How to Make Money With Affiliate Marketing

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You may have heard the term ‘affiliate marketing’ being bandied around a lot in recent years, but what does it actually mean? Can you start making money with affiliate marketing? And how do you get started?

We’ll walk you through all this and more in our guide to affiliate marketing, taking you through every step from defining your niche to experimenting with paid ads.

8 Steps for Making Money With Affiliate Marketing

  1. Find your niche
  2. Become an expert in your field
  3. Set up a website
  4. Create content
  5. Sign up for affiliate partnerships
  6. Set up analytics
  7. Nail your SEO
  8. Consider paid marketing

Here at Website Builder Expert, we earn most of our money through affiliate marketing. Our success was ten years and a lot of hard work in the making, but it’s given us a lot of really valuable insight into the world of affiliate marketing, which we’ll now use to help you get started on your own journey.

What is Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing is basically a modern, digital-only version of making commission on a sale. After setting up affiliate partnerships with products or services, you can generate a specific link to use when your site mentions or recommends that product or service. If one of your readers clicks out to that site, you can make money if they go on to purchase that product (or even if they just click through to the site – we’ll cover the different affiliate models shortly).

Because the link you use has a custom tracking code, any commission is calculated and paid automatically. And with loads of products and services, you never even need to build a relationship with the supplier – you can just set up an account, and go from there.

As you can see, affiliate marketing shouldn’t be considered a ‘get rich quick’ scheme unless you already have a popular blog or social platform. But if you’re prepared to play the long game, read on for our guide to making money with affiliate marketing, and edging out the competition in the process.

Find your niche

Because affiliate marketing is such a competitive business, it’s extra important that you find a really specific niche from the get go.

There are four elements that should contribute to which niche you choose:

1. Your own experience/interests

Whether it’s vacuum cleaners or running shoes, you’re going to be producing a lot of content around this topic – so it helps if it’s something you already know a lot about, or at least have an interest in!

2. Demand for the products/services you’re writing about

Check if your niche idea is too niche by looking at how many people are searching for that product or service online.

You can do this using a keyword tool such as Google Keyword Planner to see how popular related search terms are – using the example above, you might explore terms such as ‘best vacuum cleaner for hardwood floors’, or ‘best long distance running shoes’. The tool will show you how many people are searching for these terms each month in any given country, and you’ll soon see where the demand lies.

3. Potential payouts for these products/services

Once you’ve found a product or service that you think fits the bill, you need to check you can actually make some money from it – and, crucially, how much.

We’ll talk more about how to sign up to affiliate programs a little later on. For now though, check the affiliate programs of the sites that stock your products to make sure there’s some potential there. If your products are stocked on Amazon, check the percentage payout for your product category.

4. How much competition there is

Considering the three points above is super important, but at the end of the day, your idea will fall down if there are already a ton of people doing it really well. Start by googling some of the terms you found in step two. Could you compete with the content that’s already out there? Does it seem current, and does the brand seem trustworthy? Is it well known?

Be honest with yourself, and start again from step one if you think this niche is already saturated. Or, go more niche! How about focusing on vacuum cleaners for people with pets, or women’s marathon running shoes?

Rinse and repeat until you have an area you think scores well in all four areas – that’s your niche!

Become an expert in your field

This is one step that is often completely skipped out in affiliate marketing guides, but to our mind, it’s one of the most important parts of the process.

You need to become an expert on your chosen topic. A real expert. Read as much as you can about your products and industry online. Grow your network, attend relevant Meetups, and connect with industry leaders and suppliers on LinkedIn.

And most importantly, wherever possible, test the products you’re going to be writing about, and record your experience of doing so. In an ideal world, you’ll want to develop a research methodology that will allow you to accurately compare products like for like, although this can come a little later down the line.

What are people saying about the products and services you want to write about? Are they well-received? Could you run a poll to find out? Or take an rating overview from product pages, Trustpilot, and other review sites?

Gaining expertise is important because it will allow you to make accurate recommendations to your readers. But that’s not the only reason; by laying this groundwork, you’ll be able to show your readers that you know your stuff, and they’ll trust your recommendations. The internet is unfortunately full of flimsy monetized content, and people are really waking up to it.

This is one step that is often completely skipped out in affiliate marketing guides, but to our mind, it’s one of the most important parts of the process.

