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Affiliate Marketing 101: The Only Guide You Will EVER Need!

ultimate guide to affiliate marketing

Disclaimer: This is a very value-packed guide where you will learn everything you need to know to succeed as an affiliate marketer. If you want to skip to the how-to section of this guide, go to 2. How to Start an Affiliate Marketing Business in 5 steps

Before starting making money as an affiliate marketer, I used to dream about passive income and how cool it would be to make money while you’re sleeping.

I was a teenager and I was just finishing high school in my hometown in Colombia.

I planned to go to college in France to study Economics.

When I arrived, I quickly realized that I didn’t want to live a “normal” life and work in a 9 to 5 job my entire life (I know, pretty stereotypical thought for an entrepreneur).

I started searching on the internet on ways to make money online and earn passive income.

That’s where I discovered affiliate marketing in 2017. The more I learned about this business model, the more I loved it.

I loved the idea of helping people through valuable information and getting a commission for it.

So, In 2018, I started a blog about golf -even though I knew nothing about golf- and starting reviewing golf equipment that I will then promote through the amazon’s affiliate program

golf glove in amazon

In 12 months, I manage to earn over $80000 even though I was a complete beginner. To this day, I still own that blog (that, for confidential reasons I can’t reveal) and it keeps making me good money, even though is not my focus anymore. 

Since then, I have learned a LOT of things about affiliate marketing that I want to share with you today in this guide. 

If that sounds interesting to you, let’s hop into it! 

1. What is Affiliate Marketing – Complete Guide

In 2019, affiliate marketing is one of the most -if not the most- profitable and stable ways to make money online. 

It allows you to educate people, share valuable information AND make money at the same time.

However, how does it really work and how YOU can make money?

Affiliate marketing consists of promoting other people’s products or services, normally through a personalized and trackable link/URL, and getting a commission each time someone ends up purchasing that product or service because of you.

how does affiliate marketing work

As you can see, affiliate marketing is a simple -yet not easy- business model.

You essentially don’t need money to get started.

All you need is a platform of your choice where you can publish content, give value to your audience and promote your affiliate offers.

However, the hard part about affiliate marketing is managing to build an audience that trusts you. 

As a matter of fact, building an engaged audience that follows your content and relies on your expertise is the end goal and should be your priority as an affiliate marketer (we’ll talk about this later).

1.1 Some statistics

statistics vector

Affiliate marketing is becoming big and a great opportunity for both businesses and internet marketers looking to make more money online :

affiliate marketing stats

81% of brands utilize affiliate marketing programs to develop their business and reach more people.

Their efforts have paid off: 16% of ALL online orders come from affiliate marketing alone.

That’s because Affiliate marketing is a massive global industry that grows 10% annually

Right now it’s worth well over $12 billion globally, with the US and Europe in top of the race. 

These are just some general yet very impressive statistics.

They are here to show you how powerful affiliate marketing is in today’s social media and digital marketing era.

1.2 Why you should start an affiliate marketing business?

There are numerous reasons that make affiliate marketing the best way to make money online in 2019 :

Passive income

passive income

It allows you to make money even if you’re not in front of the computer working countless hours.

Once you put the work at the beginning and start ranking your articles, you will see a steady flow of cash coming in.

With affiliate marketing, making money passively is possible.

No customer support

customer support

Since you don’t promote your own products as an affiliate marketer, you don’t need to deal with customers.

That’s a big relief because customer service is a big pain in the a**.

You will have more time to focus on other things, usually more important than replying to angry customers and making sure they are happy.

Low entry cost

Besides buying a domain name (around $10 per year) and a hosting provider (around $4 a month), you don’t have to pay for anything else.

That’s the beauty of affiliate marketing.

You don’t need a lot of capital to get started and the earning potential is ENORMOUS.

You can work from anywhere

work from anywhere

Just like other online businesses, if you build a successful affiliate marketing business, you can virtually work from anywhere you want.

All you need is a laptop and an internet connection to keep your business going.

And, to me, having the freedom to work anywhere, is priceless.

Flexible business model

In general terms, an affiliate marketing business gives you a lot of flexibility.

Besides being able to work from every corner of this planet, you also get the chance to work WHENEVER you want.

A classic 9 to 5 job doesn’t give you this kind of opportunities. That’s why I encourage you to start an affiliate marketing business and stop wasting time! 

2. How to Start an Affiliate Marketing Business in 5 Steps

2.1 Choose a Niche 

Choosing the right niche is an essential step. It will represent the foundation for your marketing efforts and your content creation strategies.

