Affiliate marketing – the Holy Grail of passive income. The idea of making money while you sleep sounds great, doesn’t it? Setting up a website, adding a couple of links, and getting a cut of all sales you drive to a particular seller online.
Many bloggers earn top dollar this way. Zac Johnson, a well-known affiliate marketer, makes more than $100,000 every year in passive income from his blog ZacJohnson.com. He doesn’t even have an actual product he makes.
We’ve put together a comprehensive guide to help you get started. Here’s the ultimate affiliate marketing for beginners guide – 2022.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing means marketing or promoting another company’s or individual’s products and earning a commission from every sale you send their way. You've probably seen websites or influencers that use buzzwords like "sponsored post” or “affiliate link.” These terms are at the heart of any successful SaaS affiliate marketing operation. That's how companies or individual sellers track how many sales you direct to them.
Naturally, the more sales you generate, the more money you make. However, to join the big league of top earners, you must get started correctly.
If you're a total newbie, you first need to find an affiliate network or program you’re interested in. Check the types of products or services available for marketing, how much they pay on commissions, and the available payment methods. These are no doubt the three most important aspects you need to figure out immediately.
Once you find an affiliate network whose products and terms appeal to you, go ahead and sign up, and then wait for their approval. After you get the green light, you will receive a custom link, and you can now begin creating content for your website.
You’ll need to embed that link to any product you promote. That way, you and the company whose products you’re promoting can track visitors to your site who end up making a purchase, which is how you earn a commission.
Most affiliate programs are split into different categories depending on how you intend to promote products. You might want to start promoting products or services via your blog, email newsletters, or social media posts. Anywhere you can share a link and have an active audience is a great place to start.
The affiliate network you join will transfer your payment once you meet the minimum threshold required for payouts. Payment methods vary widely. Most programs use PayPal, checks, and bank transfers to pay commissions. Make sure the program you pick supports your preferred mode of payment.
Components of a Successful Affiliate Marketing System
To get started, you'll need a basic understanding of how the entire system works. Four main components make up the affiliate marketing structure.
1. The Merchant
The "merchant" is sometimes referred to as the vendor, retailer, brand, or seller. It is the entity that creates the product or service. It can be a vast multi-billion-dollar company like Adidas that makes sports gear or a solo entrepreneur like Lesley Komlos, who sells violin courses for children.
From small and mid-sized startups to massive Fortune 500 firms, any of these businesses could be the merchants behind an affiliate marketing network. All they need to have is a product to sell.
2. The Affiliate Marketer
Next, you have the affiliate marketer, also known as the publisher. An affiliate can be a solo individual or an entire company, each of which can generate commissions worth a couple of hundred dollars a month or millions, depending on the strategy and scale of their operations. That's what your role would be in this ecosystem.
This stage is where all the product or service promotion happens. An affiliate markets one or more products from a merchant by convincing potential customers of the value they would derive from it/them. One of affiliate marketers' most common strategies is to run a review blog about the merchant’s products. Here’s an example from GQ.com.
This particular blog reviews Adidas shoes. Each product has an affiliate link embedded so that every time a visitor clicks on it, they're directed to a merchant website, where they can then go ahead and purchase it. GQ then earns a commission from every sale they refer to the stores.
Alternatively, you have an entire niche site dedicated to promoting specific products or services. WebsiteBuilderExpert.com is one such example. The website features content that reviews different website builders. Every time they direct a visitor to their site to sign up for any of the services they recommend, the site owners earn a small commission from the sale.
3. The Consumer
Third, you have the consumer or customer. They are at the heart of the affiliate system. Without customers, there would be no revenue to be shared and, as a result, no commissions to be earned.
An affiliate marketing pro tries to promote a product to the consumer through whatever channel they see fit. It could be through content marketing on a blog using a good, old-fashioned search engine like Google or a social network like Instagram or Facebook.
It is worth mentioning that consumers need to know that they are part of the SaaS affiliate marketing system. You need to put out a disclaimer that reads, “…we may earn a small commission from products purchased through our site," or something similar.
Consumers who buy a product through an affiliate link don't typically pay a higher price for it. The potential commission earned by the marketer is already included in the retail price.
4. The Affiliate Program
An affiliate program or network is the final piece of the puzzle. It is the intermediary between the merchant and the affiliate.
Although it is technically possible to promote another company’s or individual’s product and arrange a direct revenue share system with them, things can go awry as far as product delivery and payment goes. It could put your online reputation in jeopardy, which could put your commission earning potential at risk.
Partnering with affiliate networks like ClickBank or ShareASale takes care of these details, so you don't have to. They handle everything from product delivery to payment, freeing you from the nitty-gritty of online sales. That way, all you'll need to do is focus on the promotion aspect of your affiliate marketing business.
From our experience, most merchants prefer to manage their affiliate marketing through these networks. As a result, if you want to promote that particular product or service, you must do it through the affiliate program.
One significant benefit of affiliate networks is the sheer volume of products available for promotion. You’ll find everything from business/investment-related services to lifestyle-related products to market. You can promote personal finance services, real estate products, equity, stock brokerage services, furniture, home appliances, electronics, and virtually anything else.
Amazon Associates is by far the world's most extensive affiliate program. You can promote a wide range of consumer products such as household items, tools, books, toys, and electronics.
Anyone can sign up for these programs and generate a custom link to products featured on the site. If you recommend a particular product and a customer buys it through your link, you earn a commission on the sale.
What Should You Do to Start Earning From Your Website?
So far, we’ve looked at the leading players in the affiliate marketing world, and you now have a firm grasp of the various terms and what they mean. Let’s dive into how to get started to monetize your website.
