beginner's guide to affiliate marketing
Updated: Dec 16, 2019
If your website is the type that easily attracts thousands of visitors every day, then maybe an affiliate marketing program could be very beneficial to you. Affiliate marketing means placing advertisements for products and services of certain companies on your website.
If someone clicks on the ads and purchases a product or service on the advertiser's website, you're paid a commission. The amount that you earn depends on various factors.
This blog aims to help you get started with affiliate marketing. How to set up a website and start as an affiliate.
Before I start with setting up a website and the content part of affiliate marketing itself, first of all, what is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing has to do with paying commission to websites that supply you (your website) with customers. It can be a very successful form of marketing if your website is one that easily attracts visitors. But how do you actually start with this form of marketing?
When it comes to affiliate marketing, different parties are usually involved. The affiliate could be a fashion or travel blogger, it can also be the consumer association or websites where products and services are compared, such as cheaptickets.nl, tweakers.net, paperflies.nl or a discount platform such as Actiecode.nl.
In affiliate marketing, these three parties are involved:
This is often the webshops that offer products and/or services. Their goal is usually to generate extra traffic and sales. They may make promotional material in the form of videos available and affiliates are paid a commission when their visitors click on the videos.
These are the owners of websites that easily attract visitors. Most affiliates give companies the option to advertise their products in different ways. For example, there is the possibility to place links on their website to a specific product, or simply to the entire website.
People do not pay via the affiliate's website, they are only offered an overview of (related) products. Affiliate marketing is useful if you do not have a web store but have a large following or can easily attract visitors to your website. If the attention you generate leads to conversion, then you're paid commission.
An affiliate network is a link between the advertiser and the affiliates. These are platforms where advertisers can meet affiliates and are held to their agreements. Affiliate networks ensure that results are correctly noted and that affiliates are paid their commissions.
So how do you start affiliate marketing?
First, you must choose a domain name and build up your website's popularity. Content is very important and it takes a lot of hard work and patience to get your website up and running before affiliate marketing can even be considered.
Without a domain name and a website, affiliate marketing isn't going to be possible. First, think about which niche you want to focus on: it could be fashion, travel and tourism, news, or just food and cooking? Your domain name must clearly state whatever niche you choose. Pay good attention to the user-friendliness of web hosting.
Transip and Strato, for example, have a one-click install of WordPress, which immediately saves you a lot of technical knowledge, which you may probably lack in the initial phase. Wix is also another platform where you can easily maintain a blog without much technical knowledge. That way you can focus on doing your thing without having to worry about the technical side of web hosting.
Here are 4 steps to start your affiliate marketing:
1. Choosing a Website and Web Hosting Platform:
In the initial phase, I would personally go for the use of Wix or WordPress. WordPress is open-source software for CMS that has developed at breakneck speed in recent years.
The additional advantage is that it is constantly updated and easy to use, especially if you want to rank high on Google. It is also very user-friendly (nowadays) and (mostly) free. Same goes for Wix. There are also loads of videos on Youtube that explain how to find your way when you're a beginner.
2. Website Theme:
You can choose one of the free themes that Wix or WordPress offer. Find a theme that best fits what your niche is about and pay attention to the functionalities that are incorporated into the theme.
Also, pay attention to the responsiveness of a theme and how mobile-friendly it is. Your website won't rank high on Google if your website isn't user-friendly or compatible with mobile phones. It must look good and perfectly fit into the screens of your visitors' smartphones, tablets and computers.
On Wix, when you apply a theme, you automatically apply the complete demo and it becomes the basis of your website, so you no longer need to build from scratch. Then it is only a matter of changing the texts and replacing images. Start with that and gradually learn the basics yourself. It's how I learned and to be honest, it was quite fun.
Note: Before you start working on your web content, it is good to go through the theme's default settings. Here you can choose your URL structure. For example, you choose which page should serve as your homepage, about page, etc.