Picking your affiliate marketing niche is, more often than not, the most difficult and overwhelming step of building your affiliate marketing business.

When choosing your affiliate marketing niche, there are two ways you can go :

  • You can choose a niche you’re passionate about or at least you know something about
  • You can choose a well-known niche that is proven to be profitable (Check out this article about the top most lucrative affiliate marketing niches).

There are key criteria to consider when determining whether a particular niche is going to work or not for your affiliate marketing business :

Profitability 

It’s important to determine if there’s money involved in your niche. 

As we said earlier, if you choose a niche you’re not very passionate about, at least make sure it will make you some money!

Do your research on the internet and study your potential audience to see if they have money to spend.

Remember, you can become very successful and make tons of money in affiliate marketing even if you choose a boring and not very innovative niche. 

As long as there is money involved, you’re good to go.

Competition

Besides studying your potential audience and what their most common problems are, it’s crucial that you also take a look at your competition.

niche competition

Check if there’s room for another affiliate marketer in that niche.

However, not having competition is not always good (Yes, you heard that right).

Why? Because having some level of competition means that that particular niche is working for other people so it’s likely to work for you.

So, find a niche that seems to be working for other affiliate marketers but stills have room for you.

Demand

Are there a lot of people interested in the topics you’re going to cover? Are they going to buy the products you want to advertise? 

These are key questions you should ask before choosing a niche.

It’s very cool to have people trust your advice and recommendations but making money is also one of the reasons we all want to start affiliate marketing.

Make sure there’s enough demand in your niche/product to start a blog about it!

Affiliate programs

If you find an awesome niche with high demand and popularity but you can’t find good affiliate programs, then it’s a waste of time.

You will be creating content and building an audience but won’t be able to monetize your efforts.

Make sure that the topics you choose are backed up by solid affiliate programs.

Content material

content ideas

The niche you choose should have enough material to write about.

It means that it should have a lot of topics that could serve you to write different articles.

Why is this important? 

First, it’s going to make your blog more interesting because your audience will have something to learn every time. 

Also, covering a niche from a lot of different angles will help position yourself as an expert in that particular field.

Finally, from a more technical point of view, having tons of material to write will improve your blog’s rankings on search engines.

That’s because one of the most important aspects of SEO is making sure that your website is active and delivers content (and value) constantly. 

If you have a lot of things to say it’s going to be way easier to provide content!

Check out this article about different ways to come up with great content ideas.

Motivation

Even though it sounds cliche, you need to be honest about yourself. 

Are you going to be capable of writing dozens if not hundreds of different articles about that particular topic/niche? Are you’re going to feel demotivated or miserable writing about that niche? 

Keep in mind that affiliate marketing consists of constantly creating content. 

Feeling motivated and engaged is a big plus because it will make your work more enjoyable! Therefore, maximizing your chances of becoming successful as an affiliate marketer!

2.2 Choose affiliate programs/products to promote

Now that you picked your niche, it’s time to look for products to promote and make money! Just like choosing your niche, selecting the right type of product or service to promote is crucial for success.

You need to make sure that the product you choose to promote resonates with your audience by solving a problem they may have. It also needs to relate to your content in order to improve your credibility.

There are tons of different products that you can review to make money.

You don’t necessarily need to be familiar with them, although it gives you an edge over your competition.

In this part, you will learn the different types of products that you can promote and where to find them!

First, let’s take a look at the best types of products to promote in your blog.

Digital products

digital product

Digital products (eBooks, online courses, memberships, softwares,…) are my favorite types of products to advertise in my blog.

There are three main reasons why.

First, it’s easier for me to test them. 

And, as I said earlier, even though you don’t NEED to be familiar with the product you want to promote, it’s a big advantage.

That’s because you will identify by yourself the best qualities to point out when reviewing it. Afther that, you will feel thrilled to spread the word about it with your audience, knowing that they will get the same results as you did.

Also, another great aspect of digital products is that they usually offer higher – way higher– commissions than physical products.

Usually between 15% and 70% whereas physical products offer commissions of 5% max.

Finally, another great advantage of promoting digital products is that once your reader purchases the product you promoted, they get immediate access to it (duh because it’s digital).

That means they get instant gratification which makes them happy (and you too).

Physical products

physical product

Depending on your niche, promoting physical products may make more sense.

With physical products, you need to be cautious about the quality of the products you want to promote.

You need to make sure it’s top-notch so your audience won’t find any problems.

Since physical products have higher production costs than digital ones, their commissions are usually lower.

For that reason, creating your own physical product is a great strategy if you want to make more money. 

