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How to Start Your Affiliate Marketing
This affiliate marketing guide aims to give you a general overview of what you need to know to get started on the right foot. It should give you some great resources regarding where to start, what to include, and how to identify opportunities successfully. It should help you successfully build and monetize your affiliate marketing website.
But before we start, let’s highlight some facts about Affiliate Marketing so that you're aware of what to expect before you get your feet wet.
After trying many different affiliate programs and courses and getting scammed numerous times, I can say that affiliate marketing is NOT as easy or passive as you might think or as many scammers claim to be.
Like building any business, affiliate marketing is challenging, and it will take time, patience, and dedication to get the results you want. However, once you land on one or more solid programs, it is very gratifying.
Affiliate marketing is not an overnight process. Much of it can be trial and error until you see what works best for your specific niche or industry.
Gaining the necessary levels of traffic you need, for example, can take time, and it's easy to get frustrated.
In a nutshell, you should acknowledge that affiliate marketing is...
- NOT an instant "get-rich-quick" scheme with loads of "passive income"
- NOT a short cut to success
- Hard work even when working from the comfort of your home
- NOT as easy as "copy and paste" or implement a "done for you" program, and you will print green notes as some scammers claim to be
- An unpredictable income. If you are just getting started, your income is very likely to be small and irregular if any at all. You could lose money if your effort does not bring any sales. So be prepared to accept the fact that your earnings can be sporadic and variable. Don’t quit your day job yet if you don’t have enough savings to get you through the transition
- Unpredictable expenses.
Therefore, you must realize and accept that getting good payouts from affiliate marketing might take a long time and hard work.
You must also accept that affiliate marketing - like any other online marketing or business - requires some essential but inexpensive tools to make it work.
So, What is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate Marketing is one of many ways to make money online, and it is probably the simplest amongst them.
It is a form of promoting other people's products and services. In return, the marketer receives a commission when they make a sale. With affiliate marketing, you do not have to own any product to sell. You might need a website, though.
When participating in affiliate marketing, you are the affiliate. You are promoting something to get a reward when people buy or use that thing based on your referrals.
Another way you can make money online is as a freelancer. You can create content for companies or do research. You can become a virtual assistant, blog manager, or WordPress assistant. You can choose any direction you want.
Affiliate marketing is an effective way to make money and generate income if you have already run your blog. Not having your blog or social media can be pretty intimidating starting affiliate marketing.
According to Statista, the U.S. affiliate marketing spend is due to reach 8.2 billion U.S. dollars by 2022, up from 5.4 billion recorded in 2017.
How Do People Find What They Want?
The Internet can be a confusing place. Smart people do not buy things spontaneously. They look for independent third-party opinions and reviews. They have websites that drive traffic back to them, which is where you, as the promoter, come in.
If you have a blog or website, you can establish an affiliate relationship with a retailer either through an affiliate network or by working with them directly.
This way you act as an online middleman and send traffic back to the retailer’s website by including a special "affiliate link" from your website or blog or even social media platforms.
When a user clicks on your link, tracking cookies in their browser inform the retailer that the visitor came from your website or blog. And when the user purchases something on the retailer’s website, you receive a commission of the sale price as agreed with the retailer.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
You should build your website around a niche, a hobby you're passionate about, or anything that interests you. That is your chosen niche.
An affiliate marketer is like an adviser or consultant who gives his audience a non-biased opinion about a specific product in a particular niche where he is the authority or has more expertise than the customer.
When someone clicks on your affiliate link, a small file known as a cookie is stored on their computer. Cookies are the most basic and common form of tracking. When they make a purchase, the retailer will see that you referred them.
You can also track affiliate sales using advanced methods based on IP addresses or email. For example, Clickfunnel's affiliate program uses a "sticky cookie" that tracks users across devices.
So, what makes affiliate marketing such a great option? Let’s dive deep and address the following questions:
- How to Choose a Profitable Affiliate Marketing Niche
- How to Create a Website or a Blog
- How to Find Products in Your Niche That You Can Review
- How to Select Affiliate Programs
- How to Create Impressive and Google-Optimized Content
- How to Earn Links Through Great Content and Outreach
- How to Build a Social Media Presence
- What Other Ways to Monetize Your Affiliate Site
- What are the Disadvantages of Affiliate Marketing
1. How to Choose a Profitable Affiliate Marketing Niche
Find Your Niche
First and foremost, determine your passion and the industry around which you will build your website. Start with what you're knowledgeable about and enjoy most so that you can quickly, confidently, and passionately address your potential subscribers with what they're seeking.
