How do you start affiliate marketing with no money? This is the question of many novices who are interested in starting affiliate marketing. You can make some money through affiliate marketing but this will only come when you put in the hard work which requires time and effort.
You may have seen a lot of online ads saying, “More income from home!” “$500 a day with NO experience needed” and so on. This is a sign that affiliate marketing has been gaining popularity quickly. And if you have been wondering whether or not it is the best tool to use as a beginner, this post will probably answer your question. In this post, I will briefly introduce what affiliate marketing is. Then I take a step-by-step approach to help you get started with affiliate marketing without going through much hassle. It doesn’t matter if you have no money at all to invest in a business—just read this article and you will see making money online can be done by anybody!
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
There are a lot of different ways to track affiliates these days, but all are based on someone clicking your special tracking link.
The most common and basic type of tracking is via a cookie.
When an affiliate link is clicked, a small file called a cookie is stored on the user’s computer. Then they buy a product, the merchant can see that they were referred by you.
There are also more advanced methods based on the email used or IP address – but we won’t get into those here, we’ll stick to the
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is where you promote another company’s product or service in return for a commission on the sales you generate. Commissions are typically a percentage of the sale price, but can occasionally be a fixed amount.
Why do affiliate marketing?
Here are two reasons why you should consider doing affiliate marketing:
1. Low-cost and low-risk
Starting a business means incurring upfront costs for products, employees, equipment, rent, and so on. This makes it risky and expensive. With affiliate marketing, all you need is a website. Even if it doesn’t work out, all you’ve wasted is time and a little bit of money.
2. Easy to scale
A typical salesperson only sells products from one company. As an affiliate marketer, you can promote products from many different companies and earn commissions from all of them.
4 Steps to Become an Online Affiliate Marketer
Similar to becoming a merchant, there are also four steps to start your journey as an affiliate marketer.
First, you need to start reviewing products in your niche. That can be done on a YouTube channel, on a blog, or even just using live streams on Periscope.
Second, you have to collect emails, so you can connect with your audience at any time you want and don’t have to hope for them to see your content.
Third, you can use joint venture webinars to make a lot of sales in a short period of time, while simultaneously growing your email list and creating new content.
Finally, once your affiliate marketing business starts making money, you can scale your growth with pay-per-click advertising.
Step 1: Review Products in Your Niche
It’s easier to get started as an affiliate because you’re skipping the ‘have an idea’ and ‘creating an idea’ parts of becoming a merchant.
You already use and like plenty of products, so all you have to do to get started is to publicly talk about them.
Whatever you’re reviewing, make sure you are honest and even-handed.
If your reviews aren’t genuinely helpful, people will sense immediately that you’re just trying to make a quick buck.
As Pat Flynn points out, in his affiliate marketing guide, involved affiliate marketing is by far the most profitable, because you can relate to the product, instead of just promoting something that might make you a lot of cash.
When you don’t even know the product, how can you credibly promote it?
Note: This is a little different for consumer products than it is for online courses or books created by individuals. If you’ve known a person for a long time and trust them and know their work is great, then that’s a different thing.
When you write reviews on your blog, you can use an affiliate link to link to the products you promote.
You can recognize them on other blogs by the long “/ref…” tail, at the end of the regular link.
This is usually the first step to start making commissions.
Simply sign up to Amazon Associates and you can then proceed to get your own affiliate link to any product on Amazon.
Just go to the product page and click on “Share affiliate link.” You’ll get a link that’ll give you a commission if people purchase through it.
However, if you only rely on people using the affiliate links in your reviews, you need lots of traffic to start making serious money.
If you can contact your audience directly, you can market to them whenever you like, not just when they come to your website.
This is where step two comes in.
Step 2: Build an Email List of Your Prospects
Email is still one of the best marketing channels today, so don’t miss out on it.
I’ll show you a few super easy ways to collect email addresses from your website visitors.
The first is Hello Bar
Hello, Bar puts a call to action on top of your website. Whenever someone visits your website, they’ll see this bar at the top.
You can offer them an ebook (maybe bundle together your 3 best product reviews) or a special review video.
Once they click on your Hello Bar, you can redirect people to the page where they can enter their email in exchange for the content.
You can also use Hello Bar to create an exit gate. This is a popup that will lay over the screen when visitors are about to leave your website.
It is triggered by their mouse moving to the top area of the browser.
I use it to get more Facebook likes on Quick Sprout:
You can also redirect people to your lead magnet and get their email address this way.
Just don’t overdo it.
If you give your visitors 20 things to do, it’s unlikely that they’ll do anything at all.
Just have one call to action in your sidebar. Again, it should offer people something in exchange for their email addresses.
Since you’re collecting email addresses around a very specific topic, such as finding the best straightening iron, juice maker, mini-oven, etc., you don’t need a lot of them to make the email list worth your time.
Even with less than 500 people on your list, you can create significant sales.
Just make sure to keep your audience engaged, by sending them regular updates, ideally once a week.
