This guide is written in such a way that if you follow all the steps and actually put the work in, you will see success.
Starting an Affiliate Marketing business online is “easy” in theory.
In fact, there are many people online that will sell you coaching, courses and various other products while having you believe that very thing.
There are a ton of people that will tell you "how to start an affiliate business" but I'm going to focus on something more helpful.
By answering: How to start a successful affiliate marketing business.
Because there is a difference… a very BIG difference.
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It won't be instant and it'll take a lot of work.
I want you to set your expectations because so many think "making money online" is easy.
The Affiliate Marketing industry is extremely competitive and because of that, the percentage of people that actually have success with it vs. attempt it is quite low.
Most people that have attempted affiliate marketing are honestly quite lazy, however.
There is an entire industry fueling this notion that you can make money "passively" so it's no entirely their fault.
So I will repeat this one more time... For you to find success with this, it will take work.
No matter if you're a complete newbie or an industry veteran that has just had a down year, this guide will help you.
When starting a successful Affiliate Marketing business, you first need to understand:
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
The simple answer: Affiliate Marketing is getting people to complete actions online, such as turn into a lead by submitting a web form or calling a phone number, all the way to buying products and services.
This all happens through your personal “affiliate links” or coupon code.
As you send traffic to your affiliate link, some of those people (hopefully) will convert into a sale or lead.
Depending on the action that the advertiser wants to be performed you will get paid a commission.
Once again… on paper, this sounds EASY, right?
Get some people to your link, have them buy XYZ and make money!
Pump the breaks…
Not so fast!
You see not all traffic is created equal.
Most inexperienced affiliate marketers think that this is all a numbers game.
Send as much traffic to a link and get $$$…
But this line of thinking will likely end up in failure… even worse, you can get kicked off an affiliate network for sending untargeted traffic.
Just because you’re getting people to click your link, doesn’t mean they are interested in what you have to offer.
Quality traffic is much more important than the quantity of your traffic.
What is targeted traffic?
This may sound obvious, but you would be surprised how few people actually understand this concept…
Targeted traffic is finding people who would have a high likely hood of converting.
If you were an affiliate for a dog product, it wouldn’t make much sense to try and get cat owners to click on your link.
Some of this boils down to some common sense, but to really build a successful affiliate business online, you have to go deeper than that.
You have to fully understand exactly who is the most likely to convert for your offer.
Now we will get into how to get this kind of traffic in a moment, but first lets better understand how to find people that will convert on our offer.
Understanding The Purchase Funnel
This diagram above is the purchase funnel.
A purchase funnel is the theoretical customer’s journey towards the purchase of a product or service.
I’ll explain each step of the way, but when first starting out you’ll want to focus on the bottom of the part of the purchase funnel.
- Awareness - Getting a person to be aware of a product or service. At this stage, they may not even know a solution exists for their problem.
- Opinion - A person decides if this product or service is even right for them.
- Consideration - Is the information stage, this is where most people will spend time learning about their current problems and all the available solutions to fixing it. (Informative videos, blog posts, etc work great here)
- Preference - The customer is deciding which make, model or brand they would like to purchase. (Review posts/landing pages work great for people in this stage).
- Purchase - The final stage right before making a purchase. They know they want to buy and they are ready to pull the trigger. (If you are able to get a coupon code for your affiliate offer, this will sweeten the pot and make sure they purchase from your link over others).
As you can see there are many stages in the purchase funnel. I.E. a lot of different mindsets a person may be in when you’re trying to promote your affiliate offer.
Just like I mentioned earlier when first starting out you’ll want to focus on Preference and Purchase. Creating review articles/videos or even comparison content of multiple different products in a niche make it easier to be sure you’re the one that gets the affiliate commission.
This all brings me to my next point…
To make money online is no different than any other market.
Generating income boils down to one of two things, provide a product or a service.
As an Affiliate Marketer, our service is as simple as driving traffic of buyers interested in a product or service in exchange for a commission.
The problem with this, as the internet becomes more automated with programmatic media buying it'll be harder and harder for marketers to perform this service, unless you...