Next, think about how you can provide valuable content in your niche. Try to narrow down your niche as much as you can to address a specific audience. To eventually compete against bigger competition, you should start small and build yourself up.
Starting in a small niche means there won't be much competition. And because you are passionate about your niche, you will stand a greater chance of being an authority.
The niche you select should fit into your previous knowledge and experience and current interests, but it should also be small enough that you can compete in the space.
Start to get small wins as early as possible, otherwise, you will become frustrated and might lose interest or quit!
You will be doing much writing about the topic you choose. So if you don't like your niche, your website might not last very long.
Just because you like something or you're passionate about something does not mean you will succeed. It takes lots of effort and dedication, so make sure you give enough of it.
Now then, how can you tell which niche is likely to generate the highest revenue for you?
Is Your Niche Popular
Check around online to see how popular your niche. Try to find out what people are looking for when searching for your topic.
Here are my free and paid favorite tools that I use when checking the popularity and search results of different keywords:
This is an example of AnswerThePublic when using the keyword "Affiliate Marketing.” It lists all the possible options in various formats, and when you click on any of the branches, it opens a new page with relevant information. You can watch the following video to see how it's done. Amazing!
Google Trends, for example, will help you find the popularity of a particular keyword or topic over time, from an hour to months. It will let you see whether the demand for your chosen topic is increasing or decreasing.
On the other hand, the Keywords Everywhere is a browser extension that will let you see the search volume of any keyword typed into Google in a particular month.
Which Niche Earns You Most
Having narrowed down your list of niche ideas to a handful of topics that enjoy popularity online, now you want to choose a niche that will yield the highest revenue!
Affiliate marketing is all about recommending products and services to visitors. So, which products and services are people willing to buy?
Here’s what you need to do: take your list of niche ideas and list the problems that people within that niche face alongside each item. Then list the products in your niche that are likely to solve the problems.
Check for consumer ratings and reviews within those products. Take note of the number of reviews you see on niche products. If there are large reviews, then you have found your perfect niche!
To attract browsers to your website, offering, blog, newsletter, etc, you should provide value to them. Values come in different shapes and sizes and may include checklists, guides, how-to, and whatever helps them find what they want.
The more value you provide upfront, the more likely they will purchase from you.
For a viable affiliate business, you need to build confidence and relationships with your audience while establishing your expertise in the field. Consequently, your audience is more likely to stick around and be ready to buy the next products you are promoting.
How to Create High-Quality Content
Once you join an affiliate program, you will need to create content around the products you wish to sell.
Such content may be in the form of blogs and articles that include your affiliate links, review pages, or "best products for ..." pages.
This allows you to communicate with your audience directly and send them links to recommended products and special offers. This is a compelling way of marketing.
How Much Money Can You Make With Affiliate Marketing
The potential earnings from affiliate marketing can swing from just a few dollars a month to hundreds of thousands of dollars a month.
It all depends on the size of your niche, your marketing strategy, the amount of traffic to your site, and the size of your commission.
Learning everything you can about effective SEO techniques, for example, will rank you high on Google, whereby you can increase your traffic and expand your list and consequently your earning.
It might be overwhelming at first, but the ability to complete effective on-page and off-page SEO will help your site rank higher in search engine results and drive more traffic to your pages.
How to Become an Affiliate Marketer
With a bit of time and effort, you can start your affiliate marketing business. Retailers and affiliate networks want sites like yours to include their links and drive traffic to them.
Some networks may even help build your site for you. And if you are somehow tech-savvy, you may start your blog on WordPress. You can use themes and plugins like Thrive Themes to build your WordPress website.
What Should You Ask Before Promoting an Affiliate Product
During the affiliate product selection process, it is imperative to spend enough time evaluating the products you wish to promote.
Once you've decided on products you wish to promote, make a list of items you think will fit well in your niche.
Put yourself in the customers' shoes and ask yourself:
- Will I use this product myself?
