engaged in different ways. Take YouTube, for example, people are watching videos for a variety of different reasons.
What you must realize is that all the people who visit YouTube have one thing in common. They want to consume video content.
So if your website or offer doesn’t have any video content, then YouTube most likely won’t work for you. But if you offer a lot of helpful videos that already convert your visitors into leads, then YouTube is the right place to be!
Brent, if I’m just starting out my online business how do I know which traffic source will be the best for me?
Simple, test which source works for you and which ones don’t.
An easy way to get started is to do the same research as we were doing for the free traffic methods. Finding communities full of your target audience. While doing this research though, we’ll go a step further to see if the site has advertisements on it. If they do, then it’s likely that you can purchase advertisements on the site as well.
Find which ad network the website is running ads for, but mostly time it will be either Google Ads or Facebook Ads. Just like when we were trying to find out if a site had an affiliate program, you can also check down at the bottom of a site for a section that says: Advertise.
A lot of websites sell ad inventory directly and all it takes is you reaching out and seeing how much it is per month/ per thousand impressions or per click.
As you can see if I wanted to buy ad-space on this marketing forum, all I would have to do is click on Advertising > Buy Ad Space.
That should get you started with your successful affiliate marketing business online.
Honestly, there is a lot more to affiliate marketing than most people realize. I know it may seem like a lot when taking it in all at once, but just remember this: Your job is to generate traffic to your offers that are highly likely to convert.
This is a performance-based “job” so you only get paid when visitors take action. This means that quality is always the most important and the easiest way to get quality traffic is to produce quality content in the chosen niche. You can always buy traffic and race to the front of the pack, but this requires an entire set of skills within itself.
It’s also a race to the bottom in a lot of ways because you control no point in the process. You don’t “own” the traffic, or the offer, so it’s very easy to get replaced. Paid traffic is a good option to start, just you must remember that affiliate marketing is a stepping stone to eventually building either your own brand, product or both. Affiliate marketing has a very low barrier to entry, but it is also very easy to be replaced.
If you have any other questions or need any other help to start a successful Affiliate Marketing business, feel free to reach out to me here on Quora and I’ll do my best to help you.