Affiliate marketing has been around since the dawn of the Internet and it still remains one of the best ways to make money online.
It allows you to work from wherever you want and set up a stream of passive income so that you could make money while you sleep.
It is pretty much the ultimate goal of everyone who is trying to make a living online.
Affiliate marketing allows you to promote someone’s products and services and get paid for the same.
There are generally four different parties involved in the process.
The merchant is the person who creates the product or service.
You are the affiliate who promotes the said person’s product or service.
The network is the platform that connects you and the merchant.
Does Affiliate Marketing Still Work?
This is something that many people wonder, given the fact that affiliate programs have been around for more than two decades.
It is a perfectly legitimate question too, as the landscape of Internet has changed considerably over the past two decades.
The short answer to the question is – yes, it still works.
It has, however, evolved a great deal over the years.
Search Engine Rankings
Earlier, you could get ranked in the first page of Google without much difficulty.
You could set up a website focused on an affiliate product, write a bunch of articles around relevant keywords, and submit them to article directories.
It was pretty much a guaranteed way of getting high search engine rankings back then.
Now, you have to follow a different approach as Google has radically changed how content is created and consumed online.
Affiliate websites with a few pages of content no longer get high search engine rankings, even if you submit keyword-stuffed articles all over the internet.
The best way to get high rankings today is to build an authority website on a specific niche.
You need to choose a very specific niche, write lots of high quality content on it, and become an authority.
In the process, you will be able to build a loyal base of visitors, who will be more inclined to buy a product or service that you promote.
Competition among Marketers
Affiliate marketing is no longer a niche industry as it was 20 years back.
The competition among marketers has become a lot more intense, which means you not only have to work harder, but also a lot smarter to be able to stay a step ahead of the competitors in your niche and make money online.
During the early days of e-commerce, customers did not have too many options.
So, if you could get your affiliate website to rank in the first page of Google, you could be sure that people would land on your website, click on your affiliate link, and buy the product.
Since shopping online was a new experience for many, they did not mind clicking on any number of links, as long as they could order the product they want.
Today, the scenario has changed completely.
Customers have an endless range of options in every single niche and they will have more money to spend when taxes are lowered and you cannot beat that but this is another topic!
They have also grown more discerning and are very particular about what they buy and where they buy it from.
So, to get someone to click on your affiliate link or to subscribe to your mailing list, you need to offer tremendous value and convince them that they stand from making this purchase.
Affiliate Marketing in 2018
One of the biggest advantages of being an affiliate marketer in today’s age is that online shopping is way more common today than it was at any other point in time.
20 years ago, it was pretty rare for people to buy things online and the US government did not tax you for not signing up for health care, things have changed for sure!
The good news is, America is working on passing better policies but this is another topic.
E-commerce was still a nascent industry at the time.
A lot of prominent online marketplaces that we see today had not even been launched at the time.
The majority of the people used to shop at brick and mortar stores and the number of people who bought things online was relatively small.
So, as an affiliate marketer, your options were quite limited.
Your target consumers were the small number of people who were curious to embrace the new phenomenon of online shopping.
Online Shopping – A Look at the Numbers
Today, online shopping is the norm, rather than the exception.
Apparently making bad Star Wars and Wolverine movies are the norm since it seems they keep on doing that but let’s get back on track!
Statistics show that 51% of people in the United States prefer to shop at online stores.
96% of people who have an Internet connection have shopped online at least once in their life and a majority of them do so on a frequent basis.
What these numbers reiterate is the fact that people today are more willing to buy online than ever before.
What is even more surprising is that it is not just a millennial thing.
The preference for online shopping can be noticed across age groups – Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers.
So, no matter what kind of product or service you are looking to promote and what kind of age group you are looking to target, it is easier to do so now as an affiliate marketer than it was a couple of decades back.
Availability of Products to Promote
When affiliate marketing as an industry was still in its infancy, the majority of merchants were perfectly satisfied with selling their products through physical stores.
As a result, there were not too many products available online – for marketers to promote and customers to choose from.
Today, it is not the case at all as there are millions of products available online.
No matter what niche you choose, there are an endless range of options available from different brands and companies.
You can compare and contrast all the choices available and pick a product that you stand to make the most money from.
This is a luxury that was unavailable to affiliate marketers up until a decade ago.
How to Make Money with Affiliate Marketing?
Now that you know that you can still make money as an affiliate marketer, let us take a look at the steps you need to take to become a successful marketer and make money online.
1. Choosing a Niche
Your success as a marketer depends a great deal on the niche you choose.
Some niches are ultra-competitive, with prominent and experienced marketers who have lots of resources at their disposal competing against each other.
Some niches are less crowded and relatively less competitive, but still offer you a chance to make money online.
It is always a good idea to choose less competitive niches, especially if you are just starting out as an affiliate marketer.
Remember – there is money to be made in every niche.
From hair straighteners to holiday packages, you can find products in every niche that you can promote and make money from.
So, your job as a marketer is to look for problems that need to be solved or things that people are interested in.
You can then choose a product which appeals to that particular group of people.
For instance, did you know that DNA test kits are selling like hot cake these days?
Many people are interested in knowing about their ancestors and ethnic makeup, as a result of which there has been a huge spike in the sale of test kits.