- Will my audience use or benefit from my products?
- Will this product solve my audience's issues?
- Will this product provide value to my audience?
- Is it an easy buying process for my audience?
- Will it provide me a decent commission?
Determine what your audiences are looking for and provide it for them. At the end of the day, what's the point in promoting products that are not sought after or generate adequate income?
2. How to Create a Website or a Blog
To start your affiliate marketing business, you should build your website as an online advertising platform. People who buy online look for websites to help guide their buying decisions.
The purpose of creating an affiliate site is to provide a service to your customers, but ultimately to build a business and earn money.
Most affiliate marketers create websites to attract visitors to where they insert their affiliate marketing links. This is not mandatory, though.
Every successful online business starts with a robust website. So why not join the team and create your online business?
Once you've identified your industry, niche, and products, you then want to design your website. So, what do you plan to do?
- An online store or shopping portal?
- A review site?
- A blog site?
Whatever you decide, put yourself in your potential customer's shoes and see how they'll benefit from your content.
You don't have to be tech-savvy. Nowadays, you can create a WordPress website in minutes. No coding or even experience is required.
And using great themes like Thrive Themes, you can have a professional-looking website in no time. It is not just about themes. They have some of the most valuable and powerful plugins that come either as stand-alone or bundled when you opt for Thrive Membership. You can use these tools to create landing pages, comments, quizzes, and much more. Building websites has never been so easy.
Creating a WordPress Website (Yoast)
Choosing a Domain Name For Your Affiliate Site
The number of active Internet users is growing every year, and there were 4.39 billion active Internet users in 2019, an increase of 366 million (9%) versus January 2018. And more and more people are buying on the Internet.
The Internet is growing rapidly, and the days where you buy a bunch of .com domains and sell them for profit are long gone. Nowadays, there are domains with custom extensions like .international, or .properties, or .xyz.
They're fine, and you can purchase one if you want to build a business around it. But don’t buy them for the sake of selling them for profit. And remember that “.com” is forever king!
If you want to run some charity organization, for example, you can choose .org. Also if you insist on a specific name, you can go for .net but that's about it.
Make sure to choose an appropriate domain name, but try to build your website with .com extension even if it is a bit longer as long as it makes sense and is easy to remember. This is because a .com site is viewed more favorably by Google for ranking purposes.
Try to incorporate your business in your domain to give people an idea of what you are all about. Try not to be too generalized and speak to your niche.
If you know little about building WordPress websites, then it is easy to build your website using, for instance, Thrive Themes and Plugins.
And if you're building your site as an online store, then Shopify might be your best bet.
Where to Host Your Domain
Having purchased your domain name, now you need to host it somewhere to create your email addresses, landing pages, publish your products and services, and so on.
Should You Use a Free Blogging Service?
Even if you don't know how to use WordPress and it's plugins, themes, etc, to create the site you want, you still can start as a blogger using WordPress.
If you still think it's too technical for you and you want to get your site up and running quickly, then you may want to try blogger.com, which is a free blogging service owned by Google. This will simplify the blogging process.
They will give you a free domain or you can use your own. But be warned that Google can remove your blog at any time.
So, if you are serious about affiliate marketing, you want to have a WordPress blog and a hosting provider to have full control and flexibility over your site.
3. How to Do Product Reviews
Providing honest reviews is a crucial ingredient for your success as an affiliate marketer.
It might cost you some commissions in the short term, but readers will look to you as a trusted source long term.
If you look at my Partner With Anthony review, for example, you will see that I give an honest look at what I think of the program.
So, here's what you want to do:
- Assess and identify the areas that visitors are looking for and tailor content to fulfill their needs.
- Make sure that your affiliate links are leading your visitors to the answers they seek.
- Check competitors' sites to see what they are providing.
- Search Google to see whether they are authority sites.
- Make notes and compile your list of searches, questions, and the pain points of your audience.
Once you know what people are looking for, you can design your site around providing products for them.
This is where keyword research comes in handy as you can see the number of monthly searches for a particular item or category and see if there is enough search volume to justify your hard work.
4. Where to Find & How to Select Affiliate Products
Once you have determined your niche and know what you want to offer, the next step would be to join affiliate programs to sell their products.
