Want to learn how to become an affiliate marketer? This Affiliate Marketing Beginners Guide covers all aspects of how to apply this business model in a simple to understand and direct way.
This is an easy to read introduction and beginners guide on how to get started with affiliate marketing. It will walk you through from nothing to finding the best affiliate programs, setting up your first blogs, finding targeted, qualified traffic and making your first commissions within just a few days of following the steps in this book.
What to Consider Before Becoming an Affiliate Marketer
Affiliate marketing definitely provides some impressive benefits, but that doesn’t mean you can jump in without preparation. To ensure that your work as an affiliate isn’t wasted, you’ll need to do a bit of planning and be aware of the potential drawbacks.
We’re going to talk about some of those considerations in more detail later on. However, here is a brief overview of what you’ll need to do:
- Find the right niche. Your niche determines your site’s subject matter, and by extension, what types of products or services you’ll promote. As such, finding a niche that’s both comfortable and potentially lucrative is vital.
- Understand how to disclose your affiliate links. It’s imperative that you let visitors know your site contains affiliate links. Affiliate links come under the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines of endorsements, after all. Plus, being transparent is a smart way to improve trust in your website and business (not to mention sales).
- Avoid ‘affiliate theft’ at all costs. There are several illegitimate methods of increasing your commissions, which are collectively referred to as ‘affiliate theft’ or ‘commission theft.’ As such, you’ll need to make sure you only use proper, disclosed links at all times. Otherwise, you might end up like the scammer who used affiliate theft to steal $28 million from eBay.
- Understand that being an affiliate is not ‘selling out.’ By promoting other companies’ products, you’re nothing but a pawn in their marketing schemes, right? While some people assume this, it really isn’t true. In fact, a key characteristic of most successful affiliates is that they provide honest and insightful content to go along with their links. Since you choose what to promote, there’s no need to bend the truth or connect your name to poor-quality products.
- Be patient. Finally, affiliate marketing rarely leads to overnight success. Instead, it usually requires a lot of time and effort to slowly generate traffic and build an audience. This is especially true if you’re starting with a new or low-traffic site. It’s essential that you don’t expect quick results, and are ready to put in the work needed to grow your site and commissions.
If you take some time to consider the above points carefully, you’ll start off prepared and with realistic expectations. This will give you a solid foundation upon which you can build your affiliate marketing career.
How to Start Affiliate Marketing in 4 Steps
Here’s the key point you need to understand if you want to become an affiliate marketer:You’re earning a commission in exchange for giving readers valuable insights on products or services they were already thinking about purchasing.
In other words, your readers are already buying things. They are already going to make a purchase whether or not you give them any advice.
The question is, could you help them make a smarter decision than they could alone?
Because that’s where you add value. You earn a commission in exchange for being an influencer and helping people make smarter decisions, and you use your blog and the Internet to systemize that process, providing valuable advice to thousands of people.
Here’s a step-by-step process for doing exactly that:
Step 1: Choose a Product to Promote as an Affiliate
As ethical content creators, we’re constrained in the products we choose to represent in one of two ways:
- Either we’re limited by our experience to products that we’ve used and liked, that have affiliate programs and that are a good fit for our audience, or
- We’re constrained by the products we can get access to in order to evaluate them, either by buying them outright or getting a free sample or trial.
No matter which approach you take, expect to have to invest time and money into researching the best products for your audience.
Here are your two main options (with your best option listed first).
OPTION #1: PROMOTE PRODUCTS YOU ALREADY KNOW AND LOVE
This is the most common way to get started with affiliate offers.
You become an affiliate for something that you’ve used yourself, had a good experience with, thoroughly tested and feel good recommending. You should be fairly confident that others will get the same results you did (or better), as long as they do the work.
If you’ve found great success from a course, mastermind, or ebook that your readers could also benefit from, it only makes sense for you to spread the word and share your results.
Do an inventory of the products, services, and courses you already have experience with. You might have a list of a dozen or more.
