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Beginner's handbook Marketing tips

How to Start Affiliate Marketing in 5 Steps

By Reading Time: 7 minutes

When you hear the phrase making passive income online, what do you think of? Kicking back on a sunny beach knowing the blog article or video you just published is getting you millions of views and thousands in the bank?

Of course, passive income isn’t that passive after all. The term is closely associated with side-income, and one way to earn this extra money is through online affiliate marketing. You create online content (such as a YouTube channel or a blog) and monetize it.

Perhaps you’re a full-time student, parent, or employee and have a small audience for a hobby you’re into. If that’s the case, then affiliate marketing can be a great way to turn your existing page or video views into extra money on the side.

Affiliate marketing is an online marketing tactic that rewards content creators for promoting a certain product or service. Based on the affiliate program, creators can earn money, free services, or other rewards.

Each promotional offer has a personal affiliate link which is shared with your audience so the company knows where the traffic is coming from.

affiliate_marketing_infograph

Source: Shopify

Sounds simple enough, but how do you get there from scratch? Keep reading and find out!

Step 1: Find a niche

Having a niche is all about being an authority on a certain topic. When you’re an expert in a certain field, people will trust you and spend money on the things you recommend. That’s how you make money as an affiliate.

A niche is something you enjoy – could be dancing, or video games – however, that’s still quite broad, you’ll need to narrow it down.

Maybe you like traditional folk dancing and can write about cross-country adventures with your dance troupe. Or maybe you’re into video games.

Take Girlfriend Reviews, where instead of talking about the video games themselves, Shelby, actress and girlfriend, talks about what it’s like to live with her boyfriend Matt, who is a huge gaming fanatic.

girlfriend_reviews_youtube

Source: YouTube

This is extremely niche and looking at the number of views and subscribers, actually quite successful.

So you’ve found a niche you’re passionate about, now what? There are a few more things to consider when choosing a niche for affiliate marketing.

Is there a way for you to make money in this niche?

Creating videos or writing articles is great, but you have to monetize your content. One way to monetize is to put paid-per-click advertisements on your site. However, when you’re starting out with a small audience, there likely won’t be enough traffic to rely on ads alone.

Your niche has to have something people will buy so you can earn revenue from affiliate commissions. If you’re creating content about video games, you can try selling your own merchandise.

You can use print-on-demand drop shippers such as Printful, but what if there’s a service within your niche that lets you sell merch? For Girlfriend Reviews, Streamlabs would be a perfect fit. Not only are they a software service that enables easy video game streaming, but they also let their users sell their own merch.

streamlabs_merch

Source: Streamlabs

Streamlabs also has an affiliate program, so if you’re a content creator promoting the service, your audience can also get into the business and earn you money by signing up through your affiliate link.

Is it a topic you can create enough content for?

Posting a couple of blog posts or videos is not going to make you an authority within your niche. You need volume, and this is critical both for search engine optimization (SEO) and for your audience to see you as an expert.

While the topics you cover should be narrow, you still want to grow your audience. The larger the audience is, the more you’ll make through affiliate marketing.

Making sense of cents is a blog about saving money. The author, Michelle, gives tips about products and services and offers financial advice.

making_sense_of_cents_blog

Source: Making Sense of Cents

Michelle has a huge following. Her blog has tons of affiliate offers that make, according to her, $100,000 in passive income each month. She wasn’t always making this much money, and neither will you when you’re starting out. What helped her get to where she is now, is religiously putting out helpful content that she enjoys writing.

Is there an audience for your content?

When you’re starting affiliate marketing, your articles and videos need to be viewed by someone. Knowing how many potential viewers you could have requires doing some keyword research.

This also lets you find popular search terms within your niche. One tool for keyword research is Ahrefs. Let’s see what it says about video game reviews:

ahrefs_videogame_reviews

Source: Ahrefs

The first thing we see is the Keyword difficulty. This is an indicator of how tough the competition for that keyword is, and how difficult it will be to rank in the top position.

As a rule of thumb, aim for a keyword difficulty of 1-25. It’s a range in which you won’t have to struggle to be visible on Google.

Next, we see the volume of searches per month. The higher the number, the more popular the search term.

Try finding a keyword that has between 1-10K monthly search volume, this is a good range where your keyword will be popular enough that people are looking for it, but not too competitive or obscure.

You can also use ubersuggest, Google keyword planner, or Google trends to research keywords.

Step 2: Search for and join affiliate programs

Make sure you join affiliate programs within your niche. This step is critical to making sure you can monetize your content.

Some things to consider when looking for affiliate partners:

  • Commission percentage – how much are you going to make from each sale?
  • Recurring commissions – can you earn commissions from repeat customers?
  • Geolocation the affiliate company operates in – does it match your audience’s location? Some programs have specific terms and conditions that vary from country to country.
  • How do you get paid – is it PayPal (one of the most common payment tools) or something else, like cash to your bank, or credit on a store or website?
  • How often you’re paid – weekly, monthly, etc.?
  • Company reputation – is your audience going to trust this company?
  • Competition – are there lots of other content creators with similar offers?
  • Promotional materials – what resources do they offer to help you promote their products or services?