Become An Authority
Honestly, I didn't know where to put this in the guide, because it's so important.
As the internet and our entire lives become more automated with less human interaction people will crave personal relationships online.
If you want to have success in this industry for the long-term 5-10 years out, you need to understand this and focus all your energy towards it.
Silicon Vally's entire business model is by replacing humans overtime with automated systems:
- Want food? Order it on door dash and have it delivered too you. Sure you still will have a face-to-face encounter with the driver, but that is still a much different experience than you'd have to order the food yourself in a resuratant.
- Entertainment? Netflix, Video Games, and Social Media all delivered directly to your home.
- Dating? You don't even have to meet people face to face until you've prefiltered your dating preferences through a dating app such as Tindr
- Need to go somewhere? Hail an Uber, for now, there is a human driver, but autonomous cars are going to be here before you know it.
Just one example of another project of mine, is I've always wanted to go into game dev. So in my free time I build my own games with Core I track my progress and as I learn, film videos and create guides.
Honestly, the list can go on and on.
When it comes to getting people to buy products online, the modern day consumer is more research focused than ever before.
Sure as humans we still will have impulse buys, but the majority of our purchases come down to how many reviews a product has, or a friend or someone we trust (authority) recommends it.
The sooner you understand that while affiliate marketing will never die, it's going to morph pretty rapidly.
The service us as affiliate marketers will provide, is answering peoples questions in whatever niche we choose to focus on.
Pushing people through pure marketing to purchase something without providing any value first, will still work but it's going to be less effective over time.
We are already seeing this trend and I believe it'll just ramp up over time. The less salesy you are in your marketing the more effective it'll be over time.
This is called the value first strategy. If you spend time helping people with whatever problems they have, they will feel as if they owe you something this is called reciprocity. (A great book to read is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion)
By providing value to a group of people with a problem by the time they are ready to purchase a product or service in that niche, they likely will buy based on your recommendations.
To repeat this once more... This will only happen after they feel like they trust you.
Now we'll get into how to get people to trust you later in this guide, but it really boils down to providing value first, which will ultimately lead to you being an authority in the space.
Choosing a Niche!
To have success in this space, you really need to choose a niche.
Almost every successful affiliate buddy I have focuses on a particular niche.
One of the most common mistakes I see people make is not sticking to one niche when first starting out.
By focusing your efforts on a particular vertical (more importantly a particular group of people) you'll begin to discover trends and various opportunities that your less focused competitor likely will never find.
Recommended Reading: The problem with “Niche Websites” and how to easily solve it
Not only is choosing a niche extremely important to gain key insights over time, but it will allow you to actually achieve a massive ROI over time by having an omnichannel marketing approach.
Another common mistake I see a lot of people make is simply choosing a niche because they think it makes a lot of money.
Sure choosing a niche that makes money is important, but honestly, almost every niche you can think of can make money if the right effort is dedicated too it.
There are several ways to choose a niche but it really boils down to this:
- Am I passionate about this niche?
- Do I care about this niche enough to become an expert over time?
- Are there enough helpful products to promote that will actually better peoples lives?
Making sure a niche has enough money flowing around is very important.
Even microniches can turn into massive money makers for you.
If you need some ideas on where to start, here are the BIG niches:
- Love (Relationships)
Almost everything we crave as humans boil down to one of these three niches, we want health, love & wealth.
The majority of sub-niches fit under the umbrella of one of these main niches.
A sub-niche is a drill down from one of the main niches.
For example, instead of simply starting in the niche: "Love" you'd want to drill that down to something like:
Example: 30-40-year-old dog owners who are currently renters that have a misbehaving dog.
By drilling down your niche this much, it allows you to better serve the needs of this audience.
Which ultimately helps people by providing answers to their questions through the use of content that serves their needs... While also allowing you to make money by referring helpful offers to them.
Let's dive into some examples of how you could make money from this niche:
- You can recommend books, courses and even seminars that help with obedience.
- Provide a helpful resource for finding local dog trainers (lead generation opportunity).
- Sell dog clickers, leashes, toys and other dog training tools.
- Dog insurance offers, groomers, dog walkers and watchers.
