Affiliate Marketing – What is it and how beginners can easily get started?

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a performance based type of marketing, where the vendor provides a way to their affiliates to promote their products (usually providing traceable affiliate links) and earn commissions on every sale generated by the affiliate’s efforts to promote this products.

How does affiliate marketing works?

The affiliate marketing is a type of marketing strategy that involves basically four main pillars, as listed below:

  • Affiliate marketer
  • Vendor or product creator
  • Affiliate marketing network
  • Customer

In short words, it all begins with the vendor creating a product, as an example a digital product as an e-book or video course teaching something specific. After creating this course the vendor will place this product in a affiliate marketing network, where affiliate marketers can sign in to the affiliate program and start advertising this product in their platforms. Customers will then eventually click on this affiliate links and purchase the product, giving a commission for the affiliate marketer, a fee for the marketing network and the remaining is the vendors profit, as illustrated below.

Affiliate Marketing Flow

Passive Income

This is the dream of most of the people who start working with affiliate marketing, as a vendor or as an affiliate marketer. The idea of making money while you sleep over products, posts or reviews you’ve created in the past are great, and I can tell that you can achieve that, however, don’t expect that this will be a magical formula that will make you tons of money from day to night, because it will demand from you, specially in the beginning, hard work and commitment.

However, if you persist in this path, and after creating enough volume of relevant material and publishing in the internet, sales will eventually start to kick in, and you’ll be able to enjoy a different lifestyle.

Is affiliate marketing the same as multi level marketing or a pyramid scheme?

No, affiliate marketing is not a pyramid scheme or anything related to multi level marketing (MLM), these are completely different methods. You could think of affiliate marketing as commission based job, just like a home-broker earns commissions over the sales of houses and apartments, an affiliate marketer will earn commissions over any product or service he sold. If there are no sales, there are no commissions to be paid.

Besides that, there is no cost to enter an affiliate program, and you do not make any commissions over people you recommend to join the same affiliate program you use or over the sales these people make.

Affiliate marketer

An affiliate is a person who decided to promote another person’s or company’s product or services, and as a reward earn commissions over every sale generated by his efforts.

It all looks great but, is there any disadvantages of working as an affiliate marketer? Well, there are a few points where the learning curve to be a successful affiliate marketer demands patience and time, so you’ll probably need to work on that. Down bellow you can check some more pros and cons of being an affiliate marketer.

#AdvantagesDisadvantages
1.Low cost to beginLearning curve
2.No need to create a productMarketing Skills
3.Passive income from your platformOrganic traffic knowledge
4.No inventory issuesPaid traffic knowledge
5.No shipping issuesWebsite/Blog knowledge
6.No costumer service issuesContent creation

Affiliate marketer advantages in detail

  1. Low cost to begin: You can satart working as an affiliate marketer even if you have a low budget to start working with. As an example, you can create a free Youtube account, register for affiliate programs, and promote this products with video content. You can leave an affiliate link in the video description, this way when your viewers click on the link and purchase the product or service, you’ll earn a commission. This is basically a free method, unless you decide to spend money to create the video.
  2. No need to create a product: Being an affiliate provide you the opportunity of choosing a product you like from another person or company and advertise that product to earn commissions, so you do not need in fact to create your own product, unless you really want to become a vendor.
  3. Passive income from your platform: Once you’ve created your content, either in a blog post, a landing page or a Youtube video, your content will be live in the internet. This way, whenever someone click in your affiliate link and purchase the product or service you’re advertising, you’ll earn a commission. The beauty of it is that you can earn commissions from posts you’ve worked a while ago in the past, and that might still make money for you in a passive way.
  4. No inventory issues: Unlike other business models where you have to handle with inventory, working as an affiliate marketer provides you the opportunity to just point out customers to the product, and the vendor will handle all inventory issues, or in case of digital products the customer will simply download the product or gain access to the platform where the product or service is stored.
  5. No shipping issues: Just like the situation above, working as an affiliate marketer, you just need to point the customer to the product or service. In case of a physical product, the vendor itself will deal with the shipping issues, not the affiliate marketer.
  6. No customer service issues: Customer service is something that might take a great portion of your time if you’re running a business, but if you’re working as an affiliate marketer, that is not something you need to handle with, because the vendor will be responsible for that.