You need to become an expert on your chosen topic. A real expert. Read as much as you can about your products and industry online. Grow your network, attend relevant Meetups, and connect with industry leaders and suppliers on LinkedIn.

And most importantly, wherever possible, test the products you’re going to be writing about, and record your experience of doing so. In an ideal world, you’ll want to develop a research methodology that will allow you to accurately compare products like for like, although this can come a little later down the line.

What are people saying about the products and services you want to write about? Are they well-received? Could you run a poll to find out? Or take an rating overview from product pages, Trustpilot, and other review sites?

Gaining expertise is important because it will allow you to make accurate recommendations to your readers. But that’s not the only reason; by laying this groundwork, you’ll be able to show your readers that you know your stuff, and they’ll trust your recommendations. The internet is unfortunately full of flimsy monetized content, and people are really waking up to it.

Consider which one of the following reviews you’d be most likely to trust:

  1. ‘I’ve done some online research and collated a top 5 list of what I believe to be the best long distance running shoes for women’
  2. ‘Here are the top 5 long distance running shoes for women. I pulled customer reviews for long distance running shoes to narrow down my search to the top 10 most popular on the market. I then ran 100km/week in each pair, comparing them on factors including durability, comfort and power. Read on to see my ranking’

Set up a website

Again, some affiliate guides will encourage you to sign up to affiliate marketplaces before even creating a site. However, we think setting up your website is a more logical next step, particularly if you’re not planning to start out with paid advertising (something we’ll cover the pros and cons of a little later on).

Creating your website and some content first will give you access to the greatest pool of affiliate partnerships. And setting your content live without affiliate links will give it the best chance of climbing up the rankings – you can then add affiliate links in at a later date when traffic starts to trickle in.

We recommend you set up your website with WordPress, given it’s effectively going to function as a blog, and WordPress.org is the platform we’d recommend most for this. We won’t go into loads of detail on how to do that here because we have a whole guide to setting up a WordPress website, but what we can say is – don’t be daunted! WordPress.org hasn’t always been considered the easiest platform to use, but updates over the last year or so have really improved things. Plus, over 30% of the world’s websites use WordPress, so you’ll be in good company!

Create content

Now you have a website set up, it’s time to start generating content. But this doesn’t just have to mean written blog posts – although we recommend you write some of those too, of course. Try experimenting with YouTube and social channels too to find your right mix.

Create a content plan of keywords you want to target, and use this to structure your content calendar. Depending on what you’re writing about, you’ll find your content is made up of:

  • Tutorials
  • Reviews
  • Guides
  • Comparisons

Or more likely, a mixture of several!

When writing your blog posts, remember that thin content is the enemy. At the end of each post, ask yourself: will this genuinely answer the user query? If you’re writing a guide to doing gait analysis at home, for example, would someone leave your post with all the information they needed to get started? Set high standards for your content right from the start.

For more advice, check out our 19 top tips for writing for the web.

Sign up for affiliate partnerships

Now we’d recommend signing up for those affiliate partnerships you first identified back in step one. When it comes to payouts, there are a lot of different variations; timeframe of payment, amount of payment, and action required to receive payment, to name a few.

Here’s a breakdown of the three most common types of affiliate programs:

Types of affiliate programs

1. Pay-per-sale (PPS)

This is by far the most common type of affiliate program, and allows you to receive money every time someone goes on to actually buy a product after first seeing it on your site, and clicking through your link. This tends to give the highest payout of the three (relative to the cost of the good or service).

And a customer doesn’t need to make the purchase straight away, either. When they click through to a partner site, this is recorded through the user’s cookies. Some sites will still pay you if the customer goes on to purchase a product 30 days later – some, even later. In fact, 30 days is pretty standard, but be sure to consider this when signing up to affiliate partnerships. eBay, for example, only offers a 24 hour window, which could seriously impact your earnings potential.

2. Pay-per-lead (PPL)

Also known as lead generation, with a pay-per-lead model, you’re paid to bring your partner an interested customer, rather than being paid when they complete the purchase.

This model works well for services, or more complex products which could need a consultation before buying. You may be paid for every customer who fills in a form on the partner’s site, or signs up to their newsletter.

Pay-per-lead is less common, but the payouts can be really rewarding. A lot of these partnerships may require setting up on a one-to-one basis (which is why we recommend you prioritize creating content first), because they want to be reassured that the traffic they’ll be getting is ‘high quality’ – that’s to say, customers who are genuinely interested in their goods, and who haven’t been led there under false pretences.