Many reputable online businesses provide affiliate marketing or drop shipping services to join for free to get your products to your customers. Here are some sources of recommended affiliate marketing partners:
5. How to Create Content That is Optimized For Google
Every affiliate marketer faces competition. When you search Google for a product or keyword, you see tremendous results.
Ranking your site high in search engines is your key to success in the affiliate marketing world. So, how do you that?
Well, there are so many ways to skin a cat! In my opinion, the most productive ways are doing effective keyword research, product targeting, and content creation. The latter is a gold mine. Google uses algorithms that cover several different factors, such as: "Are you an authority site?"
In other words, do you provide relevant information and helpful guidance to your niche and website visitors? The more of an authority you are, the higher your rank in the Google search engine results.
To become an authority, you'll need to invest your time in creating great content. One way to do this is by adding a blog to your website.
Your blog posts should be your education window to your site visitors seeking knowledge and tips. At the same time, you can leverage the posts to add links to promote relevant affiliate products.
You can post one blog every month or three posts every week. Whatever it is, you should stick to it and be consistent so your visitors know when to expect to hear from you.
The best thing is to schedule your blog posts so you don't forget or get busy or lazy to do it on time!
With useful blogs, you hit four birds with one stone. You...
- Provide useful content and educate your visitors
- Interact with your audience regularly and add new leads as a result of word of mouth and sharing
- Increase your ranking in search engines as a result of adding more research keywords
- Generate revenue as a result of sharing your affiliate products since you are now a trusted authority
However, blogging needs patience and determination and might not start on day one. It might take a few months before you can feel comfortable or able to build some authority within your niche, and the earlier you do it, the quicker the rewards you'll yield.
When you create new blog content, you get the same level of keyword research as your products and review pages on your website. In other words, you should use keyword research along with generating titles that will grab your reader's attention.
Creating irresistible articles to click on and read is crucial. You can try the free and useful tool from Sharethrough Headline Analyser to see how engaging your headline is.
Keep your blogs nicely formatted and easy-to-read with short sentences and paragraphs, bullet point listings, and plenty of images making sure they are sized correctly and quickly downloadable to avoid slow site readers' bounce rates.
6. How to Get Backlinks Through Content & Promotions
As mentioned earlier, to build your site's authority to rank high in Google and to gain more traffic, you need to create great content. But this is half the picture.
The other half to increase your site's authority is that you will need other websites to link to your site to build a network.
A site linking to you is a sign of trust that your site provides relevant and helpful information to users. Google recognizes this, and the more backlinks you have, the higher your site will rank.
Therefore, you will need to obtain as many links from other high authority and relevant websites as you possibly can.
In addition to having great content, try to promote your website and products via social media to gain a few more links.
Build links Using The Skyscraper Technique
Brian Dean developed this simple yet powerful concept based on 3-steps that make up The Skyscraper Technique:
- Step 1: Find link-worthy content
- Step 2: Make something even better
- Step 3: Reach out to the right people
The idea is to find good and relevant Internet content within your niche that has many backlinks and then reproduce your own, even better, content.
You can utilize your SEO tools to identify quality posts and blogs within your niche with a high number of backlinks. Then create your content that improves upon the original in various areas.
Brian Dean - the founder of Skyscraper - recommends focusing on the following areas:
- Article Length - If the old post is "20 best ways to..." then make your post "30 best ways to..."
- Current Information - Check that the information, news data, statistics, and any other factual statements are up-to-date.
- Design - Make sure the article is formatted for an easy read and update any tired or outdated images.
- Depth - Add more detail. For facts or statistics, show how they are actionable and relevant.
But remember, it's about quality, NOT quantity. It's about IMPROVING the content, not just making it longer by adding irrelevant or useless information!
Once your new Skyscraper post is ready, reach out to the people linked to the original piece and reference your article as the bigger, better, newer, more authoritative piece to give true value to them and their readers.
The idea is that since they already linked to the original content, they will be more likely to want to link to your bigger, better, and newer article.
When emailing, make sure you brief them on why you are reaching out to them. Add the link to your article and highlight why it is better than the current content they are linking to.
And don't forget to include a call to action asking them to link to your content.