As you can see there are a TON of opportunities to monetize this niche with offers that can improve their lives.
The more targeted your niche is, the better your message will get across to your target market.
If you still need some niche ideas to consider taking a look at Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs.
The reason I would choose a niche like “Dogs” is I know the people within this niche are very passionate and people spend a lot of money on their pets.
Not only that but with this particular niche, the pet owners are facing a very specific problem... Obedience.
That means there will be plenty of opportunities to provide value and tons of affiliates offers that I can promote.
If I were to choose pets, I would make sure that I’m passionate about pets.
You’re welcome to skip this part, but trust me… having some type of interest in your niche will improve your odds of success.
Your passion or lack thereof, is going to shine through your promotional material, such as videos, blog posts, landing pages, etc.
While this particular niche would likely have more success if you were a certified dog trainer, you don't have to be!
You could go the route of interviewing and promoting other dog trainers that you actually found useful and helpful.
Guess what? Chances are those dog trainers have products and services they'd like to sell and would more than likely give you a cut.
Example: The Online Dog Trainer
Finding Affiliate Offers
The easiest place to find an affiliate offer is through an affiliate network.
Now affiliate networks are a dime a dozen, but they are not all created equal.
As an affiliate, you are already a middleman, when it comes to the value chain of selling products.
Affiliate networks are just another link in the chain.
So as an example…
On a $100 product, the affiliate network will make for example $18 per sale, and you as the affiliate will make $10 per sale.
One thing that isn’t talked about much in this industry is that affiliate networks broker to other affiliate networks.
So as an example affiliate network #1 will make $18 a sale.
Affiliate network 2 will make $12 a sale.
Now if you are an affiliate for affiliate network #2 you are now only making perhaps $7 a sale instead of $10.
Things to consider with choosing an affiliate network:
Are they a reputable company?
Affiliate networks will be holding onto your money until you hit the minimum payout threshold… It’s important that they historically pay affiliates and are not some fly by night company.
Are their offers direct with the advertiser?
As we discussed just a bit ago, it’s important to find a network that is paying you the highest rate possible.
It will be hard to compete against other affiliates if you’re only making half the amount they are per sale.
Does the network have a lot of offers available in your niche?
Most affiliate networks have a minimum payout threshold, meaning you need to generate at least $100, $500 sometimes even $1000 with the network before they will pay you out.
If the network you are working with only has one offer in your niche, then for whatever reason that offer gets paused, you are now stuck with X amount of dollars with that affiliate network.
Unless they get another offer in your niche that converts, you may have to wait a while to get paid out.
Since affiliate marketing as an industry has grown so much over the last few years….
A lot of advertisers have affiliate programs for their very own products.
To find out if a certain company has an affiliate program there are a few easy ways to find them:
- Google company name + affiliate or company name + referral program
- Visit the advertiser's site directly then scroll to the very bottom of the page and look for anything that mentions: Affiliate, Referral or Partners program.
As an example, as you can see in the picture down below, I visited Target's website, scrolled down to the bottom of the menu and as you can see they have a page called Affiliates.
So using our example from earlier, if you know of a specific pet toy for dogs that you would like to promote, visit their website directly to see if they have any type of commission structure for sending them traffic.
If you don’t see anything on their website, hope isn’t lost just yet..
Feel free to reach out to the company through email, asking if they have any type of affiliate program. You’d be surprised how many different affiliate offers I had gotten access too, just from reaching out.
Creating Your Own Products
The beauty of becoming an authority in your niche is it allows you to create your own products and services over time.
Continuing the example of the dog obedience niche, you could even partner with a local dog trainer, to create an online course, books, etc.
You could even go the route of having your own branded physical products and sell them through an E-Com store.
Honestly, the possibilities are endless so long as you focus on...
Growing Your Asset
One big advantage with going the "authority" route in Affiliate Marketing, is you can provide value each step of the way in the purchase funnel.
Now once again, when first starting out, you could send traffic directly to an offer, but that is short-term thinking.
To become an authority in a niche, you want to take advantage of as many media options as possible.
