I have recently been told by a few people that they simply didn't know where to start in this industry... So I figured I should write a few guidelines.
Let's be clear, this guide doesn't pretend to be the ultimate affiliate guide. It's more like an "Affiliate marketing 101" guide with just the basics, some directions to get you started.
What is an affiliate?
Let's start with the beginning, we can't talk about affiliate marketing without saying first what it is...
An affiliate is someone who sells other people's products. Well, actually, selling isn't the right word here, because the affiliate isn't concerned by the actual sale... He finds a customer and brings him to the product. Period. He doesn't take care of the sale or anything else related to it. It's the merchant who closes the sale and then takes the customer in charge from there.
So how does the affiliate gets paid for his work? Well, the merchant offers him a commission based on each sale amount. Each affiliate has his own personal link, that identifies his customers, so he can get rewarded for his efforts (this is how the merchant knows which affiliate he should pay for each sale made).
You just can't pick someone else's products and hope he'll be kind enough to pay you for bringing him customers. Even though you may find an isolated affiliate program here and there, you will most of the time go through an affiliate platform. These are companies that take care of tracking the affiliate activity for the merchant. Some like ClickBank also take care of the whole payment process, including if necessary, refunds.
ClickBank is probably the most famous, but there are others like JvZoo for example. They all offer products lists with all the necessary details, starting with the refund rate - you don't want to waste your time with a poor product that's getting too many refund requests so this is important information.
Choosing a niche
Don't waste too much time trying to promote lots of different products. If you're beginning, choose a niche, preferably one of these as they are the niches that make money: making money online, health / weight loss, forex, investments. Pick one, and work on it.
Choosing a product to sell
Finding an affiliate platform is the easy part, but just because a product is listed on one of them doesn't mean you should promote it. There is something I want you to write down so you remember it: there are lots of scams. It's a fact and you will have to live with it. Some are simply poorly designed products, the merchants offering them count on the fact that not everybody will realize the poor quality of their product or the fact that (in some cases) they could have found it for free, and ask for a refund. Others are more sophisticated.
So what's an affiliate to do? A lot would simply not care: they see a product that sells well and has a low refund rate and that's enough to them. But if you want to be successful on the long term, as you'll see below you'll need to make a name for yourself, and that starts by picking the right products. I would suggest you read my free e-books especially the one about identifying scams, it will help you make the right choices.
List building 101
Although you could promote directly your affiliate links, the long term income comes from list building. You must have a newsletter and therefore, a list of contacts to send it to, that's what we're talking about. In order to build your list, you will need:
1) A website or a blog
The blog is probably the easiest way to go, it's quite easy to set up, try Blogger or WordPress - I would encourage you to take the WordPress route though, because of this very useful plugin.
2) An autoresponder
An autoresponder is a service that will take care of managing your list, and sending e-mails to it. It's capable of sending whole series of pre-programmed e-mails each time someone signs up to your list. It will also provide you with the sign-up form to insert into your website or blog. I suggest the excellent autoresponder from the PureLeverage tools suite, it is cheaper than most and comes with additional marketing tools.
3) Some free gifts
Why would people sign up to your list? You need to give them a good reason to do so. This often goes though the production of free gifts, usually e-books, that they can download once they sign up.
I guess by now you're wondering: what will I put in my blog, what will I put in my newsletters?
The answer is: VALUE. You just can't send people your affiliate links all the time this won't work! You must provide them with information that's useful to them, just like I'm doing here on this website... It can take different forms depending on what you feel capable of doing. For example, you can browse the news every day and post a summary of the interesting news pertaining to your niche. If you're a little bit more skilled and know your niche rather well you can write your own articles - that's actually the best way to go. Then in your newsletters you'll inform your subscribers about the new things on your website, while inserting a promotional paragraph here and there.
Another important thing: it's more important and more profitable to send one quality newsletter per week than junk every day. It's not easy to acquire leads, but it's really easy to lose them! You must do your best to keep them subscribed to your list.
Ultimately, it's all about traffic generation...
Once you have your blog and your products, you will need to get people to come to you. That's called traffic. And you won't need any traffic: you want targeted traffic, i.e. people who are actually interested in what you have to sell!
There are several ways to achieve this, all require a lot of work and patience especially in the beginning:
- The good old SEO (Search Engine Optimization): this is the art of making your content appealing to the search engines. This goes way beyond the scope of this article if you wish to go this way you will have to look for some good tutorials. Know that this is a difficult activity, you should do your best to get good rankings in the search engines but don't rely solely on this technique.
- Social media: using social medias is a good way to get targeted traffic. You will have to learn to master, at the very least, Twitter and Facebook. You may want to also add YouTube, LinkedIn, Google + to the list. I have recently written a series of free Twitter tutorials that should help you get started, and the excellent Facebook crusher course is currently available (but probably not for long so don't miss it!).
- Paid advertising: we're talking here about advertising systems like Google Adwords... Although it's a possibility and I feel I have to mention it here, this can be an extremely costly way to go if you don't know what you're doing. Avoid it unless you have some serious budget at your disposal and some good experience with it.
As I said these are just basic guidelines. I hope you find them useful.
If you wish to go further and can spare a small $13.50 payment then I'd suggest you try the Faster Smarter Better video course. It's offered at this low price for their 10 years anniversary, it's normally sold for $597, so don't waste too much time. I have published the complete program in this article, check it out, it's a very extensive course and well worth the small price they're asking for it at the moment.