There are lots of different ways to do affiliate marketing but sometimes it’s useful to have examples of how people are carrying out their affiliate marketing campaigns to give you some ideas to get you started.
That’s good so long as you get started – there are lots of people who use the excuse of too many different ways to do something to do nothing at all.
When you’re starting out in your affiliate marketing career it’s important to do things (actually, that’s important part for all the time you’re active in an industry) because that’s the only way to find out whether the technique you’ve chosen works for you.
Most affiliate marketing techniques work to at least some extent. OK, maybe sending out a spam email to millions of unknown people may not be a good way to keep your affiliate account. But that’s an exception.
Using a website
This is my favourite way to do affiiate marketing.
Creating a website is as close to passive income as I’ve found – if you create long content pages then (after what seems like forever) Google will start to send a trickle of traffic to you.
The more of those pages you create on your website, the more chances that you have to get people on to your site.
Then you can put affiliate links in their way – a bit like a trip wire.
I do that with links on my websites – some of the links go off to other pages on my site, other links go off to pages that will earn me a commission when people buy something.
There are lots of variables when you use a website.
Some people get hung up on the superficial elements – what the site looks like is something that seems to hold up a lot of people. Until you start getting real human visitors the look and feel of the site is totally irrelevant. And maybe even after you start getting visitors – sites like Wikipedia and Craigslist aren’t exactly the prettiest sites on the web but they get traffic (and lots of it) mainly because they have lots of good content. Even YouTube‘s design isn’t exactly earth shattering – it’s basically just a lot of video thumbnails.
OK, none of those sites are affiliate marketing sites (although there are people who use YouTube to sell affiliate products) but there are plenty of sites around that look similar in design.
But there are plenty of websites around that sell affiliate products that aren’t exactly pretty.
There are several schools of thought on website design – and they’re probably all right.
- Ugly looking sites where you’re almost embarrassed to admit that you’re the owner of the site.
- Clean and clinical looking sites – in certain markets, those can be good. They can instil a confidence in readers that doesn’t happen with other designs.
- Busy sites – ones like Buzzfeed where the front page of the site is cluttered. That design is deliberate because it forces people to either click the back button (my usual instinct) or explore what they’ve found (lots of other people’s instinct).
- Single page websites – these are usually used for squeeze pages to get people to sign up to your email list.
- Review websites – these can be in various formats but whatever the particular format is less relevant than the fact that the sites offer reviews of products. Preferably unbiased reviews – and certainly not reviews that just promote the most expensive or highest payout products – that are actually helpful to people.
- Near enough any other design of your choice.
But as I said the design is the least of your worries.
So long as the site is live and has affiliate links, that’s good.
Using other people’s websites
If you’re short of money, this is a good way to start your affiliate marketing business but as soon as you can afford it, you should get your own website.
Using other people’s websites is a lot like riding piggy back. You’re not in control – if your “horse” stumbles, so do you. And if they get fatigued or fed up and decide they don’t want to carry you any more, there’s nothing you can do about it.
So using other people’s websites for your affiliate marketing should be viewed as a short term measure.
Even using long established sites such as YouTube shouldn’t be the only method you rely on. If their computer decides it no longer likes you (Google has a history of doing this) then your whole business can disappear overnight.
Yahoo! also has a history of buying sites and then changing direction.
So does Microsoft – it spent a lot of money on buying Multimap in 2007 but hasn’t even bothered to keep the redirect to Bing Maps working at the time of writing this article. Which means that in a few years time their proposed purchase of LinkedIn could go the same way (my crystal ball doesn’t work that far ahead but if you’d asked me almost a decade ago whether they’d have kept one single line working with their Multimap purchase, I’d have said they’d be stupid not to), no-one knows.
There are lots of places you can use for your affiliate links:
- Free website builders like Weebly can work OK. Double check that they have a monetisation method to give yourself a bit more reassurance that they’re likely to stay in business.
- Forum links – not as powerful as they used to be because most forums seem to be in decline but they can still work if the forum is active and you’re helpful to other members. If the forum still gets ranked in the search results, so much the better.
- Social media sites – Facebook groups seem to be replacing forums but you need to stay within the rules of the group; Twitter can work if you’re prepared to send out enough Tweets; likewise sites like Instagram and Pinterest can work and (if you can stay within the moderation guidelines) it can be worth investigating Reddit.
- Video sites such as YouTube – videos are easy enough to create, especially if you do slideshow style videos which don’t even need you to show your face to a camera (great if you have a face for radio).
Those are the main methods of using other people’s sites for your affiliate marketing but there are others that crop up from time to time. Do a site search on Google to check whether or not other people are using your chosen site for affiliate marketing.
If you think that getting your website right and profitable is hard, advertising is an order of magnitude harder.
Sure, you can get traffic to your affiliate offers quickly.
But you pay for the privilege.
Clicks cost money – in some niches a scary amount of money but in most niches they’re not cheap. Google is the most expensive pay per click advertising option because it gets the lion’s share of web searches. Bing and Facebook are the next cheapest and can be worth investigating.
Any other advertising network you come across – often via a must have, supposedly high traffic, supposedly little known offer that lands in your inbox – are very much buyer beware.
Take notice of the adverts you see.
Unless you’re searching sites that Google doesn’t take advertising for (tobacco, adult topics, that kind of thing) then there’s a high chance that the adverts are delivered by Google or their subsidiary DoubleClick.
Facebook and Twitter are obvious exceptions to that – they sell their own advertising space.
But that covers the bulk of ads available online.
The only real exception to this is buying a link (something Google doesn’t approve of, so be careful if you go down that route) and sending traffic, usually via your own website.
In the early days of affiliate marketing, you could turn a profit by buying clicks from Google, etc, and sending the traffic direct to the affiliate page. But that’s almost unheard of in recent years.
If you decide to go down the advertising route, tread cautiously and build up a list if at all possible because that’s likely to be the only way you can make your advertising spend pay.
You might be able to get cheaper clicks by retargeting people who’ve already visited your website but the emphasis is on the word “might” and you’d almost certainly only be able to do this on your own website.
Banner ads are another option but it’s often difficult to find sites that are big enough to make it worth your while creating a banner but small enough for you to be able to afford a test advert. Couple this with Adblock style software and the shift to mobile searching and you’ll quickly figure out that it’s an uphill battle.
Outbrain is an option I’ve not tried but that it used by some large sites so could be worth checking if you’ve got the budget.
Offline affiliate marketing
It’s easy to think that affiliate marketing is confined to online efforts.
But that would be to ignore a whole (very large) sector of the market.
Locally, I know someone who went old school and leaflet dropped a quantity of homes with an affiliate offer. They made a nice amount of money and it more than paid the cost of getting the flyers printed and distributed,
Direct mail might pay – you’d need to test (the real secret of affiliate marketing) but if the price of the offer is high enough then there’s a chance it could pay. A lot depends on the quality of the list plus, hopefully obviously, the quality of the offer you’re sending people to.
Leaflets and flyers given out on the street can work – check your local bylaws to find out whether you’re allowed to do that – and bandit signs are also not unheard of.
The thing to do is keep an open mind and keep testing.
And not to rely on just one method otherwise you run the risk of it becoming obsolete (fax marketing apparently still works in some areas but a lot less than it did a decade ago) so it’s best to have a Plan B tested and working.