Considering this is something of a beginners guide, it makes sense to definite exactly what Affiliate Marketing is before we get to the good stuff.
“Perhaps the simplest way to explain affiliate marketing is that it is a way of making money online whereby you as a publisher are rewarded for helping a business by promoting their product, service or site.” – Problogger – what is affiliate marketing.
Affiliate marketing is one of those things that anybody with a little internet knowledge can pick up quickly and make decent money at. It helps if you know a little SEO and have the technical chops to pull together a decent site – but its definitely not a prerequisite.
I’ve been reading a plethora of great blog posts on the subject recently, but as with anything – I’ve found the best way to learn is to get your feet wet first hand.
I’ve been busy experimenting myself recently and have picked up a few beginner tips I thought worth mentioning here.
Choose your platform
WordPress is my chosen architecture, as it is for many web projects. It is widely recognised as an extremely flexible platform with a lot of code already prewritten in the form of plugins – and it made absolute sense to start building affiliate sites using it.
Also worth mentioning that you don’t have to strictly own or build a website to make an affiliate income. There are plenty of high ranking authority sites that allow you to create content and affiliate links, and make it easy to piggyback your products off their existing success.
Facebook notes have become something of affiliate marketers wet dream in this regard in recent months. Although something of a grey area, it might not be pretty, but it works. That said, it isn’t really a long term strategy for income, and you are better off creating your own site long term.
Get ship shape.
The default WordPress install doesn’t really do your products justice, there are many things that a great product sales page has, and you only have to look at some great e-commerce stores to understand what they are.
I’ve written in depth about what steps need to be implemented to go the extra mile, and avoid a Google Panda smack down.
It’s important to cross all of the T’s and dot the I’s with your website – including all of the items on this on-page SEO checklist.
Structure your data
Off the back of that logic, I’ve created a WordPress plugin and theme for my own affiliate sites which uses custom post types extensively to create fields such as:
YouTube Video of product
Customer Reviews (with Rich snippet Markup for better CTR)
and the all important affiliate link.
Separating out this information gives Google a clue that there is structured content on the page that will provide value for visitors in comparison with the competition. From hunting high and low around the web, I couldn’t find an affiliate theme or plugin which went the extra mile using this sort of data, so I wrote one myself. (I may release both the theme and plugin at some stage if there’s sufficient interest).
Find an Affiliate Program
So where do you go to actually become part of a particular affiliate program? There are a number of different sites which merchants provide data feeds to, and manage the affiliate program on their behalf. Affiliate Window, Affiliate Future, Commision Junction, Linkshare, Tradedoubler – and loads more provide the information you need to market thousands of products from thousands of retailers around the web.
Can’t find what you are looking for to market? A bit of Googling for any product + “affiliate program” or “referral program” should provide you with adequate information on how you can sell the things you love on other people’s behalf.
Believe in your product
I’ve always been of the opinion that you need to be passionate about what you do online to really make a difference to people. You’ll write with passion, and sell much more if you believe in the product yourself.
All the better if you can manage to get your hands on the product to find out really what it is all about, and actually know what it is all about.
Which leads me onto:
Write unique descriptions
Copy paste ain’t going to carry you through. Google don’t take kindly to it for a start as you aren’t bringing anything to a visitors experience, and if you are just copy pasting descriptions from Amazon or other third parties, you don’t stand much chance at ranking for your chosen keywords against these giants.
Whatever product you decide to market, you should think about a particular angle for your site, and how it separates itself from the (likely) already crowded marketplace. For example:
Can you bring something unique to the party that others can’t?
Is there an angle you can use to bring something extra to your visitors?
Can you shoot unique video reviews of the product?
Can you suggest strange scenarios where the product can be used?
Can you build supporting resources that gives you an edge?
Understand price point
The higher the cost of a product, the higher the commission you receive. It also makes the sale harder, as people are less likely to impulse buy.
When choosing which products you think you should promote online, it makes sense to try and find the sweet spot in the RRP.
Look at cost items which offers a high enough percentage of the profits to make it worth your while; and are accessible enough to be mass market. If you aren’t going mass market – you’ll need a higher end product to market. (Fewer sales, higher affiliate commissions).
Identify Future Trends
Smart affiliates are always trying to identify growth markets and products. Try to always think about what is going to be the next big thing. Mass media is a good place to start identifying product trends. Right now something like the Hunger Games (following on from the success of the Twilight Saga) is going to be pretty hot, and have low competition on a number of products.
What can you market off the back of that trend?
Thinking about future events and building sites around that topic is not going to hurt either. London 2012 is going to be shit hot this summer as the Olympics kick off, and there are already people working hard on creating value for when that trend hits the shelves. When the World Cup was in full swing, I know a number of sites set themselves up to sell Vuvuzelas, and made an absolute killing.
Market Trending Products
Not sure what is going to be hot, or is getting hot? Why not use existing resources out there to identify them. This old post of mine helps mine the web for e-commerce trends, but the same technique could just as easily be used across a number of pre-existing e-commerce stores and platforms to determine what you should or could market online.
Other Must Reads:
Elsewhere on the web.
The best niche to be in. The best niche is one that no one else is in.
The Ugly Truth – Why your sites don’t have to be beautiful to win at online marketing.
You master nothing by committing 25% – great post on focus.
Why you should dumb down your marketing. – Been saying this for a while.