This means: Make a blog if you're a decent writer, film video content if you're good speaking in front of a camera, create a podcast to reach an audience that prefers listening.
A secret to making money online is simple... Create more than you consume. If you spend your entire day watching Youtube videos, reading forums, social media, or playing video games... I bet your income
online is almost nonexistent.
Sure consuming information is GOOD, learning is part of the process.
But taking action on those ideas and sharing your thoughts with others is really how to grow your bankroll for the foreseeable future.
The more ideas you share, the more traction you'll get as an authority figure.
Instead of focusing on sending traffic directly to affiliate offers, you are now able to send that traffic to your own content.
You'll still make money by promoting affiliate offers within your content, but you are growing your own asset in the process... This is POWERFUL.
Finding Quality Traffic
As we already discussed you don’t want just any traffic.
You want highly targeted traffic.
But where are you gonna find this high-quality traffic?
Luckily for us, there are almost unlimited ways to generate traffic online.
“Free Traffic” - Blog / Podcast / Youtube Channel
I put free in quotes because nothing is really free. To create a blog or YouTube channel takes a lot of work and time.
All traffic takes resources, either time or money.
The less money something takes will generally take more time and vis-versa.
First of all, I always suggest you start your own blog or website.
To do this it’s extremely easy, with platforms such as WordPress, blogger, etc.
Most people get hung up on things such as “I can’t design a website, or a logo”
Honestly, those things do not matter as much as people think.
What does matter is CONTENT... More specifically helpful content!
Create content online with just one focus in mind...be helpful as possible to your target market.
The more helpful content you create the more your "free traffic" will grow...
This is the little know secrete that most won't tell you… Building yourself as an authority or brand in a niche is how you make the REAL money.
Think about this for a moment:
If you owned a dog and you kept searching for helpful dog videos online and the same person kept answering your questions through video content… don’t you think you would be more inclined to buy something from them when the time came? YES!
Other “Free Traffic”
You’ll hear a lot of people mention SEO (Search Engine Optimization). SEO is great if you know how to do it, but it’s a long-term play and you’re relying on a third party to send you traffic.
Most affiliates fail because they don’t see the fruits of their labor earlier enough and simply give up.
SEO is “free traffic” but it takes A LOT of work and A LOT of time while also requiring quite a bit of luck.
The competition is so fierce these days that I don’t even worry about SEO.
Want to know the kicker?
If you do what I’m sharing with you, not only will you get traffic much quicker to your site, but if you do decide to stick with your affiliate marketing journey long enough (a couple years) chances are you’ll start to see Google sending you some SEO traffic as well.
The site above is a little less than a year old.
As you can see if I waited for “SEO” to kick in, I would only have had 40k visitors.
Instead, I took advantage of all traffic opportunities and generated almost 4 million visitors in the same amount of time.
Now yes 1.7 million of those visitors were from paid traffic.
But the majority of referral, direct & social traffic was indeed "free traffic".
So what are these other opportunities I speak of?
The web is FULL of people sharing, pictures, videos, information, you name it they are sharing it.
Most affiliate focus on big traffic sites such as Google, YouTube, Facebook, etc.
But there are literally millions if not billions of websites out there, some of which have your exact target audience as traffic.
Don’t believe me?
A good place to start is SimilarWebs Top Website Rankings.
You can filter by categories and see the highest traffic sites in those categories that closely match your niche.
If this data isn’t good enough, you can also take a look at Alexa top 500 websites.
Still can’t find websites with your target audience?
We will take to Google!
Searching for sites with Your niche + “forums” / “blogs” / “communities” etc
Once you find a few sites that have your target audience it’s time to start… drum roll, please….
Answer users questions in the forums, in blog comments etc.
The more helpful you are the more likely it is people will visit your site so long as you are not spamming.
Like I said, “free traffic” takes time, so don’t be in a rush here.
If you are in a rush the only other way to speed up this process is with paid traffic.
Now as a warning, jumping right into paid traffic can lose you a lot of money very quickly. It’s important that you’re strategic here as well.
Each traffic source has a unique type of audience that is engaged in different ways.
Take YouTube, for example, that audience is watching videos for a variety of different reasons.
