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The Beginners Guide to Affiliate Marketing in 2021

The Beginners Guide to Affiliate Marketing in 2021

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This is going to be an in-depth guide and my hope is that you understand where to continue on your own after reading all of this.

It’s important to understand building an online presence in affiliate marketing is difficult and just like any business, don’t expect to get rich over night.

Here is the honest truth. Expect to make a few thousand a year in extra income from your efforts. Don’t dream an elaborate lifestyle from an imaginary income. I used to have that mentality years ago and that caused me to burn out quickly due to not understanding the long term goals better.

I’m not saying it’s not possible to make 5 figure or 6 figure monthly incomes from affiliate incomes. Many people are doing today. Set an achievable goal and move the goal post as you get closer. You will see results that satisfy your endeavors and keep you motivated!

Table of Contents

Affiliate Marketing

So what is affiliate marketing? By definition, it is, the arrangement by which you earn a commission for promoting another company’s products or services.

Think of it as another way to do online marketing. Unlike typical ad mediums where you pay per action done. Affiliate marketing usually only pays a commission on a conversion from a visitor using your link.

Merchants can have different commission payout rules and some payout on free trial signups or others need a commitment to a premium version of their service.

Affiliate Marketing Language

There are a lot of terms you will need to learn and I’ve compiled some of the most common ones you will encounter. I won’t go into detail for each one but at least understanding the meaning is good enough for a beginner.

  • Affiliate: A third party marketer promoting the service or product of another merchant.
  • Super Affiliate: High performing affiliate marketers that make a high percentage of all affiliate conversions.
  • Affiliate Link: Commonly referred to as a tracking link. This is the link that ties your unique ID to the merchant’s product or service to pay you a commission on a conversion.
  • Merchant: The business or company that is selling a product or service.
  • Conversion: An event that is defined by the merchant to register as a paid good completion. This in turn provides you with a commission in most cases.
  • Prospect: The individual who completes a conversion with a merchant. This is your lead or customer you are forwarding through your affiliate link to the merchant product or service.
  • Affiliate Network: A platform that acts as a middle man for the affiliate marketer and the merchant.
  • Affiliate Manager: An individual that works for a merchant and facilities relations with an affiliate marketer. They provide guidance and assistance with the merchant affiliate program.
  • Affiliate Program: The system in which a merchant sets up to provide affiliate links, promotional material, guidance, analytics, and commission payout.
  • Creative: The promotional material that is used for promoting the merchant product or service. Can be an image or text copy.
  • Copy: The written text that promotes the merchant product or service.
  • Landing Page: The page that a lead ends up on after clicking on a link. In most cases this will be the merchant’s product or service page.
  • Commission: The exchange of currency to the affiliate marketer in exchange for the conversion.
  • Attribution: The process of correctly associating the affiliate ID with the conversion.
  • Cookies: In the case of affiliate marketing. The merchant provides a cookie that is stored in the user’s browser that attributes your unique ID to a commission in the cookie lifecycle.
  • Pixel: A piece of code that tracks information on your website and gives you analytical information about how users interact with your content.
  • SubID: An embedded part of the affiliate link url that can be used to separate campaigns.

How Much Money do Affiliate Marketers Make?

As I already said, affiliate marketers have essentially infinite upside in terms of profit potential. You can make $0 or $1,000,000 a year. It really comes down to you and how much work you put into your website. Of course, there is always a little luck involved.

How does it all Work?

affiliate marketing diagram

In a simple way of viewing it this diagram explains how the process of getting a commission from a merchant as an affiliate marketer.

  1. A visitor/reader finds your blog article on your website.
  2. They then click on a text or image that has your unique affiliate link.
  3. This link redirects them to the merchant landing page for the product or service being promoted.
  4. If the visitor performs the necessary action that confirms a commission.
  5. The affiliate marketer is credited with the commission payout.

Now let’s talk about what attribution is (If you saw the terms listed above you would know the meaning). It isn’t 100% accurate and sometimes an action that should result in your commission doesn’t get credited on your account.

The technology is always improving but ad blockers and users purchasing from other devices. Without the assigned affiliate ID on their cookies, you can miss out on that commission. That is just the nature of the work but a majority of the time you will get the commission payout you deserve.

Where do I Get My Own Affiliate Links to Promote?

There are a few ways to get your own unique affiliate links for a merchant. One, is by signing up for a merchant’s affiliate program manually on their website. Two, by signing up on an affiliate network. I compiled a list that is perfect for beginners called, The Top 5 Best Affiliate Marketing Networks for Beginners. It’s the perfect place to start off as a beginner since it aggregates a lot of popular merchant programs into one platform.

What is an Affiliate Network?

An affiliate network is a third party platform that manages the relationship between you and the merchant. They are great at managing communication channels, affiliate links and campaigns, tracking protocols, analytics reporting, and payment methods.

Affiliate networks have thousands of merchants to choose from. You can browse through a directory of choices and can filter merchants with a variety of options. You are likely to find more than a few merchants that fit your desired website niche.

When you apply to a particular merchant program you will gain access to unique links that you can put on your website in order to promote that affiliate offer.

Top Tier Advice: Always read the terms and agreements between you and the affiliate contract. There may be restrictions on where you can promote your links and if you do more complex marketing like running ads. The merchant may restrict you on bidding on their brand name. Failure to follow the rules can get you banned from that affiliate program.

How do I Get Paid as an Affiliate Marketer?

There a lot of ways you get paid as an affiliate marketer. Typically, you will receive credit for a sale via commission when a visitor performs the action the merchant wants. Either buying a product or a service. This is commonly referred to as, Cost Per Action, or CPA.