Affiliate marketer disadvantages in detail

  1. Learning curve: Working with affiliate marketing will require you lots of skills, like web design, marketing techniques, traffic management and others. Those skills might take some time for you to learn and put them into practice, so you need to have patience and persistence, specially in the beginning pf this journey.
  2. Marketing skills: To be able to optimize your sales, you’ll need to learn a few marketing strategies, copywriting techniques and ways of advertising your products. That may take some time as you’ll have to learn them, put in practice and test which ones work better, as they may perform in different ways depending on the niche and public you’re working with.
  3. Organic traffic knowledge: If you’re willing to put some effort, you can get free traffic to your website to boost your sales, but that also might take some time. You’ll need to learn how to use some search engine optimizations (SEO) tools and even after you optimize your posts, it might take so time until they rank well in search engines like Google and Bing and you can see good results.
  4. Paid traffic knowledge: A great way to boost your sales is through paid ads, but you might have to spend some money here, and there is also a learning curve to it, so you’ll have to make some tests until you find what’s best for the product you’re trying to sell.
  5. Website/Blog knowledge: One great way to advertise products is through a personal website or blog, where you can create detailed posts reviewing the products you’re trying to sell. The point here is also the learning curve, there are lots of tools and platforms to build a website or blog, but they’ll all require you to learn some skills to put it all together up and running.
  6. Content creation: In this step you can either have a freelancer writing content for you, but you’ll have to spend some money here, or could simply create your own content. Creating your own content could be a better strategy because you can personalize all your posts and make they look exactly as you want, but that will require great effort and time. Just keep in mind that content marketing is one of the best ways of having organic traffic into your website.

Vendor or product creator

A Vendor is the company or person who has a physical or online product that opens up for affiliates to promote its products and will pay the affiliates a commission over the sales generated by the affiliates effort.

The main challenge of a vendor is to create a great product that people are willing to pay for it. But once the product is created, you’ll have a great passive income stream out of it, having affiliates promoting and selling this product for you. Down below we listed a few more pros and cons for working as a vendor of a digital product.

#AdvantagesDisadvantages
1.One time costSpecific expertise
2.Passive income from affiliate’s salesTime and effort to create product
3.No inventory issuesCustomer service issues
4.No shipping issuesAffiliates spamming your links

Vendor of digital products advantages in detail

  1. One time cost: Creating a digital product might involves costs or your time to create it. The great point is that once the product is created you most likely will not have any extra costs or at least a minimum amount of money or time to update it.
  2. Passive income from affiliate’s sales: In this business model, after you’ve created your product, the affiliates will work on promoting your product because they’ll make a commission from it, but since you have only a one time cost related to the product and no extra costs to replicate the product or service, you can offer great commissions. After that, you can just kick back and relax, while the affiliate’s generate sales for you.
  3. No inventory issues: By creating a digital product, you won’t have to deal with inventory, and you’ll always have you product in stock, isn’t that great?
  4. No shipping issues: By creating a digital product, you won’t have to deal with shipping issues, your clients will be able to download or gain access through a digital platform to your product.

Vendor of digital products disadvantages in detail

  1. Specific expertise: In order to create a digital product, you must master a specific sort of skill. As an example, a language professor could create a total digital language course and put on sale at an affiliate marketing network. But if he does not master the language or the art of teaching, it is very likely that the product will not have much sales or success among its customers.
  2. Time and effort to create a product: If you want to create a successful product, you’ll have to spend hours and hours to craft a really valuable program so you get good reviews and sales.
  3. Customer service issues: Unlike an affiliate marketer, if you decide to become a vendor, you’ll still have to deal with your customer issues, refunds and other issues.
  4. Affiliates spamming your links: It might be interesting to filter and approve only affiliates that have experience and you know they won’t spam your links all over, because no one likes SPAM. You should be carefull on who you allow to promote your products, because some vendors leave open to anyone to simply join and start advertising, but having a selection process could be good for your brand in the long term.

