Are you about to start your online business or you’re early in the process?
Affiliate marketing is a legit way of making money online but only when done right.
In this article, I’ll give you some tips but no tricks.
Leave the tricks in the last decade and set healthy foundations for your online business in 2020.
Let’s jump in…
1. Don’t spend money on affiliate marketing courses
Literally, everything you need to know about affiliate marketing is available online for free.
What some ‘gurus’ charge for rudimentary courses on affiliate marketing is ludicrous.
How to recognize such predators?
Well, whenever someone’s promising ‘fast’ and ‘easy’ results, you should take a step back.
There’s nothing fast and easy about affiliate marketing.
It’s not exactly that it’s complicated, because it’s not.
But it’ll take time before you make your first dime with affiliate marketing.
How much time?
Most likely months.
Because affiliate marketing is only a monetization method.
The real name of the game is “content marketing.”
Content marketing is the process of producing quality content with the end result of earning money.
And quality content both takes time to produce and takes time to rank on Google.
Especially when you’re starting from scratch on a brand new domain.
Don’t worry, that’s just a barrier to entry into the making money online world.
2. Choose a niche you’re interested in
Because affiliate marketing takes time to bear fruit, it’s a good idea to choose a niche you’re interested in.
You’ll often hear the word “passion” thrown around when people talk about niches.
Don’t get me wrong, if you’re passionate about something, that’s fantastic!
But you don’t have to be passionate about your niche to get into it.
It’s enough to be interested to start with.
I’m also a big believer in the concept of passions being discovered and nurtured.
Word of caution: don’t choose your niche strictly based on monetary reasons.
Sure, do some research and make sure you don’t choose a niche that has no chance of getting monetized.
But choosing a niche solely because you think it’s easy money is a mistake.
There’s no such thing as easy money.
To succeed with affiliate marketing you will have to create a lot of quality content around your niche.
That takes time and effort, my friend.
You can check my article 12 Mistakes To Avoid When Choosing a Niche if you want to know more about this topic.
3. Niche down
There’s real money to be made in small niches.
Why is that?
Two things: less competition and a bigger opportunity to become a niche authority figure.
People like and trust experts.
And when people like and trust you, they will buy from you.
Let me give you an example of niching down:
- Running shoes
- Running shoes for long-distance runners
- Running shoes for female long-distance runners
Notice how the niche becomes more and more targeted?
This allows you to know exactly who your audience is.
And when you know exactly who your audience is, you can better pinpoint their problems.
Going with the example above, your audience would be women who are looking to buy long-distance running shoes.
From there, you can ask targeted questions and find out what their problems are.
Provide them with the solutions to their problems, and those ladies will love you.
Don’t worry, it’s perfectly fine to niche up and expand once you explore your sub-niche to the fullest.
At that point, you will have hopefully built up authority and trust with your audience and search engines.
4. Get a WordPress website
Many people want to get into affiliate marketing without a website or relying only on social media accounts.
For the most part, those days are over.
And even if they weren’t, you don’t want to 100% rely on companies like Facebook for your business.
In other words, don’t build on rented land.
WordPress is an open-source platform that doesn’t belong to anyone.
Side note: don’t mistake WordPress with wordpress.com which is a privately owned business.
Once you purchase your domain and set up your WordPress website, it’s yours to do as you please.
You do have to play by Google’s rules to an extent, but Google is much more neutral than other social media companies.
Another benefit of WordPress is that it’s community-driven.
There are countless plugins with any functionality you could think of.
On top of that, a lot of the best plugins are free or have free versions.
Lastly, you can easily hire a developer to work on your website and tailor it to your liking.
WordPress is an open-source platform for which you need no permission to fiddle around with as you please.
This might not seem as important from where you’re at now, but it’s always better to have freedom than not.
5. Buy your domain separately from your web hosting service
Many hosting services enable you to buy a domain through them.
Not because they have sinister intentions, but because it’s easy and convenient for most users.
Still, you should purchase your domain separately.
Go through a dedicated domain name registrar like namecheap.com.
Only then are you 100% sure the domain belongs to you and only you.
In most cases, if you buy a domain through your web hosting service, it’s going to be OK.
However, if you picked a dodgy web hosting company, they might hold your domain hostage if you ever wish to leave them.
