Beginner’s guide to affiliate marketing

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a way of making money by referring people to purchase items online. More and more companies are starting to use this form of marketing to reward affiliates for generating website visitors to their business. With affiliates only paid when sales are completed, it’s an extremely cost-effective tool.

PC World, for example, pays a five per cent commission for every visitor (recommended by an affiliate) who makes a purchase.

Commissions range from as low as one per cent with established retailers, right up to 75 per cent on some digital products. The health and beauty market is one of the most affiliate heavy, with average commissions around 30 per cent.

How do I become an affiliate?

Becoming an affiliate is very simple. Although each programme tends to have its own criteria for approval, they are normally free to join and have no pre-requisites.

The best way to find suitable brands to promote is by simply using a search engine using: [brand] + affiliate programme. Some companies run in-house affiliate programmes, however this is a very specialist area. Most companies opt to employ an “affiliate network” which has already built a large base of affiliates and years of experience.

You need to generate regular content and reviews around a certain topic. Typically, the more content and research you generate, the greater the likelihood of you generating significant sales, which is why I’d always recommend marketing something that interests you.

Top ten tips on making money as an affiliate:

1. Choose the correct niche: This is one of the biggest determining factors of whether you’ll succeed in making money online. If you enjoy camping, for example, then start off by looking at Millets or Blacks and you’ll have hundreds of products to choose from. However, if you try marketing something you don’t enjoy just to make money, then it’s possible you’ll get bored and give up.

2. Find the correct affiliate programme: When comparing affiliate programmes in your selected niche, you should consider more than just the amount of commission you’ll earn. You need to make sure you pick the right programme.

3. Find a mentor: When first starting out, there’s a steep learning curve. You need to answer questions such as: how do I make a website?; which products should I promote?; how can I get visitors to my website?; once the visitors are on my site, how do I convert them to sales? I’d always recommend finding an affiliate network which offers a personal mentor, assigned to help you make money.

4. Join a community: Consider joining a community of likeminded individuals. Here you can ask questions and get lots of unique feedback. Some forums include Affiliates4U, ABestWeb, WikiedFire and the MoreNiche Forum.

5. Get a free blog: Use a blogging platform like WordPress to create a site. It’s completely free, can be setup in minutes and is extremely easy to use.

6. Stay focused: It’s very easy to get drawn into promoting lots of different products on the same site which, from a visitor’s point of view, can be confusing. I’d recommend sticking to one topic on each of your websites.  

7. Don’t spend money: The aim of affiliate marketing is to make money, but it’s also very easy to spend money, which makes it harder to see a return. I’d suggest concentrating on free traffic generation while you find your feet, rather than spending money on pay-per-click advertising. When you become more experienced and knowledgeable, you might want to think about buying new web addresses and paying for additional traffic generation.

8. Content is king: Until you have cash, content is your king. The more articles, product reviews, visitor feedback and information you can publish on your website (or blog), the greater the chance you have of attracting visitors to your website. Search engines like to show fresh content so I’d recommend adding new pages to your website at least every few days. Make sure they’re easily found by your visitors though a good side navigation or sitemap.

9. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme: You shouldn’t expect to put up a website tonight and wake up in the morning with your first cheque; affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme and does involve work. I’ve seen affiliates from all walks of life, based all around the world and with completely different skill sets, but the one thing they all have in common is dedication to their sites.

10. Enjoy it: Affiliate marketing should be enjoyable and you have the flexibility to work when you want, where you want, and on whatever niche you want. A large percentage of affiliates earn money running sites as a hobby alongside their fulltime job.

Andrew Slack is managing director of MoreNiche

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