3. Pay-per-click (PPC)

With pay-per-click programs, you’re paid every time you send a user to the client’s website via one of your links. The payouts for this are much smaller, because a click is so noncommittal, and there’s only a small chance that the user will go on to purchase the product or service.

Payment schedules

As well as knowing what you need to achieve in order to earn a payment, and how much you’re going to get paid, you need to find out when you’re going to get paid. This can happen one of three ways:

  1. Paid on a set date. Whether it’s weekly or monthly, you arrange a set date and receive the full balance at this time.
  2. Required to hit a minimum payment value. Payments will be deferred to the next time period if this amount is not hit – one to watch out for!
  3. Tiered payouts. The more sales/leads/clicks you generate, the more you earn for each. Negotiating a tiered payout can see your profits really snowball.

How to sign up for affiliate partnerships

When it comes to setting up affiliate partnerships, again, there are a couple of ways to go about this.

1. Sign up to an affiliate marketplace

This gives you access to a whole bunch of partners, and allows you to manage everything under one roof. The marketplace may take a small cut of your profits.

Popular affiliate marketplaces include:

  • ClickBank
  • Impact
  • Flex Offers
  • ShareASale

2. Sign up directly with partners

By signing up directly, you’ll keep all your profit – although you may end up with a few different dashboards to manage.

Affiliate schemes of popular sites:

If a brand has an affiliate scheme in place, they usually have a link to the details in the footer of their website – look out for a link to a ‘Partner Program’ or similar!

Set up analytics

When it comes to monitoring the success of your affiliate site, having good analytics systems in place is absolutely essential. By tracking what’s working well, you can shift your focus and amend your content strategy for the upcoming months.

Most importantly, by carefully monitoring traffic and cross referencing this with the conversions in your affiliate dashboards, you’ll be able to calculate your conversion rate for different pages and partners. Conversions in this case refer to whatever action you need to achieve in order to make money.

Conversion Rate (%) = Number of Conversions ÷ Number of Visitors

If you’re using a PPS or PPL model, it’s also worth keeping an eye on your earnings per click. You can calculate this using the following formula:

Earnings Per Click ($) = Total Amount Earned ÷ Number of Clicks

This is especially important to keep an eye on if you start running paid ads, since each ‘click’ will come at a cost, and you need to make sure things stay profitable.

Google Analytics (GA) is a comprehensive, free tool which you can use to calculate everything above when paired with your partner or marketplace dashboards. You’ll need to spend a little bit of time learning the ropes to get the most out of it, but fortunately, it also comes with a free academy to get you up to speed.

The first step is to set up a Google Analytics account and pair it with your website. Here’s a guide to getting linked up to GA.

Consider paid marketing

An optional final step is to diversify your marketing strategy to include paid forms of advertising, either through Google (paying for your page to appear at the top of the search results marked as an ‘ad’), or through social platforms.

Before you consider paid marketing, make sure you’ve got a really good handle on the analytical side of things. Otherwise, you could end up believing you’re running a profitable campaign, only for it to end up making a loss.

Conclusion: How to Make Money With Affiliate Marketing

There are a few different ways to approach making money with affiliate marketing, but we’ve walked you through what we believe to be the best, most sustainable option.

To recap, here’s everything we’ve covered:

How to Make Money With Affiliate Marketing:

  1. Find your niche
  2. Become an expert in your field
  3. Set up a website
  4. Create content
  5. Sign up for affiliate partnerships
  6. Set up analytics
  7. Nail your SEO
  8. Consider paid marketing

And that’s it! Affiliate marketing has huge potential as an income source, as long as you’re prepared to put some hard work into it. Come back and let us know how you get on!

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About Hannah Whitfield

Hannah Whitfield

I’m Website Builder Expert’s Content Manager, which means I’m in charge of checking everything written for our site, as well as writing my own articles.

I started writing about the wonderful world of the web around two years ago, and haven’t looked back since. Put simply, there’s never been a more exciting time to get online. Having tested all of the best website builders and ecommerce platforms on the market, I’m in a great position to help you do just that!

I hope you find our articles helpful, and please feel free to pop me a message with anything else you’d like to see here on Website Builder Expert.

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