S1 EP9: Affiliate Marketing 101: A Complete Beginner’s Guide to Making Money with Affiliate Marketing
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Ever wondered what’s the fastest way to make money in an online business (without selling a service? Affiliate marketing might be the answer.
Ben Huber and Jeff Proctor have made multiple 7-figures in revenue from affiliate marketing alone in the last five years of their business.
In this episode, they talk about what you need to start making money with affiliate marketing, how to connect with thousands of your favorite brands at once, and their best tips to increase your conversions and build a loyal, trusting audience.
Links and resources:
- Free DollarSprout Facebook Group
- Blog Post: 3 Top Affiliate Marketing Networks We Use to Make $20,000+/Month
- Blog Post: 8 Affiliate Marketing Strategies to Drive Massive Sales
- Podcast Episode: Is Blogging Dead? Here’s How Blogging Has Changed in the Last 7 Years
Here are the key takeaways from Ben and Jeff’s conversation:
1. Affiliate marketing is a great monetization option for new online business owners.
Affiliate marketing allows you to focus on marketing and selling without having to put in the time to create a product or service of your own. If you already have an audience of any size (or even with no audience), it can take less time to start making money with affiliate marketing than many other strategies, like creating a digital product or course.
It’s also easy to shift your strategy if something isn’t working. For example, if you find that an affiliate offer isn’t converting, you can switch it with a different offer. Or if a blog post on an affiliate isn’t getting any sales, then you can write an article for that affiliate in a different style. Both of these take way less time than scrapping a digital product or course and starting from scratch.
2. If you want to make money at scale, then you’ll need a steady stream of traffic.
That traffic can be from your Instagram, YouTube, blog, podcast, or something else. Regardless of where it comes from, you need an audience of people to promote your affiliates to.
For a blog, you’ll probably want at least a couple hundred unique visitors per month to start making money with affiliate marketing. For Instagram or other social media, it depends on how engaged your audience is.
3. Join 2-3 affiliate networks.
An affiliate network is a centralized location that manages affiliate programs for other companies.
When you join an affiliate network, you’ll get access to multiple affiliates in one place. From there, you can choose which products and services you want to promote and join all of the programs from one place.
Some common affiliate networks include:
Joining an affiliate network streamlines the process of becoming an affiliate and is easier than working with companies one-on-one.
4. Only promote products and services that are relevant to your audience.
This may seem obvious, but it’s tempting to join an affiliate network, sort by “highest payout,” and sign up for the top companies on the list. However, just because a company pays $150 per sale doesn’t mean you’re going to be able to sell their product or service.
If it’s not relevant to your audience and the reason they’re already visiting your website or following you on social media, then they’re not going to buy.
Jeff recommends choosing a core group of affiliates. These should be companies that:
- You like and support, and
- Are relevant to your audience
5. High commissions don’t always equal high payouts.
It might seem like a good strategy to promote the highest-paying, most expensive products or services. But unless you have a strong connection with your audience and have already built a significant amount of trust, then don’t expect many (or maybe even any) conversions.
As Ben said in the episode, “Something to keep in mind when you’re getting into affiliate marketing is don’t just go out and slap links on blog content to $3,000 Pelotons when it makes more sense to start with a $10 water bottle.”
You might be surprised to find that you can generate more revenue starting out on lower-priced products at a higher volume. As you become more familiar with affiliate marketing and build trust with your audience, you can move to more higher-ticket products and services.
6. Test out top-of-funnel affiliates.
Ben and Jeff talked about two main types of affiliate programs in this episode:
Top of funnel/Lead generation: The advertiser is looking to build their audience. They want someone to join their email list, download their app, etc. Usually, the action is free for your audience, making it a lower barrier to entry (and an easier “sell” on your part).
Bottom of funnel/Percentage of sale: Based on sales. If you sell something, the company will give you x% of the sale.
If you’re just starting out, try experimenting with top-of-funnel programs in your niche. This will help you learn what your audience wants, improve your affiliate marketing skills, and generate revenue early on.
7. Track your affiliates to see what’s performing well.
When you use an affiliate network, you get access to performance reports. In these, you can see how many clicks, conversions, and payouts each of your affiliates have received. This can help you see which products and services your audience likes the most and adjust your promotions accordingly.
For example, if you have one affiliate that’s performing better than its competitors, you might move it higher in your listicle articles so that it gets more views (and more conversions).
8. Compare payouts on different affiliate networks.
Oftentimes, affiliate networks offer varying payouts for the same products and services.
Per Jeff’s example, let’s say you’re promoting a Peloton bike. For a sale of the same amount, affiliate network A might offer a 10% commission, network B offers a 5% commission, and network C offers a 12% commission.
Which affiliate network would you want to use?
Obviously, network C, right? An easy way to optimize your affiliate revenue is to shop around at different affiliate networks to make sure you’re getting the highest commission offered.
9. Experiment with different placements and types of links.
You don’t want to overdo your affiliate link placements. That can look sketchy to readers (and to search engines). However, you do want to give your reader more than one chance to interact with the link to buy or sign up for the offer.
So you might place a link toward the beginning of an article, then somewhere in the middle, then again at the end. You can also test out different types of links, like plain text, buttons, or images.
10. Show your readers how you’ve used the products/services you promote.
One of the best ways to provide value and to make your content unique from other sites that are promoting the same affiliates as you is to tell your audience about your experience using the affiliate you’re promoting. (That means you have to use and test the products yourself first.)
Share screenshots, tell stories, and talk about what you liked and didn’t like. The content you share will depend on the tone of your site, but the point is to look for ways to provide your reader with more value than just reiterating the benefits that they could read from the product or company’s website.
11. Bigger companies equal bigger (retargeting) budgets.
One of the big benefits of working with big brands in your niche is that they usually have bigger retargeting budgets. That means they’re able to track readers who click your link and retarget them with ads on other platforms (like Facebook) to increase the possibility of a conversion.
Since the reader clicked your link, as long as it’s within your attribution period (i.e. the period of time from when a user clicks your link to when they have to buy or sign up in order for you to receive credit), the affiliate company’s retargeting efforts increase your chances of getting a payout.
12. Building trust with your audience should be a priority.
In order to be successful long-term, you need to build an audience that likes and trusts you. One way to do that is to share the weaknesses of the affiliates you promote alongside the benefits.
Only sharing the benefits of a product or service can make your content seem surface-level and untrustworthy. Your audience will appreciate your honesty by sharing what you don’t like about a company, product, or service as much as what you do like.
Another way to build trust is to present your audience with alternative products and services (that you may or may not also be affiliates for). This shows that you’re not just shilling the same products to make money and also presents them with other products and services that might be a better fit for their needs.