Don’t make it all sales. Just let them know when you have a new review up.
For example, I email out every single post that we do on Quick Sprout with a very simple description of what it’s about:
Every now and then, send them a specific call to action to buy a product. Perhaps you just found a new favorite in the latest review and think it’s really great.
You can update your audience on your change of mind, the reasons why and recommend that they switch to that product also.
Step 3: Educate Your Audience With Webinars
Webinars are awesome.
Imagine you want to buy a new fridge.
What makes you want to buy a fridge more:
- Reading a review on a blog
- Seeing a live presentation of a fridge in action
Number two, of course!
Using a tool like LeadPages, you can create a simple landing page where people can sign up for your webinar.
Promote your webinar on social media a week in advance and get people to sign up.
Webinars are great to engage with your audience one on one, show them the product you’re promoting life, and answer any questions that they might have.
- present the product’s features
- show different use cases of the product
- talk about its benefits and drawbacks
- tell people your personal history with the product
- help your audience get the most out of it
Imagine how fired up your audience will get when they see all of the cool things your product can help them do.
Pointing to your affiliate link and sharing it at the end of the webinar is a soft sell and comes naturally since you just spent an hour talking about the product.
It won’t feel forced and your consumers can still take all of the time that they want to make up their mind on whether they’ll actually buy.
Pro tip: Can you get your merchant to give you a special deal for your audience? If you promise to get their product in front of a couple of hundred people, they’ll often happily give you a discount or special bundle to further incentivize people to buy.
Step 4: Grow Your Business with PPC Advertising
Once your affiliate marketing business starts to pick up steam, you can start thinking about paid advertising.
I’m not going to show you how to do it here, since I recently published a guide on both Facebook Ads, as well as Google ads, but remember: only do this once you have a way of making back your money.
Conversions are all that matters here.
You can use PPC advertising to:
- get people to sign up for your webinar
- grow your email list
- make more sales
For example, if you Google “learn lead pages,” you can see that LeadPages themselves are advertising for this keyword, running Google ads, promoting their weekly live webinar.
So, keywords related to learning about your product or topic would be a good start.
You can also target your competition. For example, right under the LeadPages ad, there’s an ad from Unbounce.
These guys also provide software for creating landing pages, so it’s an easy way for them to get in front of someone else’s audience.
Now, while you could try to target people who are just trying to find a review of your product, you’d probably be better off improving your SEO.
The percentage of people who buy straight through your link after reading a review is naturally low, so imagine paying for these reads. Depending on the product price, you only get a few dollars or even cents per sale, so the margin you can spend on ads is not very big.
In most cases, your best off promoting sign-ups to your email list.
As a matter of fact, getting people to sign up for a webinar with ads is the best way to go.
You will win in three ways:
- They’ll be on your email list and you can contact them again at any time
- There’s a chance that they’ll attend your live webinar and buy the product
- You can put them on an autoresponder email sequence that encourages them to buy
For example, John Lee Dumas, from Entrepreneur On Fire, often runs webinars and puts them right on his homepage.
As soon as you opt in to the webinar, he also starts sending you a series of automated emails.
On those emails, he offers you other courses and free tools, like a webinar course, where you’ll learn how to do webinars to make sales.
If you opt into those, you’ll be sent 10 email lessons over several days. In the end, he invites you to buy a more extensive course on webinars.
After you’ve already learned a lot about webinars, you’re introduced to his more thorough and detailed course that’ll teach you even more.
He even shows a behind-the-scenes walk-through of the course, so you get a sneak peek.
Once he knows how many people will end up buying the full course from the autoresponder series, he can easily calculate how much he can spend on ads to get people to sign up for the webinar or webinar course.
So, with this strategy, you have several chances of getting your consumers to buy your product.
They have a chance to buy after the autoresponder series, on the webinar, and from future emails.
When your sales start coming in from that many sources and begin to grow, that’s when you can really blow up your business with paid advertising by just driving traffic to the sales mechanisms that already work.
The Top 7 Uses of Affiliate Marketing
Aside from the traditional ways of promoting affiliate marketing links, there are distinctive new trends in recent years. This next section looks at some of these trends and more traditional ways of promoting affiliate links.
1. Influencer Marketing
Influencers are one of the top faces of today’s affiliate marketing, thanks to social media and sites like YouTube.
Celebrities Kim Kardashian, Kylie Jenner, and Selena Gomez are among the world’s top influencers. However, many ordinary people have become famous just because of their influencer status and ability to create engaging content and interact with their audience.
Photographer Murad Osmann, TikTokker Addison Rae, and cleaning expert Mrs. Hinch are examples of top influencers that built their platform from the ground up.
While brands often pay influencers to promote products, it also makes sense for them to share affiliate links with their followers in return for commissions.
If you’re a business with a considerable or passionate audience, then consider influencer marketing.
For instance, on Instagram, you can share and promote your links by:
- Tagging the brand when you’re promoting their product.
- Add links to your bio.
- Use Instagram Stories and IGTV to talk about and promote products.