In this case, you’re no longer considered an affiliate marketer since you will promote your products.

As a result, you will encounter other aspects of online commerce (customer support, holding stock,…) that you wouldn’t with affiliate marketing.

Lots of bloggers promote their own products and it’s an amazing way to maximize your revenue and profits.

Where to find affiliate programs 

Before we start, keep in mind that not all products (online or physical) offer affiliate programs to promote them. 

So, before reviewing a product – that you’re familiar with or not- please check if they offer an affiliate marketing program to join.

For the sake of this guide, we will cover the best affiliate networks you can join to find amazing products to promote. 

You may be asking what affiliate networks are (I read minds ;)).

Affiliate networks are essentially affiliate marketplaces where online merchants post their affiliate programs designed to promote their products.

These affiliate programs can then been found by publishers (affiliate marketers).

biggest affiliate networks

If you want to know more about affiliate networks, click here.

Joining affiliate networks are usually the best and easiest way to start as an affiliate marketer.

So, let’s kick out this list with the best affiliate network to join if you want to promote PHYSICAL products : Amazon’s Associates

We all know this giant e-commerce website where we can find almost anything we want.

If you want a product delivered at the front door, it is the place to go.

Besides all of that, Amazon also has the biggest affiliate program in the market.

amazon affiliate program

Once you sign up, you can get a personalized link for any product and get a commission every time someone purchases that product through your link.

how to get amazon affiliate link for a product

Now, if you want to promote digital products, Clickbank is a very good and reliable start.

This affiliate network has been in the game for many years. Today, it’s a must-stop for affiliate marketers.

You can find different affiliate programs for a lot of different topics and niches.

clickbank categories

What I like to do is to sort the results by popularity. 

affiliate programs on clickbank

Then I will take a look at the average commission so I can pick an affiliate program that suits my needs.

2.3 Build a high-quality blog easily in 5 steps

Once you have everything we listed before, it’s time to build a blog that will host all your content and bring traffic.

Contrary to what you may think, building a website is quite easy.

You don’t need a fancy website with awesome and advanced functionalities to make money with affiliate marketing.

All you need is a good looking website with awesome content. 

Here’s how to build a blog for affiliate marketing : 

Buy a domain related to your niche

domain icon

The first thing you need to do is to get a domain.

A domain name is your website’s address (for example, practicalmoneyland.com is my domain).

There are several places where you can buy a domain, I get mine from Bluehost.

bluehost domain page

Keep in mind that domain names are unique.

So the domain name you want may already be taken by someone else. 

One tip I can give you is to choose a domain name that references to your niche.

It will help your SEO ranking but also attract more people and give credibility to your blog.

For example, let’s say you decide to create a blog in the fitness niche. 

In this case, buying a domain such as “fitnessaddiction.com” instead of something like “findyourinnerlove.com” makes more sense, right?

Get a well-performing hosting

Buying a reputable and reliable hosting provider is very important for your website’s performance. 

Check out this article to discover the best hosting providers in 2019.

Just like the domain name, I like to get my hosting from Bluehost for as little as $3.95/month.

bluehost hosting

Hosting is pretty cheap nowadays so you don’t need to spend a lot of money to get your blog up and running. 

I recommend you to get your domain and hosting from the same company so it’s easier to set everything up.

Install WordPress

Since you will create a blog, I recommend you to pick WordPress as your CMS (Content Manager System). 

It’s free and easy to use so you shouldn’t find any particular problems creating pages and articles.

Installing it is pretty easy too.

Most hosting providers come with a one-click WordPress install.

You can check this guide to learn how to install WordPress.

Customize and make it look cool 

Having an ugly website is going to make it look like a scam, therefore, hurting your credibility and your content.

You don’t necessarily need to make it look like a piece of art but at least make sure it’s clean and organized.

First of all, you need to install a good-looking WordPress Theme. 

There are thousands of different themes you can choose from. 

wordpress themes

At the beginning, you don’t need to get a paid theme. 

There are plenty of amazing free themes out there such as OceanWP, Astra, Hestia…

To install and customize a WordPress theme, check out this amazing article.

Important pages 

Lastly, there are some pages that I recommend that you include on your website.

  • About page: On this page I want you to talk about yourself, your motivations, passions, educational background, etc.. The objective is to get your readers to know you and also trust you. Remember, to be a successful affiliate marketer, it’s important to establish a trust relationship between you and your readers so your recommendations (affiliate offers) are taken into account.
  • Contact page: The contact page allows your audience to get in contact with you in a more personal way. 
  • Disclaimer: Since you will be monetizing your blog, you must let your readers know.
  • Privacy Policy and Terms of Service: These two pages must include information about the collection of information and what you’re going to do with it. It also talks about other legal aspects. Check out this website that helps you create these pages easily by asking you some basic questions.

