What is Affiliate Marketing and How Does it Work?
When I was first starting my online career, I came across a business model known as affiliate marketing. I wasn’t exactly sure what is was, so I did a ton of research, and learned it’s not much different that any other kind of business.
So, what is affiliate marketing and how does it work? Affiliate marketing is the process by which a person creates a resource – most often a website – that shares information about a particular topic. The reader is then directed through a link to a recommended product or service, at which time the resource provider receives a commission.
Of course, there can be much more to the process that you can work with, but this is affiliate marketing in a nutshell. Now let’s dig into the details to see the many ways you can put this practice to work in your business.
How Affiliate Marketing Works
In a nutshell, there are essentially four steps in the process of affiliate marketing:
- Choose a Niche
- Build a Website
- Attract an Audience
- Earn Revenue
Coming Up with Niche Idea
The first step to creating a lucrative affiliate business is discovering a profitable idea (also known as a “niche”.) While this can sound a bit overwhelming, in reality it is relatively simple.
There are over 4 billion (yes, with a “b”) people in the world using the internet practically every day.
A key is to understand that practically any idea can be turned into an excellent niche business. I’m sure you have a passion, hobby, or some topic that gets you extremely excited. Odds are pretty good that a large segment of that 4 billion will be interested in it, too.
A good litmus test I have found is to ask yourself this question: “What do I love talking about, more than anything else, and would do so all day and night, even if I weren’t getting paid for it?”
If you can find the answer to that, then you will have identified your perfect niche.
But there is a bit of a catch…
You’re not really selling a product. Not really. If all a person needs is a product, and they pretty much know what they are looking for, there really is no reason to come to your site. They’ll just go straight to Amazon or some other supplier.
Therefore, it is extremely important that you give them a reason to come to your site. What are you offering that is different? It must be something more than just a review and a buy button.
Think about what makes you and your site unique.
Building an Affiliate Website
One of the most awesome things about affiliate marketing is just how easy it is to build a beautiful website to promote your ideas from.
Every business, whether online or offline, needs a place to work from. Your website is your foundation and where you will interact with your customers.
Some years ago, building a website was extremely difficult, not to mention expensive. You had to know various computer languages, HTML code for the structure, how to write CSS code for the design, as well as all the merchant coding required to set up methods of payment.
As you can see, it was extremely complicated, and a bit of a pain, to build an online business.
All of that changed when a system came along called WordPress.
WordPress is what is known as a CMS, or Content Management System. Now there are many CMS programs out there, but WordPress tends to be the most popular, primarily for two reasons.
One, it is absolutely free.
And, two, it is a robust system that is powerful and yet very simple to use. You can actually create a site in minutes, and have it completely set up for success in under an hour.
You will want to choose a website name that relates to the niche you chose. This will help potential visitors know what they are getting.
Note that you do not have to pick your name based on a specific phrase. This is referred to as “Exact Match Domain”, and Google no longer recognizes the practice. So, for example, feel free to choose a name that is more generic like, photographytoday.com; the days of ridiculous websites names like howtotakeapuppypicturewithacellphone.com are (thankfully) over.
How to Attract Tons of Traffic
As common sense will tell you, you can’t just throw up a website, stuff it full of affiliate links and ads, and sit back and collect your riches. This is not Hollywood – just because you build it doesn’t mean they will come.
And not too many new online entrepreneurs can afford to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on paid advertising in an attempt to gain visitors.
Instead, we’re going to focus on free, or what is also known as “organic” traffic (i.e. the 4 billion mentioned before.) This is the reader you get from someone conducting a search on Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. and coming across your content.
They type into the search engine what they are looking for, and your post shows up in their results. They like the short blurb they see, click on the link, and Google sends them to your site where, hopefully, they become a loyal follower.
As mentioned earlier, you have to give your audience a reason to come in the first place. And you do this through creating valuable content. Articles that the reader finds useful. Videos that are both entertaining and informative. Free resources they can use.
The key word here is value. Again, if your content is merely there to serve only as a vehicle for your affiliate links, your reader will see right through it.
Give them something of substance. A ho-hum 300-word post with a bunch of ads will most certainly come across as just spam, and your readers won’t trust it.
Instead, give them 1000 or more words, chock full of valuable information. People will only buy from people they trust, and quality content is how you build that trust.
How You Get Paid
Once you have a steady stream of traffic that trusts you, you are now able to start monetizing your site. And it’s actually fairly easy.
First, there are hundreds of thousands of affiliate programs out there you can join that will pay you to send traffic their way.
Additionally, there are literally millions of products you can offer your customers. If you’ve ever bought a product from Amazon or another online source, you’ve already seen this process in action.
And here’s the crazy part: that is only two of over 50 different ways you can monetize your site. You can also allow other companies to advertise on your site. Or you can create your own products and services. Plus much, much more.
So, What’s the Catch?
I get asked this question a lot because, let’s face it, there is a lot of crap out there on the internet. Practically every day another so-called guru comes along and promises you can get rich quick while doing nothing to earn it.
Well, friend, I am here to tell you that is complete and utter BS. It just doesn’t happen. Success in anything requires commitment and hard work. Period.
What is required is two things:
One, you must take action. As I talked about earlier, don’t let anyone tell you that all you have to do is throw up a website with a bunch of products on it and you can sit back and cash the checks.
No, a real online business is going to require work. Now, I will admit, if you like creating things, it’s a lot of fun work; but it’s still work nonetheless.
You will be writing posts, creating videos, and even podcasting. The creation process never ends. Which brings us to the other requirement.
You will need to be patient. Simply put, it takes time for Google and the other search engines to find and rate your site. This is part of the natural process and there is no way around it. (As such, any “guru” that tells you any different is straight up lying to you.)
You are going to be creating content practically daily, and for months it can feel like you are writing to a ghost town. This is where it pays to have a little patience.
In conclusion, if you are looking to get started, and are willing to put in the work and the time, affiliate marketing is a fantastic way to make a living. You can control everything, from what your business is and how it is run, to how you spend your time.
I can assure you, my discovery of affiliate marketing was life-changing for me… will it be for you?
How much money can you make as an affiliate marketer?
Truly, the sky is the limit. You might make $100 a month, or $1000 per day. How much you make is entirely dependent upon you. Whether you are looking to just earn an extra few hundred per month, or enough to quit your job and run your online business full-time, you get to decide what’s right for you.
How do I become a successful affiliate marketer?
The fastest and easiest way to become successful in any venture is to find yourself a coach. By connecting with someone who already has the skill and knowledge, you can jumpstart your success by bypassing all the mistakes they already made.