Similarly, you can find many such products to promote from many different niches.
2. Creating High Quality Content
This is, without a doubt, the most important step when it comes to promoting any product.
Affiliate marketing is way more competitive now than it ever was.
Everyone is promoting a product, offering discounts, and thinking of unique ways to attract customers.
Yet there is only one thing that sets apart successful marketers from the average ones – the value they offer.
Your primary goal should be to build an authority site on a particular niche and provide lots of useful information to your readers.
If you are promoting a particular product, do not just stop at reviewing the said product.
You need to cover the whole spectrum of topics.
What is the need for the product?
How can people solve their problems or meet their needs by using the said product?
How does it fare against other products available on the market?
What is the right way to use the product?
You need to think of all the possible questions a potential customer might want to ask about the product and answer them in your website.
For best results, promote products or services that you have personally used and benefited from.
Tell your personal story as to why you chose the particular product, how it works, how you benefited from it, and why it is a notch above the rest of the products in the same category.
By doing so, you will be able to connect with potential customers on a more personal level than you could ever do so by merely repeating the manufacturer’s claims about the product.
Millennials, more than any other generation, love to consume and share digital content.
If they like a particular news item, review, or blog post, they are likely to share it with their friends on social media.
So, the information you offer should not only be authentic and useful, but also interesting enough for your readers to share it with others.
You can experiment with different formats of content to gauge your readers’ interest.
Apart from product reviews and articles, you can also post video clips on your website.
Rather than telling the readers about the product, you can show it to them directly.
This is particularly helpful for products that require a certain level of technical expertise.
For instance, if you are promoting a printer, you can post a video clip where you demonstrate how to operate the printer.
You can ask your readers to send their questions and answer them personally, interact with them via Google Hangouts, or host a webinar to showcase the product to everyone.
Build Your Brand
Affiliate marketing is not just about promoting someone’s products.
It is also about promoting yourself as a marketer and building your own brand.
The best way to do so is to build an email list of subscribers.
If people find your website helpful and appreciate the value you offer, they will definitely inclined to subscribe to your newsletter.
Once you build a list of loyal subscribers, promoting a product or service becomes a lot easier, as they know that you are an authority on the subject and also trust you completely.
The most popular bloggers and marketers that you can find on the Internet today have established themselves as a brand.
They make money online because they have earned the trust of a large number of people by offering great value for years and years.
So, when they recommend a product or service, people are more likely to give it a try. It is exactly what you should try to do as well.
Promote, Promote, Promote
There is no point in creating a rich, informative website if no one knows about it.
So, use every means at your disposal to promote your website.
You can run PPC campaigns on different platforms, create a strong presence on social media, become a member of niche-specific online forums, comment on other people’s websites and blogs from the same niche, and become a guest blogger on prominent websites.
Do not be afraid to be funny and quirky.
Just like you should not be afraid to watch a terrific show like The Good Wife, 24, The Shield, The Wire, and so on.
It is one of the best ways to stand out from the crowd.
An engaging video clip where you show the viewers how a product works is more likely to capture people’s attention than a lengthy product review with paragraph after paragraph of information.
It is very important to track your affiliate marketing campaigns and make course corrections as and when needed.
Try posting different types of content on your website – personal blogs, informative articles, product reviews, video clips, and infographics to see what type of posts attract more page views and comments.
Run split tests with different versions of ad copies and landing pages to see which ones get the best response.
The more you track, the more you can fine tune your marketing campaign and get better results. You certainly want better results than California and New York’s job growth numbers! You want to look like Texas, North Dakotas, or Georgia’s!
Avoiding the Common Pitfalls in Affiliate Marketing
There are a few mistakes that many people, first-time marketers in particular, tend to make that you should avoid.
Do Not Force the Consumer
Your job is not to tell people what they should buy, but to recommend them a product that you believe to be the best.
There is a world of difference between the two approaches.
If you promote your affiliate products aggressively, people might think that you are only here to make a quick buck.
So, your primary aim should be to help people find the answers to their questions and a solution to their problems.
If consumer find your information helpful and your approach genial, they will certainly attracted to buy the products that you recommend.
Remember – you should try to win the trust of potential customers. Once you do, the money will eventually follow.
This is something you should keep in mind while trying to make money online.
Do Not Spend Big on the Very First Try
The cardinal rule of affiliate marketing is to start small and scale slowly.
There are so many advertising and marketing options available today that if you are not careful, you will run through your marketing budget in no time.
Allocate a small budget for your PPC campaigns and other promotional efforts.
Test the waters a little and see what kind of response you get initially.
Analyze the statistics and try to figure out what works and what does not.
Repeat the process again and again until you start getting high quality leads and achieve a higher conversion rate.
Once you reach this level, you can invest more money and scale your marketing campaign.
Get Started with Affiliate Marketing
Promoting affiliate products is one of the most effective ways to make money online.
It is, however, by no means an easy task and requires considerable effort on your part, especially in the initial stage.
You need to choose a product or service that caters to the needs of your target consumer base.
You need to promote it with honesty and sincerity.
If you do, you will be able to establish a strong presence online, earn people’s trust, and make money.