Affiliate marketing network

There are several affiliate programs out there, and you can find products or services to promote in every imaginable niche available. Keep in mind that you’ll find several types of programs, either selling physical products, that usually have a smaller commission rate but are usually easier to sell and digital products, that usually offers a better commission rate, however, they could be more challenging to sell it.

Amazon has one of the most famous affiliate programs when it comes to physical products, but you can also find affiliate programs like that in Best Buy, Walmart and plenty of other websites. Just keep in mind that the commission rates for these types of programs are usually very low, so you’ll have to find a way to scale up the sales so you can earn a significant amount of money by having a higher sales volume. In Amazon for example, you can get commission rates up to 10% only, but the majority of items have much lower rates like 3 or 4%.

It is pretty simple to join a network like Amazon, you just fill in the forms in the affiliate section and wait to get approved. Once you’re approved, you’ll access and login in normally in Amazon, and on the top of the screen it will appear the SiteStripe tool, where you can simply choose the product you want to promote and click there in the tool on the top of the page to get the affiliate link, as demonstrated in the image below.

Amazon Affiliate screen shot - using sitestripe tool.

The interesting part of networks like Amazon, is that when a customer clicks on your link and end up buying something, even if not the product you’re promoting, you’ll earn a commission over it. These networks provides you with cookies technology that may last for 24 hours or even more depending on the company you’re working with, so if the customer buys anything within that period of time, you’ll earn a commission.

If you’re aiming for the higher commission rates, you should check out the digital products affiliate programs. One of the most known platform for that is ClickBank, and they also sell a course on how to work with affiliate marketing, the ClickBank University 2.0, that I’ll be reviewing in the near future. I’ve already taken that course and believe it to be a great value for its price, specially for beginners who are just starting out and need a step by step guide on how to get the job done.

When you join ClickBank network, you’ll be able to choose a great variety of digital products from their platform, and it is also pretty simple to generate your affiliate links. Some of the vendors might perform a selection process before you can start promoting their products. The image below show you how the ClickBank network displays the products you can promote, so you can either write in the search icon the product you’re looking for or select the niche you want to work with and it will display all related products.

ClickBank affiliate page screen shot.

After you’ve chose the product to promote, you can simplity click in Promote and get your affiliate link to start advertising the product to earn commissions, as demonstrated in the image below.

Another great platform for digital products is the CJ Affiliate, where you can find a mix of physical and digital products. Besides that, there are still plenty of programs that you can look up at Google depending on your niche’s needs. Products in ClickBank for example can offer really interesting commission rates because they are mostly digital products, so some of them offers commission rates of around 50%, which are really attractive.

Most of the products in CJ Affiliate you have to go through a selection process, and the vendor will approve or not your application. After your approval, you can then enter the product you want to promote and grab your affiliate link, or banner, as image below.

CJ Affiliate screen shot

How to get started and become and affiliate marketer

Getting started as an affiliate marketer is pretty simple, you basically need to find an affiliate network you want to work with, as the companies mentioned above for example, and sign up to these networks.

After you’ve signed up, you will then choose a niche and a product you want to promote, and either get an affiliate link, a banner or images and start advertising this material online, so always when someone click on your affiliate links and purchase the item, you’ll get a commission for it.

Do I need a website?

It is not mandatory to have a website, although highly recommended. Some affiliate networks even require you to have a website in order to join the group and start advertising their products.

You are not only going to look more professional with a website and a brand, but you’ll also be able to design better landing pages, so you can convert better the traffic you get in your pages.

Creating a website is not a difficult task, and if you’re a beginner and have no programming skills, you can check out our free tutorials on how to build a website here in our website. As everything else, there is a learning curve to it, but if you follow our posts and newsletter, you’ll have all tools necessary to create a really nice looking website with no extra costs in courses.

What platforms to advertise?