And they can do that if they registered the domain to their company instead of you.
Like I said, this the worst-case scenario that’s unlikely to happen, but you need to protect yourself and your assets.
6. Get a shared hosting plan from a reputable web hosting service
There’s no doubt that dedicated web hosting is a lot better than shared web hosting.
But it’s also a lot more expensive.
This extra expense isn’t necessary when you’re just starting out.
Your website is going to be very small for quite some time anyway.
Any reputable web hosting company will serve you well with one of their shared hosting plans.
I use and recommend A2 Hosting.
In a world where a handful of big companies have gobbled up most smaller hosting companies, A2 Hosting still stands independently.
Their shared hosting plan costs around $4 per month which is very affordable.
If you need a step-by-step guide on how to purchase a shared hosting plan from A2 Hosting, here’s my detailed guide with pictures.
Whichever company you go with, there’s no need to spend a lot of money on web hosting for a long time.
Once your website starts picking up traction and earning you money you’ll be able to switch to dedicated hosting with ease.
7. Choose a mobile-friendly WordPress theme
Google has switched to mobile-first indexing.
This means that it predominantly uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking.
Having a website that’s not optimized for mobile or isn’t mobile-friendly would seriously hurt its rankings.
This is especially true for websites created on July 1, 2019, or later.
For those websites, mobile-first indexing is enabled by default.
This means it’s a good idea to choose an agile, mobile-friendly WordPress theme.
Also, keep the number of plugins to a minimum.
10-12 or less is fine.
Too many plugins can not only slow your website down, but they can also clutter up the screen if you’re using too many ones that add visual features.
As you can imagine, this is a big problem with smaller screens.
Such things detract from the user experience and make your website more difficult to use.
Luckily for you, there are countless WordPress out there to choose from.
Everyone’s bound to find one they like that’s also fast and reliable.
8. Don’t turn on ads on your website straight away
Just like affiliate marketing, ads are another way of monetizing your website.
Google AdSense is immediately available to you and you can start using it pretty much from the get-go.
Sadly, it pays so little it’s not worth it.
Ads detract from the user experience and you want the best user experience possible during the delicate time when your website is fresh and not getting a lot of traffic.
Once you start getting serious amounts of traffic (10,000 page views per month or more), you will become eligible to join one of the premium ad networks.
Premium ad networks pay a lot better than Google AdSense.
If you want to know more about when to start monetizing your website, you can check my article on this topic here.
9. Work on branding from the start
Branding is not reserved for the big companies.
You can brand any business, big or small.
Branding is important because we’re entering the voice search era.
More and more people are browsing the Internet by conversing with AI assistants like Amazon Alexa.
This is increasingly done through screen-less speaker systems that don’t display search results in a traditional way.
Right now, people type keywords into search engines and then browse the results.
You stand a chance of getting discovered.
This chance is going to diminish in a voice-first search world.
Guess who’s going to decide what results Amazon Alexa returns to searchers?
If you guessed Amazon, you’re correct.
Consumers are already demonstrating that they’re fine with that scenario.
85% of consumers end up going with the product Amazon suggests. https://quoracreative.com/article/voice-search-statistics-trends
So in the world where you have to get through Alexa to reach your audience, your audience better seek you out specifically.
This is accomplished by branding yourself or your business to be the foremost expert in your niche.
And to brand yourself as an expert, you have to provide tremendous value through your content.
Luckily, this perfectly aligns with what you need to do to succeed with affiliate marketing too.
10. Don’t over-do it with affiliate offers
When starting fresh, it doesn’t make sense to flood your content with affiliate offers.
No one’s going to buy anything from you or take your recommendations before you build trust and authority.
The same goes for your relationship with search engines like Google.
There are exceptions to this, but it can take months before your content starts to rank on Google.
Especially if you have a brand new domain with zero backlinks and zero authority.
Check out my article on How Long Does it Take For an Article to Rank on Google in 2020.
Because affiliate marketing is a long-term game, there’s no rush.
To get to the monetization part of your journey, first you need to create content so you have something to monetize.
It’s always better to be conservative with the number of affiliate offers at first.
You can always scale up if need be.
But going overboard just makes your website look spammy and untrustworthy.