Which of these would you be thrilled to promote? Cross out any that don’t fit the bill.
Now simply check to see if the merchant has an affiliate program (some won’t but you’ll probably be surprised at how many do).
Using a search engine like Google, search for “affiliate program” + [product name], or simply email the merchant and ask.
Then run your remaining options through this Good Affiliate Product checklist:
- You’ve previewed the product so you know its quality (given, in this case).
- They have a solid refund policy that you trust they’ll honor.
- They provide good customer support (and you’ve tested it).
- You have a good story to share about your experience with the product.
- The offer fits your audience’s needs and won’t abuse the trust you’ve built with them.
The products that tick all the checkboxes are your best opportunities for affiliate revenue. As time goes on, add as many of these products to your mix as you like.
You’ve found your first product! Apply using the merchant’s process and start promoting.
If you’re just dipping your toe in the affiliate marketing industry, this first option may be enough to get you started.
However, most bloggers will want to try the next one, too.
(And you’ll have to explore the second option if you don’t have an existing product you love that is also a great match for your audience and offers an affiliate program.)
Option #2: Find Products Via an Affiliate Network
If you don’t have any direct experience with or knowledge of products in your niche that could help your readers, you can often find good affiliate products on affiliate networks (← our detailed guide).
But be careful — this approach requires that you invest time into research and money into purchasing products to try out, more so than the first option.
That’s because there’s less trust and prior knowledge involved from the outset. You have to do your due diligence to protect your reputation and the credibility you’ve built with your readers.
When you work through a network, you typically won’t know the merchant ahead of time and usually won’t build a relationship with them (your business relationship is with the network).
The list of popular and reliable affiliate networks includes ClickBank, CJ Affiliate, the eBay Partner Network, ShareASale, CJ Affiliate (aka Commission Junction), and the Amazon Associates program. Some networks will even assign you an affiliate manager to lend a hand and show you the ropes.
Amazon products, in particular, are an easy way to get started. Many newbies begin by becoming an Amazon affiliate and then scaling to other types of more profitable affiliate offers.
Step 2: Get Yourself Set Up as an Affiliate
Whether you work directly with affiliate merchants or through a network, you’ll have to apply, be approved, and provide certain information so that you can be paid.
At a minimum you’ll need to provide:
- Your personal/business contact information for tax and reporting purposes.
- Your bank account where commissions will be sent.
In turn, the merchant must provide you with:
- An affiliate link. Whenever you post about the product, you’ll use this trackable link. It will have a long tag at the end of each link that includes your affiliate ID.
Here’s what some typical affiliate text links look like:EXAMPLE LINK THAT DIRECTS TO THE MERCHANT’S HOME PAGEhttps://merchantsite.com/dap/a/?a=1199EXAMPLE LINK TO ANOTHER PAGE ON THE MERCHANT’S SITEhttps://merchantsite.com/dap/a/?a=1199&p=merchantsite.com/page.html
You’ll also usually get some tips and useful assets for marketing the product (often found in a welcome guide or on the affiliate website).
These could include:
- An affiliate guide as well as instructions on how to use the platform and a summary of policies such as payouts.
- Online marketing tools like banners and sidebar graphics.
- Sample email/webpage swipe copy.
- Ongoing communications from the merchant about promotions, new products, etc.
If you use an affiliate platform like Amazon, you’ll get your own link for each of the specific products you promote.
Be sure to check your specific network’s help or support pages for more information.Tip: If your audience is global (which many bloggers’ are), you might want to check out geniuslink for tracking overseas sales through Amazon, iTunes, and Microsoft Store.
Step 3: Start Promoting Your Chosen Affiliate Offers
Ultimately, all your hard work finding and evaluating products only pays off if somebody takes your advice and makes the purchase, right?
For that to happen, you need to put your recommendation in front of your audience. Even more importantly, you need to make your recommendation trustworthy.
This is where a lot of affiliate marketers slip up. They think slapping a banner ad up on their blog that links to affiliate products is all they need to do.