There are several platforms out there that you can use to promote your affiliate links. Great examples for that, but not limited to them are, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, Pinterest, WhatsApp, Blogs or Websites. Just don’t be those people that keep spamming affiliate links all over the internet, trust me, that doesn’t work, no one likes SPAM!

Some platforms like Facebook and Instagram you might need to spend some money with ads, nevertheless, in a Website or Blog you can have organic traffic, you’ll just have the cost of the domain and web hosting that are relatively low compared to advertising costs you’ll spend in other platforms in the long run.

How to display your affiliate links

After you join an affiliate marketing network and choose a product you want to promote, it will be the time to handle an affiliate link. Usually when you get affiliate links, they are really big, full of numbers and random letters, which is not so good looking and people tend to be scared to click on weird links.

There are a few ways to make your link look better, one of them is using websites that allow you to shorten your links. One example for that is Bitly, and you can use it for free, but keep in mind that the link will be shorter and better, but you’ll still have the name of the link shortener on your affiliate link, and lots of people use those link shorteners to SPAM all over the internet, so you might face some issues with this option.

If you own a website, you can use a way better tool called Pretty Links. This tool allows you to create links with your domain name and redirect this links to your affiliate links, this way you can create better looking links for your customers in order to increase the click rate. An example of a pretty link with your domain would be https://domain-name.com/product-name.

In case you have created your website through WordPress, there is a free version of Pretty Links’ plugin that allows you to create these better looking affiliate links at no extra costs for you.

Both Bitly and Pretty Links provides you with tools to keep track of the click rates you get on each and every link you have created, and also provide more information like geographic statistics for example. These statistics could help you understand your viewers or readers pattern and see what is working, and what is not working in your posts.

How to drive traffic to your platform to start generating sales

As listed above, there are two ways of driving traffic to your website or other platform you’re using to advertise your affiliate links. They are the organic traffic and the paid traffic.

Another great way to promote products or bring more traffic to your website is to create an email list in your website. This way, people who are interested in the content you’ve created will provide you with their email addresses, this way, you can directly contact them, who might be interested in the products you have to sell because they already showed up interest in the content you produce by subscribing to your mail list.

Organic Traffic

The organic traffic will come naturally as you produce good content and work on your SEO. Once you have that covered, people when making researches on the web will eventually find your content listed in search engines like Google and Bing.

It is not a fast path to take, but once you start getting free traffic, you’ll be able to work on other issues of your website and scale up your sales in other websites, posts and landing pages.

If you are creating your website with WordPress, there are several plugins that can help you out with SEO. The most famous plugin is called Yoast, it has a free and a premium version, but if you’re just starting out, the free version is enough to help you at this point.

Another great plugin to help you with SEO in a WordPress powered website is the Rank Math, it has functions pretty similar to Yoast, but it is completely free and offers some of the Yoast premium functions for you for free, so you might want to take a look at it.

Paid Traffic

Paid traffic is usually very interesting when you want to boost your sales, but keep in mind that if you stop paying for ads, you’ll probably end up with no traffic after that.

Paid traffic in platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Youtube, Twitter, Google AdWords, Bing Ads and others are very interesting, because you can choose specific gender, age, geography, interests and other details for the people you’ll advertise for, this way you increase significantly your chances to generate a sale.

Another great way to work with paid advertising is retargeting, which is a way to reach customers who have previously visited your landing page or website but have not completed the purchase. This method enables you to provide this customer with an advertisement when he is visiting another website, and offer him a deal.

Why is retargeting any good? It is not so common to get first time users just entering your page and buying products at a first moment. With retarget ads, you can bring these potential customers back to your page, increasing yours chances to perform a sale.

Email marketing

Creating an email list from the beginning is a great deal, because when you do that, you’ll have the opportunity to get in touch easily to people that somehow is already familiar with your brand, and have bigger chances of buying products that you’re advertising.

There are several companies that helps you manage an email list and to send email marketing campaigns, like Mailchimp and AWeber. They are pretty easy to set up in a contact form within your site or blog to capture your readers or viewers email. This way you can start sending them an email marketing campaign and boost your sales.