Watch Brian's video on the three steps to The Skyscraper Technique:
7. How to Build a Social Media Presence
As part of your website promotion efforts, free and paid social media is an easy strategy that can increase awareness and help build your audience and click-through rates to your website.
You can manage your social media accounts by yourself or outsource them to have an expert do them for you for little money.
How to Start
- Depending on your niche, set up free accounts on the leading social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram
- Create your profile COMPLETELY with all of your details, website links, profile pictures, and cover photos. Incomplete profiles look unprofessional
When to Post
Determine your posting schedule and platform: Will you post once a day or five times a day? Which platforms will you post to more often? And as mentioned above, you can schedule your posts to go out on certain days and at certain times of the day using tools like Hootsuite and Buffer.
Be careful, though, about the number of postings you do. For example, you can tweet and retweet to Twitter in high numbers, but it may be disturbing if you try to do the same on Pinterest, which has tight anti-spamming rules.
And bear in mind that each of these platforms has certain effective times of day to post on.
Here is an excellent post by Elizabeth Aren at Sprout Social on social media engagement times that you can use for reference, but remember, your results can be affected by the industry and your time zone.
Here's an example of Best Times to Post on Facebook Consumer Goods:
- The best times for consumer goods brands to post to Facebook: Wednesday at 1 p.m., and Friday at 11 a.m.
- Other high engagement times: Wednesday from 1–3 p.m, Friday from 10–11 a.m., and Thursday at 5 p.m.
- Most consistent engagement: weekdays from 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
- Lowest engagement: Sunday and every day from 10 p.m.–4 a.m.
You'll need to experiment to find out which times are most effective for you. Once you know the best posting times, you can easily schedule your social media around that.
What to Post
You can share a variety of different posts. You can display various products or just reach out to your audience with humorous quotes and memes. It is best to keep them professional, of course, but everyone likes a little humor to brighten their day. It will also make you seem more approachable.
You can also post competitions, quizzes, rewards, and giveaways.
Sharing is caring! So feel free to ask your social media followers to share with their friends to increase your reach even more.
Find the time to engage and respond to any social media comments. This will help you build a community and create customer loyalty.
People are naturally curious and so would like to know more about you. So why not post, for instance, behind-the-scenes items like screenshots of a project you are working on or pics of your office, your car, your dog, or anything that makes you more relatable to your audience?
Analyze Your Success
All social media platforms come with built-in analytics that you can review and determine which posts and types of posts are working most effectively.
You can monitor the performance of specific posts and view statistics like engagement rates, likes, and clicks through to your website. Some platforms will show the number of times your profile has been viewed and the number of clicks on any one link included in the post.
In addition to social media platforms, Facebook Groups are a great way to connect with people interested in your niche or industry and help drive traffic to your website.
You can quickly become an authority blogger in your niche by posting helpful information regularly in these groups. You can also create your own Facebook group and invite users to create a community of your own.
Writing blogs and creating content can be time-consuming. So, many sites would love to have you provide content for them in exchange for a good, solid authority backlink.
This is easier if you have been a regular contributor to the website already by responding to comments and providing helpful information and insights.
So, once your website is up and running and you have gained some credibility within your niche, you can approach other website owners with suggested ideas for articles that pertain to their niche that you think will add value to their audience. Make sure to include one or more links to your site. This process requires a bit of effort, but it will yield excellent results in the long run.
This will generate a good authority backlink for you, and hopefully, you may pick up a few new readers from people clicking on your link.
Participate in Q&A Sites
Most of the answers provided on these sites are plain nonsense. This allows you to position yourself as an expert in your niche and provide helpful and relevant information.
Spending some time answering a handful of questions each day can establish you as a resource, gain more followers, and drive additional traffic to your site.
Make YouTube Videos
A fast-growing traffic driver currently is video marketing. YouTube has gained vast ground in recent years as a valid and effective promotional method.
People by nature are drawn to visual displays. Engaging videos that include magnetic and watchable content can stimulate traffic to your website. Videos can also give you and your business a "face" if you are willing to go in front of the camera to share information with your audience.
So go ahead and start making good, quality videos even if they're not perfect. Just focus on creating exciting content or helpful information.