Almost all themes have extensive documentation that can help you find your way. If Visual Composer is not integrated into the theme, make sure you buy it because it is really a plug-in that is worth every penny. This is a drag and drop builder, so you don't need HTML knowledge at all.
Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to do some more research and see what you may need for your website. However, lots of plug-ins are free of charge on WordPress and Wix, so you should be alright.
4. Yoast & Akismet:
These are two plug-ins that always come in handy. With Akismet, you can easily protect your website against spam. With Yoast, you have a tool that helps you with the analysis of search engine marketing (SEO).
The Yoast plug-in helps you clarify what to look for when trying to become visible on Google and also helps you master a part of search engine optimization. You can link the Yoast plug-in to webmaster tools for further insights on how you can improve your content.
Analytics Webmaster Tools and Plug-Ins
Is your website up to date? Then it is interesting to integrate Google Analytics. Create a Google Analytics account and link the GA code to your website. There are plug-ins for this within WordPress and Wix offers you a step-by-step guide on how to do it.
You can also search for "Google Analytics on WordPress" or "Google Analytics on Wix" and you will get loads of results. Then it's just a matter of installing and activating. Slowly but surely the results will become visible when you log into Analytics.
Next step is to link your website to webmaster tools (also known as the Google Search Console). With the webmaster tools, you can indicate, among other things, which country you are targeting web visitors, what your preferred settings should be, and so on. You can also submit a sitemap in webmaster tools, which makes it easier for Google Bots to crawl your site, plus it also makes indexing faster.
Creating a sitemap can be fairly simple again with the help of the WordPress Yoast plug-in. Wix also gives you a detailed step-by-step SEO guide. With the help of webmaster tools and Google Analytics, you can easily gain insight into a lot of data concerning your website and its performance on Google. The data also helps you know how you can continue to improve your site.
Niche, Content and Analysis
Think about the direction you want your website to go: do you have the passion or motivation for it? And can you make money doing it? If the answer to both questions is YES, then go for it! But don't forget that it can take a while before you start to see a return on investments when it comes to affiliate marketing. Investment here, to a large extent, is time, patience and perseverance. It usually isn't money.
The beginning is a path filled with trial and error and if you're able to critically analyse your mistakes, you should be able to make significant improvements. Starting a successful affiliate business requires time and motivation. The minimum condition is interest or affinity with the subject you are writing about.
Content is King (or Queen)!
We have talked about the importance of SEO-friendly content and also looked at the step-by-step plan for writing the best SEO blogs. One thing remains constant: without content, there can be no visitors to a website and without visitors, affiliate marketing will never be possible. So content is king! In the first few weeks after setting up your website, work on conversion copywriting and use the PAS formula to write content adds value and can attract web visitors and (potential) customers to your website.
Do your homework before writing your web content and after a few weeks, dive deeper into Google Analytics to see what attracts people to your website. Check out others who are also active in your niche and see the kind of relevant content they have on their sites. Continue using the information you get from Google Analytics to improve your website.
The next step is to try to tune your content to the keywords and other data that come up in analytics and webmaster tools. Based on that data you will really have to answer the questions or provide the information that visitors are looking for. Whether these are travel tips, or where they can buy the cheapest socks, shoes, wristwatches, etc.
Keep improving yourself and your content in your niche. Keep an eye on your competitors and make sure your website has the best content in your niche. Make your content more unique, straight to the point, sharper, more fun and/or more informative and analytical.
If everything starts to run a bit and you have some traction on your domain, the next wise step would be to sign up with different affiliate networks. Zanox, TradeTracker, FamilyBlend, TradeDoubler and Daisycon are the more famous names in the Netherlands. See if they have programs in your niche and sign up for them.
If the advertisers you sign up with accept you, then start replacing your normal links with affiliate links that you can find in their networks. For example, if you have a travel blog and one of the advertisers is a tour operator that happens to have a well-packaged trip to Turkey or Spain, add the link to the trip on your website and write something about it so that your visitors can see it.