Let’s look at some affiliate marketing examples. Say you’re writing a blog about all things ecommerce. During your research you found 2 affiliate programs:

First, let’s look at Printful’s affiliate program. We make it easy to start creating content and sharing our products and services with your audience.

Signing up is easy and free, and we have plenty of promotional material for you to use. You also earn a 10% commission on all sales for 9 months once a customer signs up through your affiliate link.

printful_affiliate_program

Next, look into iHerb’s affiliate program and see what they’re offering their affiliates and if it might be a good fit for your ecommerce blog.

iherb_affiliate_program

Source: iHerb

Their affiliate program also offers marketing materials such as coupons and promotional banners. They have a global presence, a huge variety of products, and offer a 5% commission on sales.

Each affiliate program will have different benefits, so find the one that best suits you and your audience.

Step 3: Start a website

Now it’s time to actually build the website and put your knowledge into action. Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Create a website. You can do it from scratch if you know how to code, or use a website builder such as WordPress or Wix to create one with a ready-made theme.
wordpress

Source: WordPress

  • Next, purchase a domain name and hosting services. SiteGround offers an affordable one-year plan. Connect your domain to WordPress or Wix and your website will be live on the internet. Remember to renew the domain once it expires
siteground_hosting

Source: SiteGround

  • You’ll also want to set up a business email and write an About us page so customers can contact you if they have any questions.

Your website doesn’t have to be perfect right from the start, but it should look finished and professional. It’s better to have something ready to go than spend too much time on small details.

Step 4: Create engaging content

Audiences crave fresh and exciting content. If you’re going to start affiliate marketing, here are a few content suggestions:

  • Product reviews

A Printful affiliate could create content that reviews Printful (or print-on-demand) products or services. Take a look at Storehacks’ Printful review:

storehacks_printful_review

Source: StoreHacks

Reviews help your audience make a buying decision. So don’t hesitate to go in-depth and share details about the product or service you’re reviewing. Include your affiliate link in the review so if your audience does decide to buy what’s being reviewed, you earn a commission.

You do need to legally disclose that you have an affiliate offer in your content. A simple “This is an affiliate offer” will suffice.

  • Addressing common problems, questions, or concerns relevant to your audience.

This requires some research, but a common topic will be comparing two or more similar products or services. Another topic would be a how-to guide for a product, especially if it’s a complicated one

If you need help finding some common questions about a product, but can’t find it in the product FAQ’s, you can always check Quora. This is where people post questions about all sorts of topics (but don’t use Quora to promote your affiliate link, it’s against their terms of service).

For example, if your niche is about plants or indoor gardening, this is how you could check Quora for topic ideas:

quora_basil_plants

Source: Quora

Here we can see someone looking for a solution to keep their basil plants alive. You can also use this to research new information when creating content.

If you’re more into creating something that’s beneficial in the long run, then the next type of content  is perfect for you:

  • Evergreen content

This is general purpose content that never goes out of date. If you’re in the plants/gardening niche, think about topics like how to grow healthy spice plants or best indoor city apartment plants.

quora_best_indoor_plants

Source: Quora

The important takeaway about evergreen content is that you need to do proper keyword research and optimize your posts for search engines. Since evergreen content tends to be broader, know that there will be competition against other content creators.

Step 5: Promote your content and offers

Now it’s time for the step that will actually start earning you money. Once you’ve created content and signed up for affiliate programs, you can start sending the offers to your audience.

There are a few ways to promote your affiliate content to your audience:

  • Link to affiliate offers

This is probably the easiest way. Include a link to the offer within the blog post or video. Make sure to change the anchor text of your link to something easy to read.

Here’s an example of what that looks like in an ecommerce newsletter email:

Printful is a great print-on-demand service that integrates with Shopify (if you sign up with this link, we’ll earn some money). If you already have a Shopify store, connect it to Printful in just 4 steps and start earning side income today!

From that example, the first link integrates with Shopify is the affiliate offer.

You can also link to affiliate offers from banners on your website. Printful’s affiliate dashboard has promo materials and banners for you to download.

printful_affiliate_banners

  • Referral programs and discount offers

These are discounts only available through a special promo code that you share with your audience. They save money and you earn some. If you’re promoting these types of offers, let your audience know they can only get the discount if they use your unique coupon code. Otherwise, the special offer won’t work.

CXL_referral_promo

Source: CXL Institute

You can also promote discounts the affiliate program company is offering. For example, if you’re a Printful affiliate, you could promote some of our campaigns such as free Digitization Week (digitization is normally $6.50).

printful_free_digitization_offer

Subscribe to your affiliate partners’ newsletters to get notifications about their promotions.

Start affiliate marketing today

Given how popular online content is, there’s a good chance you can find a program that fits your niche.

I hope this article has given you some inspiration to start affiliate marketing. You’re also welcome to join Printful’s affiliate program. If you have any questions or want to share some tips about your experiences with affiliate programs, post in the comments below!

You can find me devouring the dusty marigold pages of my First Edition Wheel of Time collection while enjoying a plate of fluffy pancakes next to my adopted goldfish, Harold.

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