All you need is a PC or a laptop with a built-in microphone (I use an external mic called Yetti), a free or inexpensive video editing software (I use Camtasia. You also may want to consider ScreenFlow).
By focusing on providing value to your audience you can set yourself apart from the competition and also make your channel more valuable.
8. What Other Ways to Monetize Your Affiliate Site
There are many other ways you can monetize your site and add new streams of income to sustain your earnings. Therefore, you are not limited to affiliate marketing alone.
So, once you have your site up and running, you can use other methods that require minimal effort to add more cash to your bottom line.
Strategically positioned banners are good but don't overdo it. You may place them in the header or footer of your website to earn you a few cents.
Just paste a bit of code on your site, and as visitors click on the banners, you will earn money. Many of them get blocked by adblockers, but they can still gain some revenue.
If you are using more than one affiliate network for similar products, make sure you use the one that gives you the highest commission and sells most. And watch out for specials, promotions, and bonuses you can take advantage of to boost your earnings.
Sign up for the free advertising service from Google. This marketing platform will put ads on your website and strategically include ads throughout your blog posts.
To set it up, simply paste the given code on your website, and you're good to go. And now, when a visitor clicks on the ad, you will earn a commission.
You can include in-text links to your affiliate products and services on your website whenever and wherever you feel is appropriate, just don't overdo it!
Simply include a link to one of your for your items or to an external site that leads to a service for which you receive a commission on sales. These links can be discreet to the degree that readers may not know you earn money from them.
In addition to all of the above, product reviews can be beneficial to your readers and can make you few cents.
Visitors don't always come to your website to buy a product but also to research information about that product and get second opinions.
As a product reviewer, your primary role is to provide readers with comparisons or ratings on items they need to help them with their purchasing decision. When done correctly, they might end up buying that item through you.
Product reviews can be set up as listings such as "Top 20 items for..." or they can be turned into a conversational piece such as "How I found the best item for..." It can also be a review for a specific item such as "ABC Product Review" and so on.
9. Disadvantages of Being an Affiliate
Choosing Your Niche and Products Can Be a Challenge
Choosing the right niche and products is crucial for your success. With numerous products and services out there, many newbies find themselves stranded from the beginning in their attempt to affiliate market.
It is a daunting process to pick a niche and products to promote. Many get confused and unable to tell good products from bad ones. For long-term success, you must have a plan and a strategy.
A good starting point would be to think of your passion and what you are good at. Do some research, identify your target market, and figure out how you can solve people's problems by offering your products and services.
Affiliate Marketing Can Be a Lonely Journey
As an affiliate marketer, you are essentially a freelancer. On the positive side, it gives you the freedom to decide how and when you work. However, you will often find yourself working in isolation, which can be frustrating and discouraging especially if you're doing it part-time.
If you plan to get into this business full-time, you will need to be disciplined enough with your time and work plan. It is too easy to slack off or veer off track. Even if you are in it part-time, most people are exhausted after a long day at work to stay focused on their part-time business.
It’s a Waiting Game
As mentioned at the top of this article, many newbies flock to affiliate marketing with the illusion of making fast money online. The truth is you will not be earning anytime soon as it takes some time to establish your presence online.
You may want to create a new website to promote your affiliate products. If done correctly, it can take a few months before the search engines begin ranking your newly built website.
Then, it’s waiting for the customers to visit your website, and hopefully, they click on your affiliate links and make a purchase.
Don’t expect three- or four-digit earnings in the first year. You may earn nothing in the first few months, and that’s when most people give up. It’s a nerve-wracking phase.
Persistence and patience are some of the key traits you need to succeed in this business.
You Have to Work on it
Affiliate marketing is more than just copying and pasting affiliate links. It entails more effort than you think. To build an affiliate business that can support you on a full-time basis will require computer knowledge, SEO skills, lots of content, planning, and consistent effort.
Many YouTubers and scammers brag about how easy it is to generate passive income and how much they are making monthly. What they are not telling you is the hard work they have put in to get to where they are.
Depending on your niche and marketing approach, there are reviews and articles to be written, sales funnels to be created, videos to be recorded, and social media platforms to be set up and monitored.
It Takes Time to Establish Yourself
To sustain as an affiliate marketer, you will need to prove yourself as the authoritative person in your specialty niche. This helps build trust and give your audience the confidence to click on your affiliate offers and make a purchase.