But take a look at this:
Does that look trustworthy to you? Nowhere close, right?
Well, here’s a little secret:
The most successful affiliate marketing offers look nothing like that. No PPC or veiled recommendations on social media.
Here’s what to do instead (and what marketing channels to use):
Option #1: Create a Resource Page on Your Blog
Our own resource page is a good example:
It promotes lots of different products, but it also organizes them according to different types of readers and what they might need at the time. It also explains why those products would be helpful to them.
In other words, it’s not just a sales pitch. It’s educational. Because it contains a lot of quality content, plus it’s well optimized for SEO, it also ranks well in Google search results and gets organic traffic. It gets good conversion rates too.
Chances are, you can put together a landing page like this within a few hours. Your readers will also appreciate you putting all of your recommendations in one place for easy reference.
Option #2: Create and Promote Custom Content
This content marketing strategy will be the backbone of your affiliate promotional efforts.
Use as many of the following different techniques as make sense for your blog and audience.Note: All of these strategies assume that you are already sending traffic to the latest content you’re creating by emailing your list on a regular basis (at least two to four times per month) to let them know what’s new.
A) Write Reviews
You can write detailed reviews of products, courses, books, or software products you promote as an affiliate. For example, here’s our review of Siteground:
And here’s our ConvertKit review:
And our Elementor review:
Your reviews can focus on a single product or compare competing products side-by-side.
The second approach arguably builds more trust, but it also distracts people by giving them a lot of different recommendations.
If you would like to review multiple products, one option is to create a review site where all the content is simply reviews and affiliate offers. It becomes a “one-stop-shop” for your niche.
B) Write Definitive Content on a Related Topic
You can write a definitive, comprehensive post on your site to educate your readers and “soft sell” your products and then work to get it ranking in the search engines.
For instance, you could write an ultimate guide to setting up a WordPress blog and include your affiliate links to your favorite hosting providers.
One example here at Smart Blogger is our post on freelance writing jobs. It’s a detailed, definitive guide for freelancers looking to find online jobs, but it also allows us to feature one of our courses for writers.
Whatever the topic, make sure that it’s evergreen content — information that’s likely to be useful and valuable for years to come.
You can create blog posts, videos, infographics or anything similar — but whatever you do, it should not be a sales page. Focus on building trust and authority.
Finally, you should pay a lot of attention to SEO — make sure to optimize for the right keywords, keep WordPress running fast, and build links to your content to get a constant flow of traffic from Google.
C) Create Valuable Bonus Content
Assuming it’s allowed by your affiliate agreement (sometimes it’s not), you can create bonus content, exclusive to your readers, that helps people get even more value from the affiliate product.
People love bonuses! You can create many types of bonuses fairly quickly and easily while still giving your readers excellent value.
By the way, this is a fantastic way to differentiate yourself from other bloggers representing the same products.
Here are some example bonuses you could offer:
- Step-by-step checklists
- Quick-start guides
- Video overviews or demos
- Complimentary or discounted services (e.g., coaching calls)
Step 4: Comply with Legal Requirements (and Best Practices)
In the U.S., the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires that you let people know you’ll earn a commission.
But even if it isn’t required by law where you’re located, we recommend it. It’s just good business.
Don’t be afraid to be transparent. People will appreciate your honesty and want to support you to repay you for making their lives better.
So wherever you share an affiliate link, whether it’s in blog posts, web pages, or emails, let your readers know that you stand to earn a small commission if they buy through you — and if they choose not to use your link, no worries.
Assure them that you wouldn’t recommend any products if you hadn’t used them yourself or were confident they could help them.
It’s also a good idea to create an Affiliate Disclaimer page on your website.
Here’s an example of our own disclaimer page at Smart Blogger:
We’re also clear on how those affiliate links might look within blog posts:
Affiliate Marketing is where you get paid a commission by displaying someone else’s product and getting paid for every sale or lead. To take advantage of this amazing marketing opportunity, you will need a source of traffic to send to your affiliate link.