2.4 Create top-notch content 

We arrived at the core of affiliate marketing: creating good content.

It will be by far the most time-consuming part of creating your affiliate marketing business as well as the most enjoyable one (at least in my opinion ).

If you want to make money with affiliate marketing, there are many types of content you can produce.

Here’s a list of the best ones for affiliate marketing :

How to/Guides

Guides and how-to articles are an excellent way to show your expertise and experience.

how to run facebook ads

They allow you to educate your audience, strengthening your relationship between you and them.

Whatever you decide to write about, make sure it’s evergreen content. It means filled with information that can be used in years to come.

Reviews

In your blog can you write in-depth reviews of different kinds of products. 

For example, take a look at our review of the best hosting providers in 2019.

best hosting providers article

Review articles are a good strategy to promote your affiliate links since you’ll be directly talking about products, and, in many cases, in a favorable way.

Informational products

Creating an informational product such as an ebook or a free online course is another effective way to get your audience engaged with your content.

Usually, your readers will need to put their email address to get access to the product.

data driven marketing ebook

You will then be able to promote your affiliate offers -or your own products and services- through email marketing

Important: Optimize your content for search engines (SEO)

Optimizing your content for search engines is critical if you want to increase your blog’s traffic and impact as many people as possible.

As you should know by now, creating top-quality content needs to be at the top of your priorities. 

If people can’t find it on Google then it’s useless.

That’s exactly why you NEED to make sure it’s SEO-friendly.

I highly suggest you to learn the basics of SEO because it can seriously impact the effectiveness and reach of your articles. Check out this article if you’re interested.

2.5 Get high-quality traffic to your blog and build an audience

There are many ways you can bring traffic to your blog.

You can exploit them all at the same time or focus on a few of them to maximize your chances of success.

SEO

As I mentioned earlier, you must optimize your content for SEO.

If you manage to rank high on search engines, your organic traffic -the best type of traffic you can get- will increase exponentially.

And, for the vast majority of successful blogs, the bulk of their traffic comes organically.

Besides that, if you want true passive income with affiliate marketing, your best bet is to rank your articles to get a steady flow of visitors consistently. 

Email list

Having an email list is an important asset for digital marketing in general.

You must ALWAYS make sure you’re collecting emails.

Luckily for you, there are many ways to do that.

For example, you can offer a free online course or program in exchange for their email.

free workout program

You can also invite them to join your newsletter.

newsletter

Emails marketing stills a very effective marketing channel that you should consider. 

Besides that, promoting your content –and affiliate offers- through email campaigns is easy and FREE.

Social Media

neil patel instagram account

Another way to bring traffic to your articles is by developing a solid online presence on social media platforms.

Just like your blog, you need to create content and bring value to people on these platforms to build an engaged audience.

You will then be able to attract visitors to your blog and your affiliate offers.

Developing a strong social media presence is also going to positively impact your page’s ranking which, as we discussed earlier, is an important factor to become a flourishing affiliate marketer.

Guest blogging

guest blogging

Guest blogging is when you write a piece of content for other bloggers and they give you credits for that.

It is a strategy that I personally love because of two reasons. 

One, you’re going to connect with other bloggers and create good relationships with them.

Two, you will reach another audience that could potentially start following you too.

It is a win-win situation for you and the blog you’re writing for since you will be providing them with free content to publish.

If you want to learn more about guest blogging and how to build a successful guest blogging strategy, check out this article.

Paid advertising

Even though we’ve only talked about free methods to bring traffic to your website, it is also very important to discuss paid methods since you may use them in the future.

I like to class paid advertising into two different categories : 

  • Social Media: This consists of creating advertising campaigns on social platforms such as Facebook or Instagram to reach more people. Check out this guide to learn how to create Facebook Ads campaigns and this one for Instagram Ads campaigns (both are created in the Facebook’s Ad Manager).

facebook ad

  • SEA (Google Ads): When we talk about SEA, we generally refer to advertising on Google. This means bidding on different keywords so you appear at the top of the search results when someone types in those keywords. Learn here how to create Google Ads for affiliate marketing.

google ad

Warning: If you’re a beginner to Paid Ads, I recommend you to stick to the free and basic -yet very effective- strategies we discussed earlier to bring traffic to your new blog.