How to get started and become a vendor of digital products

Are you expert in any skill or area of work that people are willing to pay for training? If that is the case, you can start creating a digital product to teach people how to do or achieve a result they need.

Imagine if you know how to play guitar really well. In this case, you could create an online course with a step by step tutorial on how to learn to play guitar. I bet many people will be interested in buying your course if you really master the art of playing guitars and teaching people how to play. That applies to lots of situations and scenarios of expertise, so why not exploring that and creating a digital product to start your journey as a vendor of digital products?

How to choose a niche and the product to create?

Choosing a niche has to come first from something you enjoy doing or are an expert on it. It is super important to choose a niche that you like, otherwise it won’t be something you have pleasure or authority to talk about.

Another point to be alert is if the niche you chose has a good demand for products, and if people research that very often in the internet. For this point you can use a free tool from Google to look up for the niche you’re interested and see how well they show up in researches in the internet. This tool is called Google Trends and is great for you to even compare two or more keywords or niches you’re willing to work with, and the best part, it is completely free.

Google Trends print screen. How to select a good niche to work with affiliate marketing.

As an example, I placed two keywords as a potencial niche to work with as a vendor. Let’s say you are an expert in playing both Guitar and Piano, and you want to choose one to begin creating a digital product. As you can see, in the US, there is more people looking up for the keyword Guitar than Piano, so it might be better to start creating content related to Guitars instead of Pianos. But it does not stop you from creating contenct for both.

This tool is ideal if you want to compare keywords and see how well they show up in search engines. As you can see in the image above, this is how this analysis look in Google Trends. Besides this screen, you still have several analysis, bringing into more details on which region theses researches show up more often.

What platforms to put your product for sale?

In this case, you can also run a website, blog or run ads on social media like Facebook, Instagram, Youtube and others. But more interesting than that is for you to register your product in a affiliate marketing networks as Clickbank or CJ afiliate as previously mentioned, because this way you can leverage your marketing potencial with affiliates advertising your product for you.

A great tip in this scenario is to provide good commissions rates for your affiliates, like around 50%. Do not get greedy at this point, since you probably had a one time cost to create your digital product. This way more people will want to advertise your products because the commission rate is attractive and you’ll get exponencial sales.

Customer or Consumer

The customers are key when it comes to affiliate marketing. If there are no sales, there are no commissions or revenue to be splitted amog the vendors and affiliate marketers.

Letting the customers know that they are clicking at an affiliate link is tottally up to the affiliate marketer strategy, some choose to be 100% transparent with customers so they win their trust and make the sales that whay, but some still choose not to do so.

Both vendors and affiliate marketers have to put their mind into ideas on how to better convince the customers that the product they’re selling is good and that the customer needs it. Considering this scenario, you can see lots of vendors and affiliate marketers using marketing strategies, as well as copywriting techniques to reach out to customers.

What is copywriting? Is it used in Affiliate marketing?

Copywriting is a technique used not only in affiliate marketing but also in the traditional marketing, it consists in the way to write advertising and promotional materials to persuade customers to buy a product or a service. It is a copywriter task to write the content in websites, billboards, catalogs and emails to convince the customers to purchase a product.

The technique used for copywriting is different than editorial writing or news writing, it is mainly focused to turn a reader or viewer into a paying customer ready to spend money in the product or service advertised.

Copywriting must not be confused with the term Copyright, that stands for the legal right of a company or individual to publish, reproduce, distribute or sell someone’s work.

Conclusion

Affiliate marketing is a great way so start working with digital marketing and monetize your content, either in a blog, website, Youtube channel or other media. The great point here is that you can start working with affiliate marketing even if you have a small budget to begin.

Just keep in mind that affiliate marketing is not a magical formula as some Gurus say out there in the internet. Although it will require you hard work and a lot of effort, when the results starts to come in, you’ll start apreciating the beauty of affiliate marketing and passive income.

Hopefully this post was interesting for you, and if you’re willing to start working with affiliate marketing, consider subscribing to our newsletter and receive relevant tips on how to build your own online business and work with affiliate marketing.

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