Long term, you should be aiming to use your own website for your affiliate marketing but if you’re just starting out and really can’t spare the cash for a domain name and some cheap hosting, is it really possible to make money on the internet without having a website?
Providing you’re happy to relinquish some of the control – and providing you’re happy to have your destiny in the hands of a computer program written for a company who has likely never heard of you and whose program doesn’t care whether or not your content stays live – then yes, it’s doable.
Use big websites to sell affiliate products
There are lots of sites that allow you to sell products – real products that you can touch and feel as well as digital products that only come to life when there’s a computer or a phone or some other electronic device available.
Most of the bigger sites available don’t usually allow you to sell products as an affiliate but most of them (for instance Amazon in a lot of states and countries) will allow you to sell the products they list and earn a small commission.
Whilst that’s easier to do with your own website, so long as you check the terms and conditions carefully it’s usually also possible to use sites like Twitter and Facebook to promote various products and get your commission when a sale is made.
You do need to be careful and make sure that you stay well within the affiliate program terms – they may appear to be a long chunk of legalese but there are often restrictions as to what you can say about the products as well as where and how you can promote them.
For instance, a lot of manufacturers like to keep control over their brands and that includes the photographs that are supplied to sites like Amazon. Which means you can’t just grab a photo from Amazon or Google, put it up on (say) Pinterest and send the clicks via your affiliate link.
At least not without checking whether that’s an allowable use of the image.
There are different rules in place for big sites like Amazon and Google – they provide so much business for companies – but as a minnow in the market, the rules you need to play by are stricter.
It’s worth setting your sights a bit lower and choosing places like forums to sell your affiliate products.
Not all forums allow you to sell affiliate products and, even if they do, there are often rules designed to make sure that you’ve contributed to the online community before you’re allowed to do so.
A lot of forums have a minimum number of posts that you need to make before you’re allowed any links in your contributions.
Use YouTube videos to sell affiliate products
YouTube is one of the biggest sites in the world and is kind-of a special case.
You need to create a video – that can be a simple slideshow or screen capture or you can even just upload some photos inside YouTube itself and let their software create a slideshow video for you.
The video itself needs to have a good title – if you wouldn’t click on it, chances are nor will anyone else.
It also needs to have a good description.
Even though YouTube is a video search engine, it indexes the words in the description a lot better than it can decipher the video contents.
And Google (the owner of YouTube) also indexes the written content much better than the video content.
Put your affiliate link near the start of the description – some people suggest it should be on the first line, others after the first sentence. Experiment to find out which works best for you.
If you don’t want it to scream “affiliate link” at your viewers then use a URL shortening service such as Bitly to disguise the link.
YouTube works well for reviews – it’s best if the review of the product is honest and if you’ve actually had some experience with the product itself. You may try to fool yourself and pretend that your audience won’t know the difference but that’s rarely the case.
When I review a product it’s sometimes one that I’ve had a review copy of and other times it’s something that I use on a regular basis. The difference in sales is marked – anything where I’m speaking from regular personal experience and can talk about the nuances of the product gets an order of magnitude higher sales than one where I’ve been through the product once but am not a regular user.
So start with promoting affiliate products that you use on a regular basis – it will come through in your presentation and you’ll get more sales as a result which will boost your confidence in affiliate marketing.
Build a list
Almost all the large autoresponder companies such as Aweber offer the option for them to host your signup page.
The designs vary but you can certainly get a basic signup page using the forms that are included.
You probably need some kind of incentive for people to join your list – a PDF report is one option and you could host it on a service like Dropbox or Google Drive so you wouldn’t need a website or hosting to do that.
Or you could offer access to an unlisted video that you’ve created on YouTube.
Once people are on your list, you can send them regular emails. You’ll need to experiment to find out the best mix of promotional and informational emails. There’s no perfect way to determine the mix – different markets react differently, even different segments of the same market.
What tends to happen is that the people who don’t like your emails (content, frequency, etc) will either unsubscribe or delete the emails without opening them.
Over time, it’s self-selecting.
You’ll end up with people who like you and like your style. So don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through – that’s far better than being a faceless corporate-style person.
And promoting affiliate products to your list is a good way of earning affiliate commissions.
Use a free website builder
There are lots of companies out there who offer free websites.
Choose a service such as Weebly that has a recognisable income stream (so you know they can afford to offer free accounts over the long term) and that isn’t averse to affiliate links being woven into your content.
Free website builders are all well and good but there are limitations.
- There’s often not too much flexibility in what you can and can’t do unless you start paying
- There are often restrictions on the amount of space you can use (even though computer disk space is almost free, lots of “frees” mount up)
- You’re not in control – if their computer dislikes what you’re doing, it acts as judge, jury and executioner with next to no chance of appeal. Sometimes that can happen retrospectively (Google are very good at applying new rules to old accounts but they’re by no means alone in this) which means you get little or no notice that you need to change if you want to stay in business
- Sometimes the ease of website creation comes at the expense of the site being easy for a search engine to crawl and index it – that happened a lot with website builders that used Flash. And often it’s difficult to move the site away from a free host (apart from anything else, the search engines and any links you’ve built up are pointing to it)
Far better in my opinion to scrimp and save until you can afford your own domain name and hosting to go with it.
Start your affiliate marketing career slowly but surely and put a portion of your profits aside to grow your business over the coming months and years.