3. It’s Time to Make Money: How to Promote Your Affiliate Offers 

In this part, we will discuss how to promote your affiliate offers.

It may be obvious for certain of you so feel free to skip this part if needed.

However, my objective with this guide is to teach you absolutely everything you need to know.

3.1 In-text links

This is one of the most common ways to promote affiliate links.

The objective is to blend your links with your content so it doesn’t look like a promotion.

Many marketers -if not all of them- use this method to share their affiliate links naturally.

Example: “Check out this product I like to use when taking a shower”

3.3 Banner ads 

banner ad

banner ad

google adsense

google adsense

Putting up banners on your website is also a great way to bring sales.

Insert them on strategic sections of your website to get the most out of them.

Most affiliate programs come with banner creatives so you only need to download and place them wherever you want.

What I don’t like about banners ads is that they can be intrusive and annoy your readers. So, make sure you don’t overuse them since they can lower your traffic drastically.

3.4 Email promotions

email marketing

One of the many ways you can exploit your email list is by promoting your affiliate programs/offers.

Even though it’s an old and sometimes neglected marketing strategy, email marketing is still a very powerful tool for affiliate marketers and digital marketing in general.

Keep in mind that, just like affiliate marketing and blogging, it’s very important that you give value to your audience first before advertising products and programs.

3.5 Discounts 

bluehost promotion

If you manage to become an ambassador and partner up with an affiliate program, they can hook you up with a personalized discount code that you can share with your audience.

It’s a genuine way of helping your readers and can dramatically increase the commissions you make.

3.6 Bonus Strategy

Finally, an effective idea to showcase all your affiliate programs is to create a “Resources or Tools” page in your blog.

tools menu

Here, you’re going to show your audience all the softwares and material you use and link them to your affiliate links.

This page helps you diffuse your affiliate links without being too salesy.

4. Personal Tips

I would like to finish this value-packed guide with my personal tips that I feel are often overlooked yet crucial for your affiliate marketing business.

4.1 Make it personal

When writing content, don’t just focus on bringing information.

Try to give your personal touch and talk about yourself and your personal experiences : it will make your content more interesting and enjoyable.

Your audience will relate to yourself more easily and thus trust you a lot more -which means more money for you!

4.2 Aim to help people and give really good value

You should always aim to bring value to the table and genuinely help your readers by giving them useful advice and information.

It will help you build a loyal following that will trust you and your expertise. Therefore, making your marketing efforts to promote your affiliate offers more effective.

4.3 Treat your email list as an asset

Your email list is actually an asset.

You can ask all successful digital marketers to see how precious their email lists are to them.

There’s a reason for that.

Email marketing is FREE and very effective!

So, don’t neglect the power of email marketing and start gathering people’s email and information as soon as you start your blog!

4.4 Don’t neglect social media 

Just like email marketing, you shouldn’t neglect social media.

It can help take your affiliate marketing to the next level by attracting more people to your platform.

That’s because social media is an excellent tool to spread the word about you and your content. 

You shouldn’t rely on just one traffic source so try to be active in as many platforms as possible.

Building an engaged community is the best thing you can do to expand your affiliate marketing business.

4.5 Do a lot of research and keep yourself informed 

The social media and the internet era is filled with new trends that pop up almost every day.

It’s your responsibility to stay alert so you can capitalize on these trends before everyone else.

4.6 Test, test and test

When it comes to perfection, there’s only one way to attain it, or at least get close to it: TEST, TEST and… TEST.

If you want to optimize your business then you need to test every single variable and see their impact.

For example, you can test different types of contents to see which appeals to your audience the most.

Always be data-driven and do not let your feelings get into your decision-making process.

4.7 Update your content regularly 

This last point should be pretty obvious. 

You need to update and post REGULARLY!

First of all, this is going to benefit your SEO rankings since Google likes active websites that publish content regularly.

On the other hand, you will also attract more readers since they will see your blog as a reliable and active source of information.

Final words

As you can see, everyone can start an affiliate marketing business and turn their life around. However, you will need to put hard work and effort to make this business work and earn passive income. 

If you read this guide entirely, you’re taking a big step into success and you’re more than prepared to start your own affiliate marketing business. If you have more questions about affiliate marketing or everything related to digital marketing, feel free to write to me at contact@practicalmoneyland.com or using the contact form here

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Nicolas Olaya

Nicolas Olaya is a digital marketing student, founder of The Practical Money Land. Making money online, blogging and helping others reach their goals are his main passions. With his content, he hopes he will help you excel at your business or, at least, motivate you to start your own online business!

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