- Create product comparisons and gift guides to educate your audience.
When you add links, make sure to include a strong CTA to encourage visitors to click like Instagram influencer Ashley Spivey does.
One final tip: choose products that make sense for your brand or niche and only share products you like. Your audience needs to trust you have their best interests in mind.
Affiliate marketing is often the go-to choice for bloggers wanting to monetize content.
Bloggers generally specialize in a specific niche and share products or services of interest to their audience. For instance, it could be customer management systems, health trackers, or credit cards.
This type of affiliate program works well with niche businesses, and the further you can niche down, the better.
One example is Spencer Haws of Niche Pursuits. Besides his main site, he owns several profitable niche sites. You can see how Haws adds affiliate marketing links in the image below:
To implement affiliate marketing on your blog, include links in blog posts, or add banners, video clips, even pop-ups. Social and email can also help you share your links.
However, only include links when they’re natural and don’t oversell. If you have a newsletter, share your links through special offers, gift lists, product comparisons.
Finally, concentrate on sharing links that are useful and offer value to your subscribers. Don’t just go for the sale—make sure you provide value first.
3. Referral Links
When you’ve signed up for an affiliate platform, you gain access to a personalized link, known as a referral link.
When visitors to your blog, newsletter, or social media page click on the link and make a purchase, you earn a commission.
For instance, BigCommerce has its own high-paying affiliate program, which pays $1,500 for every enterprise referral.
Businesses regularly sending out newsletters or writing blogs/reviews usually find this strategy a good fit. However, you can also use referral links in:
- resource pages
- some forums
- banners and video content
- blog posts
However you use referral links, make sure your content is useful and your links are contextual and visible.
If you send out content to new subscribers, focus on building customer relationships and trust before adding your links. With social media, it’s not a good form to share affiliate links directly, but do share links to your published content with affiliate links.
One final tip, don’t forget the usual standards for creating good content, such as using keywords, including CTAs, and creating clickable titles.
Microsites or mini-sites are separate from the main website and are often used to target specific audiences. Brands may use them alongside other marketing efforts, like blogging or social media.
A microsite’s format varies from single pages to promote specific products or services to a collection of pages. It may have its own domain or be a sub-domain of the main site.
Typically, brands use microsites to highlight something specific. This could be:
- individual events
- products, campaigns
- content/branded content
However, it’s not just branding using microsites. Regular affiliates create them too. Here is an example.
As you’ve likely guessed from its name, ShaverGuru.com creates content around shavers and includes extensive reviews to help buyers find the right razor.
Whether a microsite is appropriate for your purpose depends on a variety of factors, such as:
- The role in your customer journey.
- If you need to keep the site up long term.
- If you’re testing campaigns or keywords.
- You’re an affiliate targeting a specific niche.
To improve your chances of success with microsites, ensure you:
- Write detailed, media-rich content.
- Highlight features and benefits so visitors can read content at a glance.
- Include a mix of content to suit visitors’ preferences— for example, video content.
- Add reviews of products you’ve tried and tested—and be honest.
- Use a combination of products from different affiliate programs for a more comprehensive mix.
- Have a range of products at different price points.
One last piece of advice. Take a tip from ShaverGuru by including a “Check Price On Amazon” hyperlink, taking visitors directly to your affiliate products.
5. Social Media Sites
Affiliate marketers can advertise on Facebook and other social media sites, but you must check your ads comply with the guidelines on each channel.
Sharing your affiliate marketing links on Facebook or similar sites could be ideal for affiliates with a large following or a very niche product.
Some ways of sharing your links include:
- Facebook ads
- personal pages
- promotional posts
6. Email Lists
Email lists are another popular way to share affiliate links with your audience.
Marketers set up email lists of their registered users through services like MailChimp, AWeber, or a similar service. Usually, they give some incentive for signing up, like a free training session, templates, or an eBook.
The newsletters often include affiliate links, allowing the marketer to make money when a subscriber clicks on a link and makes a purchase.
Marketers with an existing email list and engaged subscribers can benefit from this type of affiliate link promotion, no matter what niche they are in.
This method is suitable when you already have a list or share valuable content with your audiences, such as training and tips. Time-limited and exclusive offers from affiliate programs are effective, too.
For example, Digitalmarketer.com uses this strategy, promoting both its own and affiliate marketing products.
7. Create Videos
People don’t just like video content. They love it. Just look at YouTube and its 2.1 billion active users.
Social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok are perfect for sharing video content, too.
Video content is easily consumable for busy people and perfect for showing people how they can use a product, how it benefits them, and for highlighting the pros and cons.
The usual best practice is adding affiliate products, pinning them underneath the video on YouTube, adding them to your bio, and being active on your community page, like the gaming product channel Worth a Buy.
Consider using this approach to instill confidence in your consumers and if video demonstrations help illustrate your product’s benefits.
There is no set way to start affiliate marketing. There are so many different ways to get started. You can pick anything you want and start with that, or you can mix and match all the ideas together.