What is Affiliate Marketing
You may have heard of affiliate marketing before, but if not, chances are high that you’ve bought a product through an affiliate marketer at some point if you frequently shop online.
Maybe you regularly watch YouTube videos, you may have noticed that your favourite content creators post a bunch of links in their video descriptions – featuring products used within the video.
These are usually affiliate links; every time a product is purchased through one of these links the person marketing the product receives a small commission.
For affiliate marketing to work, there are three necessary elements – the customer, the affiliate, and the merchant (or vendor).
The customer is the end-users of the products & services that are promoted by affiliates. Often, affiliate marketers seek to provide value to the customer (through YouTube videos, blog posts, or social communities) to gain their trust and an authoritative source of information.
Customers can be targeted in a variety of ways, through organic & paid search, paid social, through communities and blogs, and any other number of sources that you can think of.
Affiliate marketers seek to place the merchants (or vendors) goods in front of potential customers and create the means to convince the customer to buy.
The most common way to do this is through the authority model – becoming an authority figure within the chosen niche, building a brand and curating consumer trust.
Once you are a trusted source of information, your product recommendations hold much more weight and you can begin making sales for the merchant.
However, this isn’t the only way to achieve affiliate marketing success, with many digital marketing experts leveraging PPC ads and paid social to promote offers from the merchant.
This is the manufacturer of goods or the provider of the services that the affiliate marketers will be promoting. Often, they are large eCommerce stores such as Amazon or Rakuten, that both feature extensive affiliate programs.
These large eCommerce stores are suited to all levels of affiliate marketing but are a great first option for beginners as they offer an almost inexhaustible list of products for almost every niche imaginable.
More experienced marketers are likely to leverage niche relevant affiliate programs, and maybe even secure private deals with some brands – as the commission rates are typically much higher than a catch-all service like Amazon affiliate marketing.
Types of Affiliate Marketing
Not all affiliate marketing is based around product sales (although a large percentage is.) Here are the different avenues taken by affiliate marketers to make money:
CPA (Cost-per-action) Marketing
CPA marketing or cost-per-action marketing is probably the most common type of affiliate marketing, with the affiliate promoting goods & services in exchange for a commission on each transaction.
This isn’t a new strategy by any means and is the same way realtors or car salespeople have been making money for decades.
However, the difference lies in the many options open to online affiliate marketers to promote products.
Blogs, YouTube, influencer marketing, paid search, and sales funnels are all leveraged to result in the desired action to be taken by the customer.
Beginner digital marketers typically start their journey on a single platform, before branching out and diversifying their marketing strategy.
PPC (Pay-per-click) Marketing
Pay-per-click affiliates run ads on their website, receiving a pre-determined fee every time a user clicks the ad.
PPC affiliate programs are one of the lowest paying (per action) but can result in a significant return if your site receives a large volume of traffic.
Usually, affiliate marketers will run PPC ads in conjunction with an affiliate blog to diversify their revenue streams and make the most of their digital assets.
There are also programs that offer PPI or pay-per-impression – meaning that for every user that simply sees an ad, the affiliate gets paid. The pay-out per impression for these ads is extremely low, however, if your site traffic runs into the millions you can net a substantial profit.
PPL (Pay-per-lead) Marketing
Pay-per-lead offers are used by affiliate marketers to gather data for the merchant/vendor. Most commonly this will be e-mail addresses, but can also include phone numbers, or even have the user complete a survey.
The price will depend on the niche and the action required by the merchant, and in some niches can run up to £75 per lead.
However, in these cases, “lead quality” must be high, if you are sending leads that don’t convert into customers then you will likely be removed from the affiliate program – or not paid at all.
Affiliate Marketing Tips
Affiliate marketing is a growth industry, with new players entering the game year on year.
Unfortunately, there are many avenues to take within affiliate marketing and beginners trying to navigate their way through the digital marketing waters often become frustrated with the amount of conflicting information available to them.
Some marketers swear by affiliate blog marketing, while others run a pay per lead model, or social PPC ads to their affiliate offers – and any combination of the above.
However, no matter which route you are considering, there are some things which are universal to affiliate marketing.
Below I have put together some key affiliate marketing tips that will apply regardless of the platform you choose to leverage for your success.