This is where conversion copywriting comes in. Conversion copywriting is specific. It focuses on a single action and bends words, phrases and selling points to achieve that single action. In this case, the single action is getting your web visitors to click the link, go on your advertiser's website and book the trip to Turkey or Spain. If they do, you will receive a commission on the booking! Congratulations! You're now an affiliate marketer!
Ads, SEO & Link Building
The success of your website largely depends on the content and the added value of your website. How do you fascinate your readers/visitors? Do you know what your visitors are looking for? Does your website offer added value or are visitors gone in no time? These are all very important questions for every affiliate marketer.
A successful affiliate marketer can't do without SEO, link building and/or ads. You always have to create awareness about and sell yourself. The best ways you can do it is through paid ads on social media and Google, link building and SEO-friendly web content in order to increase your findability on Google and other search engines.
For the indexation and your rankings within Google, it is important that there are also incoming links, from other popular websites to your website. The more authority the sites have, the better for your ranking. You can try to achieve this through good reaching out to other websites and writing good content.
Social Media and Community Building
Nowadays it isn't difficult to build an online community. Here in the Netherlands, Tweakers is a good example of a successful case of community building. While its group of visitors may be small, they are all very loyal and provide a huge dose of interaction on almost everything on the forum.
The big advantage of this is that the community contributes to keeping the content on the website relevant and fresh, which is also very interesting for the website's ranking on Google. It's safe to say that the community supporting the website is - now - at least as important as the people behind the website itself. Consider if this is something you can use for your website within your niche.
You could always start a Facebook group or a Twitter page - a community consisting of Facebook fans or Twitter followers. You could also go for newsletter members. Instagram can also help you raise awareness about your website, but conversion via social media still remains a tricky issue. All in all, social media can be used better for promotion than for conversion.
So What Next?
There are many people with a website who are trying to earn money with it. These people often end up in affiliate marketing. But is their website suitable for this? Are there products and/or services to be sold in their niche? For people with these questions, the answer is simple: every niche has a product or a service to sell!
So you have set up your website, you're starting to get a hang of Google and SEO and you're using all you're learning to constantly improve your website and the web traffic is now coming in. Good! Then it's time to go into affiliate marketing. Don't forget to ensure that there is a match between the products advertised on your website and your niche.
Below are some concrete tips to get started with affiliate marketing.
8 Tips to Get Started With Affiliate Marketing:
Make sure your content has added value. Your success largely depends on the added value that your website can offer. The income shouldn't be the first thing on your mind. Focus on adding value to the lives of your web visitors and every other thing will follow later. And don't forget, if you later stop producing content that adds value to your visitors, they will stop visiting your website. This is bad because you can lose your affiliate deals!
Start with WordPress, Wix or any other (free) CMS (content management system). As a starting affiliate, it is not necessary to invest in a completely custom-made system. Everything you need is available or almost for free on WordPress or Wix. In addition, start with gaining the knowledge you need, later on, if you need a paid professional website, then you should go for it.
It does not matter which niche you choose, but make sure that you are interested in it yourself, or at least motivated to dive into it. If you have no passion for the niche you have chosen, your website will definitely crumble in the long run.
Analyze and improve your content through Google Analytics and webmaster tools.
Have patience. The beginning is a learning process and in that period there isn't going to be a lot of financial gains. The good thing is that there are hardly any costs, so no matter how little your financial gains, you wouldn't have lost much but time.
Invest in a strong and relevant domain name (around 5 euros per month). Choose a domain name that clearly shows what you do or the kind of niche you're in. For example, www.thingstodoinamsterdam.com immediately shows what the website is all about: a website about the things that tourists can see and do in Amsterdam.
Pay attention to your SEO, link building and social media management. This can give your site a boost in Google rankings.
And again: be patient, offer added value and try to put yourself in your web visitors' shoes in order to understand what they're really looking for and how you can help them with your content.
Do you have any questions or tips on affiliate marketing? Please contact us or leave a comment below.
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