Right off the bat, it's important to remember that there are two sides to the affiliate marketing coin.
On the one hand, you can become a merchant and get people to promote your products in return for commissions on every sale they drive your way.
On the other hand, you can become an affiliate marketer by promoting products from different merchants and earning commissions that way.
Regardless of the route you take, both are viable ways to start earning on your website. In this section, we’ll cover how to get started on both sides of the coin.
How to Become an Affiliate Merchant
To become an affiliate merchant, you first need to have a product. You can generate revenue every time an affiliate sells your product. Here’s how to get started.
1. Come Up With a Product Idea
First, you need to think of ideas for an affiliate marketing business. It's important to mention that if your primary goal is for your website to make money, you'll need to detach yourself from the product.
You want to research all the different products and services and think about ways to improve them. Find something that provides a solution to the problems the available products are resolving.
Of course, there's always the option to pick a product you're passionate about, but passion doesn't always translate to profit. You're on the right track if you can identify a niche that combines the two.
For instance, if you’re a stay-at-home mom, you probably already have an idea of products that can make mundane, everyday chores a tad easier to do. Maybe steaming and ironing clothes is a task that makes you feel like pulling out your hair.
You could create a product that does that for you. Perhaps a portable closet with built-in steamers that only requires you to hang your clothes in there, leave them for a couple of hours, and take them out completely wrinkle-free.
Google the product idea you have in mind and see if it already exists. If it does, check out the reviews to find out what existing users have to say about it. That way, you can identify areas you could potentially improve on.
In our example, a great way to improve the steamer closet would be to create units with shelves for clothing you can't hang. A seemingly simple solution as that could be what gives your product a competitive edge over the available brands on the market.
If creating a product sounds far-fetched, especially if you lack adequate resources to execute it, this model works on just about anything, including virtual products. By virtual, we mean anything that’s not tangible. Here’s an example.
You can use Buzzsumo to research recent trends based on the number of social shares. You can then come up with content based on that and monetize it. Another great way to get content ideas is to use the “How to…” when searching on Google or YouTube to reveal top results. Here’s what came up when we did this on YouTube.
How to make pancakes, money online, French toast, ice cream at home, etc., are potentially high-traffic generating content. You can do a write-up on them or even record and upload a series of videos detailing the step-by-step process for each of them.
As you can see from the examples that we've come up with, figuring out a product idea for your website is relatively straightforward. You then need to ask: Will people pay for it? That's where step 2 of the process comes in.
2. Validate Your Idea
This is no doubt the most important step of them all. The last thing you want is to create a bunch of how-to videos on French toast that no one's willing to pay for.
Remember, the focus here is to monetize your website. It means you have to feature content people are willing to pay for. That's what validation is all about.
To validate your idea and establish whether there's a future for it or if you should ditch it, all you have to do is ask people to pay for it. The question then becomes: Where do you find these people?
KeyHole is an excellent tool designed to do just that. Simply plug in your product/content idea, and it will generate a list of people who tweeted about it.
You can reach out to them personally and ask them if they like your idea and whether they would be willing to pay for it. It's not enough for them to say they like it. You have to go further to determine if they would spend money on it.
If they are not, you'll need to return to the drawing board. If they are, follow up immediately with an ask to buy. Create a feasible target for the number of orders you'll require before you can embark on creating the product in question. Once you hit that threshold, start making it.
3. Make the Product
You now have the green light to proceed with product creation. While there's nothing wrong with creating physical products, this guide will focus on making digital merchandise you can sell on your website.
We don't recommend diving into the deep end with physical products on your first try. It’s always better to start small and work your way up from there.
Below are some great ideas for digital products and helpful resources you can use if you don't know where to begin.
- How to Create Online Courses Step-by-Step
- How to Create an Awesome Online Course
- How to Create an Awesome Online Course
- How to Create an Ebook From Start to Finish
- Free Online eBook Maker: Design a Custom eBook in Canva
- How I Earned $45K Self-Publishing 10 Ebooks: Top Takeaways
- How to Start a Podcast | Complete Step-by-Step Tutorial
- Make Money Podcasting: 6 Monetization Ideas for New Podcasters
- Common Podcast Mistakes (And How You Can Avoid Them)
Creating a digital product doesn't require jumping through numerous hoops and is not capital intensive. All you need is time and perhaps a one-off fee for the software.
Once you’ve successfully created the product and have it up on your website, you’re now ready to proceed to the next stage – leveraging the affiliate network.
4. Find An Affiliate Program Partner
Now comes the best part of the process – setting up the affiliate program to allow partners to collect commissions. Digital Product Delivery and Gumroad are some excellent tools you can use to create affiliate program partners, allowing them to earn commissions on every referral sent your way.
Everflow is another fantastic tool you can integrate to recruit and manage affiliates. It can also help you structure and optimize your affiliate campaigns, track and manage revenue and spend, track performance based on real-time data, and automate your processes.
Other great affiliate program partners you can join as a merchant to grow your online business include ClickBank, ShareASale, and CJ (formerly Commission Junction). It’s worth noting that you need to find partners whose core audience is interested in what you’re selling. You’re more likely to get a lead that way.
Keep in mind that it is not unusual for digital products to fetch commissions of 50 percent or higher. Here's why: You don't incur any replication costs. The secret to driving sales and attracting affiliate partners is to split the commissions evenly. Don't be greedy. It's a win-win for all.
Now that you're in the know about what it takes to start earning money from your website as a merchant, it's time to explore the other side of the coin: Making money as an affiliate.
Also, we advise you to check out our post “Top Affiliate Networks” for more valuable info.
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