These 3 types of actions are commonly used in affiliate marketing:

  1. CPA: Cost Per Action. Typically in the form of a conversion on a merchant product or service.
  2. CPC: Cost Per Click. The action through a user clicking on the link leading to the merchant landing page.
  3. CPL: Cost Per Lead. The action is recorded when the merchant receives information from the visitor in the form of an email address, phone number, name, and/or address.

Most affiliate programs have their payout schedule in the contract you signed. Typically, 45-90 days from the time of conversion, you can expect a payout to your PayPal or bank account.

This is how it is in the industry and really it’s not too different than a relationship with most B2B AR departments. There are many programs that pay in less time frames but you won’t notice the time frame once you get the balling rolling and you’ll have your money in the bank sooner or later.

Where do I Start as an Affiliate Marketer?

Let’s start from the very beginning now!

1. Find Your Niche

Most people will say this is the most crucial part of affiliate marketing. They will say something along the lines of, “pick a non competitive niche.” What I would say is, “pick a niche or topic you enjoy writing about!”

You are creating a business, but don’t burn yourself out trying to do something you don’t like. That is a recipe for disaster. If you enjoy writing about finance, make a website around that topic! Who cares if there a million people doing a finance blog. Find a way to make it your own unique flavor.

Look. Affiliate marketing is about helping other people solve a problem. Give them a solution or two to a problem they have today.

If you can keep your mind in that mental state of helping others via the content you do. You will naturally have an audience that supports your content. Maybe they whitelist your website so you can get some of those small commissions for providing them a small service.

This also helps with your Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. It’s important to the search engines that your content provides value beyond being a spam filled article with affiliate links.

2. Time to Start a Blog

Okay. So now we have a topic or niche to write about. While you can do affiliate marketing without a website through social media platforms. I would recommend not to. You own your website and brand. You don’t own anything on social media websites. You can be banned for whatever reason and then your business is gone. So use social media as an addon to your website.

I use WordPress for my website and blogging. I highly recommend you to use Bluehost as your hosting provider because of the insanely good pricing and the customer support. I believe customer support is an important aspect of any service. Bluehost has never let me down with over a dozen websites hosted. Even if you don’t know how to code, you can use a website page builder. Check out Elementor for the best interface and fastest way to build a website without code!

I wrote a pretty useful guide on setting up a blog with WordPress. This applies to any hosting platform as well. Check it out here.

3. Writing an Article

Since we chose to write about finance earlier, let’s start planning our content for the article. If you need help with how to write your first article, I recommend reading, How to write an article for beginners.

I typically will be using an SEO first approach to every article I write personally. This is because without an audience to read your content, you are kind of writing into the wind…

SEO writing is it’s own in-depth article. So I’ll keep it short in this one. I recommend using a tool like Neil Patel’s, UberSuggest. It is a free SEO tool that helps you find keywords and its level of ranking competitiveness. You want to find keywords for your niche that you can try to rank number 1 in Google search with.

I’ll also mention premium tools that are a must have for every serious affiliate marketer.

  1. Ahrefs: Arguably the best SEO platform. You will need this tool for serious backlink building.
  2. SEMrush: My favorite tool for monitoring my websites ranking performance for keywords and has a very easy to use interface for beginners.

The strategy is to pick a few keywords and start finding information for an article you can write about. For example, in finance, I want to write about the steps needed to get a home loan. So I would probably look up keywords for, home loan. If it looks like a winner in terms of low competition but high monthly searches than I would seriously add that to my list of articles to write.

I would say to do this until you have a backlog of about 40-50 articles. With their own specific keyword and subtopic in your niche.

Well how many words should I write per article? This isn’t high school with a mandatory word count. So don’t stress on the amount you need to write. Typically, I keep my articles anywhere from 2000 to 10,000 words. I have this notion that informative content is a lot longer because the amount of information that needs to be covered is extensive.

However, the opposite is said about top 10 lists or singular merchant review websites that focuses on that one product or service. These could easily range between 1000 and 3000 words.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter and the analytics will prove to you one way or another if your content needs adjustments!

4. Bringing in an Audience

If you did the above strategy correctly you should start having visitors coming to your blog organically via the search engines. This process can take anywhere from a few months to a year to start ranking highly enough in those keywords to get a good stream of traffic.

However, you can always leverage your reach by posting on social media and forums. Building up a following and promoting your articles on there.

You can even dramatically speed up the process of getting eyes on your website by paying for ads.

There are tons of approaches and some work better than others depending on your niche! I seriously recommend focusing on SEO because this will account for over 80% of your traffic in the long term.

5. Apply to Affiliate Programs

Now we made it to the last step. You got a website setup. You have a ton of articles written and published. You followed your SEO strategy for each article and now are seeing a steady stream of visitors dropping by everyday.

Maybe some of these readers click on the links to products, services, or other blogs you talk about in your articles. Remember, not every link that leads to a product or service should be an affiliate link.

However, if you feel that you can offer value in promoting a product or service and it’s inline with your website audience. Do it! Apply to that merchant’s affiliate program directly or through an affiliate network. Most companies will have an affiliates program simply by searching the brand name + affiliates into your search engine.

Some merchants don’t publicly advertise their program and you should directly contact them through contact forms or on social media about partnering up to promote their product.

Conclusion

This isn’t the end! You only just started and now keep going on your journey as an affiliate marketer. If you made it to end of this article and followed all my steps. You already are ahead of 99% of people in the industry. Congratulations on not giving up!

I’ll update this post with new information or articles that I think can add more value to difficult concepts. Check back periodically to see if something has changed. I wish you all the best luck with your websites!

Updated 3/11/2021

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