11. Research your audience
You have to know who your audience is to be able to create targeted and relevant content.
See, it’s not about you, it’s about them.
Try to be as blindly consumer-centric as you can.
To know your audience, you must determine things like:
- Where they are located (more relevant for some niches/businesses than others)
- Where they spend time on the Internet (Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TikTok, etc)
- What their problems are in regards to your niche
- What their spending power is
- What kind of content do they consume (written word, audio, video)
- What influences their purchasing decisions, etc.
Answering questions like these is important because creating quality content takes time.
The last thing you need is creating content that is irrelevant to the audience you are trying to attract.
12. Solve your audience’s problems
Connecting your audience with solutions to their problems is one of the most important ideas when it comes to affiliate marketing.
You simply can’t recommend affiliate offers that are irrelevant to your audience.
When someone’s going through your content and you help them realize how to solve a problem, they usually go “A-ha!”
I usually do it my head, but I caught myself saying it out loud too.
The goal is to get as many ‘A-ha’ moments from your audience as possible.
When someone helps you with a problem you have, you automatically trust them more.
Even more so if they did it free of charge.
Be the affiliate marketer that helps people solve their problems and don’t push products down their throats.
13. Let your audience know you’re an affiliate
You’re bound by law to disclose any affiliation with the products you’re recommending.
It’s not necessary to hide affiliation anyway.
If you’re producing quality content and helping people find solutions to their problems, no one’s going to care if you made a buck or two in the process.
In fact, people will be glad to help you out.
Get an Affiliate Disclosure page up and running as soon as you start posting affiliate offers and affiliate links.
You always want to protect yourself and your business.
14. Build authority
Information is a commodity these days.
There are roughly 2 billion websites on the Internet and over 4 million blog posts published daily.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult for search engines to recommend the right results to searchers.
This is why Google has come up with its E-A-T algorithm update in 2018.
E-A-T stands for expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
This update helps Google determine who is trustworthy enough to get recommended in the search results.
Not for Google’s sake, but for the sake of searchers.
This is why it’s critically important to position yourself as an authority within your niche.
You build authority by providing value to your audience.
15. Only promote affiliate products you believe in and use
Promoting affiliate products you believe in makes you more authentic.
Authenticity is especially important if you’re trying to position yourself as an authority figure within your niche.
But let’s even put that aside.
You don’t need many affiliate offers to make money.
The goal is to recommend the right products in the right places.
No more, no less.
Now, if you want to create a review site, you won’t be able to try every single one of the products you talk about.
Let’s be real about that.
But the more products you do try and use yourself, the better quality information will you be able to put out there.
16. If you’re using Amazon’s affiliate program, make sure you explicitly follow their rules
APRIL 16, 2020 – UPDATE – Amazon slashed their affiliate commissions by up to 80% in some categories. In this new light, I cannot recommend the Amazon Associates affiliate program anymore. It would be a better idea to go directly to manufacturers or find alternative affiliate networks instead of Amazon.
You should always read through affiliate agreements for every product you’re promoting.
This is especially important when it comes to the Amazon Associates program.
Know the rules of the program and follow them to the letter.
Amazon is known to suspend affiliate accounts even for seemingly minor transgressions.
For example, you can’t copy and paste product images directly from Amazon.
Now, the rule doesn’t forbid you to use the same product images for your affiliate offer, you just can’t rip them directly from Amazon and upload them to your website.
Luckily, here’s where the WordPress platform comes in handy.
There are plugins that enable you to use the same images but in a way that doesn’t break Amazon’s rules.
You don’t want to get your Amazon Associates account banned.
The ban is domain-wide and difficult to appeal.
17. The “3:1 content ratio”
This is a guideline of how many pieces of informative content should you aim to publish before publishing an affiliate offer centric piece of content.
So, a good ratio is three informative pieces of content for every one affiliate offer centric piece of content.
Obviously, the more informative content you publish there, the better.
Let’s be real though, you have to monetize your website too and that’s completely fine.
Be strategic about it and don’t cheapen your brand with bad or unnecessary affiliate offers.
18. Publish quality content consistently
Being consistent when it comes to publishing quality content is very important.
Especially in the beginning while you’re establishing trust with Google.
It’s often recommended that you go hard in the first 2-3 months of your website.