Unless you are someone famous or a celebrity, this authenticity won’t come overnight. Work needs to be put in to build your followers, retain them, and turn them into your customers. Build your business with passion and integrity to become one that lasts for many years to come.
Affiliates are rewarded with a performance-based commission which is hard to estimate as some factors are beyond your control.
If you generate numerous sales, your earnings go up. But if you don't, you will earn nothing. And at the start, it is hard to rely on affiliate marketing as a stable source of income.
Typically, the merchants only pay a referral fee when a purchase is made. This means the affiliates bear all marketing efforts and expenses. Compared to other businesses, affiliate marketing start-up costs are relatively low.
At the start, the operating costs are negligible. You work from home and no transportation is needed. You just need the basics like electricity, Internet, domain, and hosting.
As competition heats up, you might be tempted to enroll in a course, buy high-quality video equipment for YouTube videos, subscribe to sales funnel software, hire content writers, use paid advertising, etc.
Disadvantages of Working with Affiliate Merchants, Affiliate Networks, and Indirect Partners
Popular affiliate networks like Amazon, ShareASale, ClickBank, JVZoo, Warrior Plus are mediators or channels between the merchants and the affiliates. They allow the affiliates to find a suitable program and participate in them easily.
You have no power in the product’s features, quality, prices, sales page design, and customer service. If the merchant or network does not properly manage these, it can ruin their business and reputation.
An affiliate merchant or network may reduce its referral fee, discontinue a product, or even close down without informing and paying its affiliates.
The anonymous nature of online affiliate programs exposes it to fraud, and some affiliates are left without getting paid.
So, before joining an affiliate program, do some research, read the terms and conditions, and watch out for complaints and reviews about the program. This will help you to spot the bad apples from the good.
Rules and Restrictions
Driven by profit and bottom line, merchant partners or affiliate networks continually change the rules and regulations for affiliates to protect their interests.
For example, Amazon and ClickBank prohibit the posting of direct affiliate links and boosting them on social media such as Facebook. Such a change of marketing policy means you need to re-strategize your marketing effort, or else you might be kicked out from the program if you fail to comply.
Another instance is Amazon Associates’ dormant account rule. After you have signed up to be an associate, you have 180 days to generate three sales before Amazon even looks at your application. You can apply again, but when your account is dormant, the links will be unusable. You will need to regenerate those links using your new affiliate ID.
More Rules and Restrictions
Many affiliates opt to amass their audience through social media such as Facebook and YouTube.
Each of these platforms has its restrictions on affiliate marketing. You will need to keep abreast of what’s going on continually. One small change might affect your entire marketing strategy, and rework is probable.
Your Customers Belong to The Merchant
As an affiliate, your role is to use your affiliate links to drive traffic to the merchant’s sales pages. While you might be paid once, the customers will likely make future purchases directly with the merchant.
Competition Can Be Fierce
Yes, anyone can get into affiliate marketing, but this low barrier to entry also means an intense and insane amount of competition on the market. Whatever niche and products you decide to sell, many others are out there promoting them already.
The Internet is bombarded with so many ads, posts, and videos trying to entice customers to buy or provide their email addresses. Capturing the attention of a prospect is becoming more complex and potentially more costly, i.e., using paid ads.
If your competitors are more skilled at marketing than you are, then you are at risk. When your website’s rankings drop, you will need to update the content and keywords to remain in the game. And, if a product is proven to be hot-selling, its referral fee tends to be lowered. This means you will have to sell more to earn a substantial income.
Although this does not happen often, and there are steps to take to lessen its chance, there are cases of link hijack where affiliates’ links are stolen or manipulated. This can result in the earned commission being paid to the hijacker instead of the domain owner.
Notwithstanding the disadvantages discussed above, affiliate marketing remains a lucrative way to make money online.
Before trying affiliate marketing, take your time to weigh the pros and cons to decide if it is compatible with your personality and lifestyle. If carried out properly, it can become a prolific source of extra income.
The current trends are indicating that there’s an emergence of more sophisticated and successful affiliates. Hence the competition within affiliate marketing should not be ignored. More acumen and creativity are required from the marketers to sustain their business.
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