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How do I get started in Affiliate Marketing?

5 things everybody needs to do to get started in affiliate marketing.

Whether it’s renting out that spare room in your house, accumulating dividends from stocks, earning interest from a high-yield bank account, or simply investing in a solid piece of real estate, the allure of passive income in the 21st century has never been stronger.

The problem is, most methods of accruing passive income, including those described above, require a sizeable financial investment upfront – then it can be a long waiting game until the money starts rolling in.

That brings us to affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing essentially lets you become a freelance marketer, promoting other people’s products; this is normally done by creating your own niche website and linking to other pages, or by joining an affiliate network.

If a visitor to your site or online product review clicks through to the merchant’s page and purchases the product (that you’ve been advertising for them), you get commission. And while that may be a small slice of the pie, there are a lot of slices out there for the taking – which makes the concept of affiliate marketing so attractive for so many people.

The biggest investment you’ll be making when it comes to affiliate marketing is time, especially when you are first starting out. That’s time spent researching, creating content, building pages and links and managing your networks and/or merchant connections.

Below, we explain the 5 things everybody needs to do to get started in affiliate marketing.

  1. Research your niche

Already planning on snapping up that domain, hiring a web developer or building a WordPress site yourself? Then stop right there!

When it comes to affiliate marketing, before you do anything, you need to firstly choose a niche that you are passionate about and then research it inside out.

Why? Because what seems ‘niche’ to you may not actually be very niche in a world of over 1 billion websites.

You should also consider these key points when selecting your niche:

  • Am I passionate enough about it? To answer this, ask yourself whether you’d be willing to write 50+ pages on the topic, as well as put in hundreds of hours for further research. If the answer is ‘no’, then it’s probably not the niche for you.
  • Is there enough public interest? There is such a thing as being too niche, and you don’t want to be advertising products that only you and 10 other people are interested in. The best tool to start looking at internet search trends is Google Keyword Planner. 
  • What is my competition like? This goes for both quality and quantity. When searching for the main keywords relating to your niche, the first 10 or so pages on Google should be your benchmark in terms of competition. Again, you should be asking yourself whether you have the time and patience to build up a site that can be as good as or better than existing sites.
  1. Get to grips with some affiliate networks

First of all, you’ll need to make sure that there are affiliate networks out there that cater for your niche, because with no affiliate network, your soon-to-be-built site is going to receive a grand total of zero sales.

Assuming you’ve found a bunch, the next step is to figure out which affiliate network is right for you – i.e. which one is going to bring you the most profit.

A good beginner’s guide to how to find an affiliate website can be found on Affilorama here, but some of the key things you should always consider are:

  • What kind of merchants does the network work with? – are the products relevant to my niche?
  • What is the commission rate for the products I sell (this will be heavily dependent on the type of product you are marketing)
  • How easy is it to get set up with the network – and is there any support provided once you’re in?
  1. Build a site

Niche chosen: check. Affiliate network ready to be rolled out? Check.

Finally, you’re ready to take the first concrete action on your path to becoming an affiliate marketer by building your own website.

If you’ve ever built your own site before, you may want to skip this step. However, for the newbies out there wanting to go it alone (without the help of a web designer or developer) your best (and only) friend when it comes to creating your own website for affiliate marketing should be WordPress.

To get started, you’ll need to follow these steps in this order:

  • Purchase a web domain (try to keep it short, simple and relevant to the future content of your website)
  • Purchase a web host (such as GoDaddy), which generally costs between $30 and $100 per year to maintain
  • Install WordPress, link your website, and then set up a theme
  • Get exploring! The possibilities and customizations available with WordPress and its many plugins can seem endless. The best way is to play around with the functions on the dashboard and read up on how the site works – you’ll be a WordPress whizz in no time!
  1. Content, content and more content!

If affiliate marketing is a house you are building, think of your previously-purchased domain as your house’s address and the host provider as its supporting foundations.

So what’s missing?

Pretty much everything else, from the front door to the stairs, furniture, bedrooms, bathrooms, and so on.

This is where the most important and time-consuming part comes in: filling your site with content.

But not any old content. You need quality content. Everything you publish on your site should be:

  • Relevant to your niche
  • Helpful for users and factually correct
  • Engaging and easy to read
  • Fine-tuned for your target keywords and SEO optimized (SEO plugins for WordPress such as Yoast are handy for this)
  • Original (a bit like your old history teacher, Google disqualifies plagiarism!)

The best way to start filling your site with content is to first devise a full content strategy that can be rolled out over the course of six months or even a year. This should have a particular focus on what types of content you will be publishing (i.e. blog posts, product reviews, news stories, tutorials, etc.) as well as how often and what sub-categories of topics there will be.

  1. Tweak, tune and build up an audience

This last step merges together with (4), in that you should continuously be publishing content and monitoring each page’s performance via a web analytics tool such as Google Analytics.

Other methods and tools at your disposal are:

  • Building up an audience via social media (Facebook is generally preferred for its high referral rate)
  • Investing in paid advertising such as through Google AdWords or promoted posts on your social media platform
  • Guest posts from third-party contributors with an already existing following
  • Paid-for SEO consultation services to boost your organic web traffic

Ready to go!

Having followed steps one through five, you are now ready to start promoting your affiliate’s (or “merchant’s”) products or services via your site.

Some people interested in getting started with affiliate marketing may want to jump straight to this step, however, failing to find the right niche, neglecting which networks to work with and amassing no audience, following or traffic will inevitably result in failure.

As to how you begin promoting products (and start receiving that all-important commission) – this will all depend on how your site has been structured and what type of product(s) you aim to be selling.

Some of the most popular affiliate marketing methods that people employ on their sites include product reviews, links (or ‘hyperlinks’) within the body of your text, discounts and coupon codes, banner ads and advertorials. Some more quick tips on how to start promoting and receiving money from affiliate sales can be found via Location Rebel here.