While quality matters the most, quantity shouldn’t be neglected either.
In that period, it would do your website good if you published 30-50 pieces of quality content.
I know it sounds a lot because it is.
But that kind of a content push would throw some meat on your website’s bones, so to speak.
It would show Google that you’re serious about your website.
After that, it would be OK to scale everything down, but not too much.
You’d still want to post new articles at least twice a week.
That’s a lot of work, I know…
But think of it this way, if you actually commit and do the work, you’ll be so far ahead of the people that don’t.
There’s another great benefit of completing a challenge like this.
You’d get into the habit of creating content, which is priceless in the long run.
Of course, this is not set in stone.
You don’t have to commit to such a crazy initial content push.
That’s just something extra that would give you an edge over your competition.
19. Create relevant content
Relevant content is not just a buzzword.
Creating relevant content means targeting very specific groups of people and helping them solve very specific problems within your niche.
Relevant content is the kind of content that makes your audience feel like it applies precisely to their situation.
When you manage to get that kind of reaction out of your audience, the benefits are profound.
Relevant content helps establish two things, your audience’s trust in you and your expertise in the niche.
Not all content is relevant to everyone, of course.
In fact, when a piece of content applies to too many people, it loses relevance.
For example, an article titled “How to get fit” is so broad and vague it becomes irrelevant in people’s eyes even though its content is probably sound and useful.
A piece like “15-minute lower-back exercise routine for busy moms” targets a much smaller audience but is VERY relevant to that audience.
You can count on those busy moms with lower back issues to be very interesting in an article like that.
20. Focus on long-tail keywords
Long-tail keywords are the way to go for multiple reasons.
The average conversion rate for long-tail keywords is 36%.
That’s a lot!
What does that say about long-tail keywords?
It says that long-tail keywords are where the buying decisions are made.
For example, when someone searches for a keyword “Acoustic guitar,” they’re probably long ways from a decision to purchase a guitar.
But when they search for something like “Best acoustic guitar for left-handed people under $500,” they’re pretty much ripe for making the purchase.
You want your piece of content right there at the top of the SERPs (search engine page results) if you want to collect an affiliate commission on that guitar.
Furthermore, there’s much less competition for long-tail keywords than there is for short-tail keywords.
Less competition means you’ll have an easier time ranking on top of Google for your keyword.
That’s important for any website, let alone a new one.
21. Pay attention to search intent
Search intent is something people often miss.
And it’s one of those things that are hard to correct.
For example, if you search Google for “Acoustic guitars for left-handed people” you will find that virtually all of the search results on the first page are lists.
This means that people searching for this keyword want some options and recommendations.
If you were to write an article about what makes an acoustic guitar more suitable for left-handed people, you’d completely miss the search intent.
Your article would get nowhere close to the top of SERPs because hardly anyone would click on it.
That’s just not what most people are interested in when they type in this keyword into Google.
What makes missing the search intent so brutal is that if you wanted to compete for this keyword, you’ll need a completely new article.
Luckily, it’s really easy to pinpoint the search intent.
Simply enter your keyword of choice and the SERPs will tell you everything you need to know.
22. Be patient
Patience is the name of the game.
To succeed with affiliate marketing, you need to create a lot of quality content.
And that takes time.
There’s no way around it.
You can push against this notion and forever chase the ‘quick and easy’ dream, or you can accept this and commit to building your online business the right way.
You’ll often hear things like “affiliate marketing is a scam” or “affiliate marketing doesn’t work” from people that have the wrong idea about affiliate marketing.
I get it…
The bills keep coming and we’d all want things to happen quickly.
Unfortunately, success is neither quick nor easy.
Everyone successful in the affiliate marketing business grinded their heart out to get there.
Or they scammed a lot of people by selling them outrageously expensive courses, but that’s another story for another day.
Affiliate marketing industry is worth $billions and is growing year by year.
This is really no surprise because it has very little downsides if any at all.
Assuming you understand what actually makes people click on affiliate offers.
It’s not rocket science.
Help people find solutions to their problems in a non-salesy way over and over again and affiliate marketing is going to be your friend.
Otherwise, it’s going to be a constant struggle for you.
I hope you found value in this article and feel free to hit me up with any questions you might have.