Define your Niche
Probably the most important aspect of affiliate marketing (especially if you run an affiliate blog,) is niche selection. Your niche is the industry that you operate within and will define the demographic that you target.
Niches can be broad, for instance; sports, music, art – or they can be more specific or “niched down” such as – football, playing the piano, and watercolour painting. If you want to be really specific you can focus on what’s known as a “micro niche” – football cleats, piano stools, watercolour brushes.
The more specific you become the more likely it is that you will have success, however, on the flip side, the more specified your niche the smaller the audience. So while you might have a great conversion rate, the number of sales may not be high enough to be viable.
Defining your niche starts with proper keyword research which not only lets you know if a niche is feasible, but informs your entire content strategy throughout the campaigns lifetime.
Nobody likes to feel like they’ve been misled, yet that is exactly what happens when affiliate marketers try too hard to disguise their intentions.
By being transparent with your audience about your affiliations and commissions gained through sales, you are seen as a more trustworthy source.
People can see straight through any attempts to mask links, and they don’t appreciate it. Trying to pull the wool over your users’ eyes can lead to a damaged reputation and a low level of brand trust – this is especially true if you are inbox marketing directly through email.
Stay credible, and always follow your affiliate programs guidelines and FCT requirements within any affiliate marketing campaigns.
The number one priority of your content creation strategy should be to create value for your audience. This is done by providing data-driven, informative, actionable information and insights into the niche you are targeting.
This can be done through blog posts, content hubs, social platforms, and even building online communities. Providing quality information to your audience cements you as an authority in your niche, increasing brand awareness and marketing opportunities.
If you are running an affiliate blog, this is an especially important step – keyword-driven content is a must if you expect to see any success within the SERPs. Having excellent on-page SEO leads to improved off-page SEO in the form of backlinks.
Backlinks are a major ranking factor, and you are more likely to have other sites link to you if your content is worth linking to & sharing with their audience.
Invest in the Right Tools
There are a lot of steps involved in affiliate marketing; keyword research, analytics, link tracking, email management, ad management, etc.
Using the correct tools for the job is paramount to your success, making you more efficient, and freeing up more time for you to focus on marketing strategy.
Luckily, most tools offer tiered packages, which grow as you do – ensuring you can use the necessary software from the get-go.
Common affiliate marketing tools include; aHrefs, Buzzsumo, Google Analytics, Moz, SEMRush, and MailChimp.
One of the most important lessons to learn as an affiliate marketer is patience. Affiliate marketing is a long game, and it may take several failed campaigns before you start seeing success.
Developments are also compounded, one reason many affiliate marketers quit is they aren’t seeing the results they want in the time frame they expected.
However, since affiliate marketing success is usually a compound effect, results grow exponentially – and it is often the case that a campaign will blow up unexpectedly after a slow period of growth.
Having the patience to see your actions through is a key trait that you must learn if you want to make it in the affiliate marketing world.
Get Involved With the Community
There are a large number of Facebook groups, forums, and other communities available to budding affiliate marketers seeking knowledge. More often than not, they act as a vehicle for people to share strategies and ideas related to digital marketing as a whole.
In my experience, the affiliate and digital marketing community has been very welcoming and I have gained a lot of knowledge through these groups that I still utilise to this day.
Beyond the ethereal realm of the internet, there are several major digital marketing conventions hosted around the world including Affiliate World in the US (and globally), Brighton SEO in the UK, and Chiang Mai SEO in Thailand among others.
No matter where your location, there is sure to be a wealth of knowledge available to you if you just look for it, and you never know where networking may lead you.
Many of my friends in the industry have started completely new businesses by partnering up with people they initially met online or at a convention.
I hope you have found this post helpful at the beginning of your affiliate journey, these are the foundations upon which you can build your technical knowledge and expertise.
I find that a holistic approach to affiliate marketing works best and ensures the longevity of your campaigns.
If there is only a single thing to take away from this post it would be to focus on providing value to your audience through high-quality content.
Without a doubt, this is the easiest way to ensure not only your success but the longevity to remain in the game for an extended period.
Everything else within your affiliate marketing strategy relies on having strong cornerstone of content-driven strategies.
I’m a UK based freelance SEO consultant and digital marketer and I provide results-driven online consulting and digital marketing services to SMEs. Are you ready to grow in 2020? Get in touch today!