What you must realize is all the visitors to Youtube have one thing in common.
They want to consume video content.
So if your site or offer doesn’t have any video content, then YouTube likely won’t work for you.
On the other hand, if you offer a ton of helpful videos that already convert visitors into leads, then YouTube is the place to be!
Brent, if I’m just starting out how do I know which traffic source will be the best for me?
Learn About Various Paid Traffic Source: Paid Traffic: Best Ad Networks For Making Money
Pretty simple, you have to test which source work for you and which ones don’t.
An easy way to get started is to do the same research we were doing for the free traffic methods.
Finding communities that are full of your target audience.
While doing this research though, we’ll go a step further to see if the site has advertisements on it.
If they do, then it’s likely that you can purchase advertisements on the site as well.
You have to find which ad network the website is running ads for, but the majority of the time it will be either Google Ads or Facebook Ads.
Just like when we were trying to find out if a site had an affiliate program, you can also check down at the bottom of a site for a section that says: Advertise.
A lot of sites sell ad inventory directly and all it takes is you reaching out and seeing how much it is per month/ per thousand impressions or per click.
As you can see if I wanted to buy ad space on this marketing forum, all I would have to do is click on Advertising > Buy Ad Space.
Omnichannel & Retargeting
Just a few years ago, I would focus on traffic from a particular device.
One of my main traffic sources was simply "mobile traffic".
However, with how interconnected everything is these days, you don't want to focus as much advertising to a specific device.
Instead, you want to focus on the person behind the device, the kicker is the device they use can change.
One moment someone will be looking something up on their iPhone, next, they'll be making a purchase through their iPad or computer.
The great thing about large traffic sources such as Google, Facebook, Snapchat, etc is your ability to add retargeting tags to your site.
Even if you don't plan on running paid traffic right out the gate, I still suggest adding retargeting tags to your site.
This will allow you some pretty big advantages if you do decide to run paid traffic later.
- You can purchase traffic from people that are already familiar with your band.
- By adding retargeting tags and tracking pixels to your site early, you can feed this information into places like Facebook to later make lookalike audiences.
This means you can drive free traffic to your site, have them pixeled and when you are finally ready to run paid traffic, places like Facebook already have a pretty good idea of who your target market is.
Want To Learn How To Setup Retargeting? Read My Retargeting Guide
As I've mentioned several times now, this is going to take a lot of upfront work.
But honestly, it's one of the only ways to actually generate passive income over time.
To get to that point, however, will require consistency.
Honestly, I struggle with consistency myself and because of that PPCMode and other properties have suffered.
Being consistent with your message, content and the value of helping people over the long term is what will really drive your growth.
The internet is already a cluttered space as a whole, but there is still an opportunity for you to break through the noise and claim your niche.
Over time this will just get harder and harder...
So it's honestly best to start now, as still to this day most marketers are currently too lazy to put in the work and effort required to make this work.
That should get you started with your successful affiliate marketing online business.
Honestly, there is a lot more to affiliate marketing than most people realize.
I know it may seem like a lot when taking it in all at once, but just remember this:
Your job is to generate traffic to your offers that are highly likely to convert.
This is a performance-based “job” so you only get paid when visitors take action.
That means that quality is always the most important and the easiest way to get quality traffic, is to produce quality content in your selected niche.
You can always simply buy traffic and race to the front of the pack, but this requires an entire set of skills within itself.
It’s also a race to the bottom in a lot of ways because you control no point in the process.
You don’t “own” the traffic, or the offer, so it’s very easy to get replaced.
Paid traffic is a good place to start, just remember that affiliate marketing is a stepping stone to eventually building either your own brand, product or both.
Affiliate marketing has a very low barrier to entry but it is also very easy to be replaced.
Finally, I wanted to leave you with a great example of a site executing this perfectly: Dr. Anthony Metivier with his site Magnetic Memory Method. I've known of Anthony for a while now and it's been exciting to watch him grow. I hope to do an interview with him soon!
He has some great content and I highly recommend checking his stuff out!
If you have any other questions or need any other help, feel free to reach out to me anytime.