How Does Affiliate Marketing Work for Beginners?

Affiliate marketing is a win-win business model for both affiliates and the companies they represent.

Affiliates don’t need stock of the products they’re selling and most companies only pay out to affiliates when a sale is made. There are some companies that operate on a “pay per lead” basis but they tend to attract more competitive affiliates and have strict checking procedures so that the leads they pay for are real.

beginners affiliate marketingAt it’s simplest, whether you’re a beginner or more experienced, affiliate marketing works like this:

  • You (the affiliate) apply to the program you want to promote. Usually there’s a link on the company’s website – it might use words like “associates” or “partners” or “webmasters” instead of affiliate but you’ll soon figure out any other terms used. The forms vary considerably – some just ask for basic details like your name and email address, others want to know the methods you’ll be using to promote their product, others seem to want your life history and others use a system like Clickbank and Commission Junction which operate as kind-of umbrellas for lots of different companies.
  • You get approved to promote the products you applied for. This might be instant or there might be an approval process involved that takes time whilst the company figures out whether or not you meet their standards. Or you may get rejected – this can happen if, like me, you’re in the UK but the company is in the US. It can also happen if other things in your application don’t meet the (usually hidden) requirements for you to become an affiliate. It happens – don’t get disheartened.
  • You start promoting products. The promotion can be anywhere – so long as you don’t break the terms and conditions of the company you’re promoting. It’s worth checking these as they can sometimes exclude certain ways of getting traffic to your pages and will certainly exclude sending out things like spam emails. The promotions you do should be ethical – you want to sleep at night – and should be designed to intrigue the “cold” web surfer to someone who is interested enough in the product to click your affiliate link and potentially make you a commission.
  • You possibly build an email list as part of this process. This can seem scary at first but all you’re really doing is talking to other people by email which you almost certainly do regularly in other areas of your online life. The only real difference is that instead of sending the emails one by one, you set them up to go out at regular intervals plus maybe a “broadcast” every now and then when you’ve got something to send to everyone on your list, regardless of where they are in the regular sequence of emails that get sent out.
  • You gradually add new products and companies, focusing on the areas that the market tells you it wants. The market is anyone and everyone who buys the things you’re promoting. It tells you what it wants to buy by clicking links and making purchases. Depending on the specific affiliate program, you’ll probably get some details about what was bought but they may (or may not) allow you to drill down to specific products. That varies according to the software the company uses – some of the programs I promote drill right the way down to individual products sold, others don’t have that analysis available to me. It varies and you may not know ahead of joining the program how detailed that information is.
  • You home in on the promotional methods that work best for you. Lots of affiliate programs allow you to add an extra tracking ID to the links you use. If you decide to use that (and I strongly sugeest you do, even if you’re only using one method initially) then you can gradually learn which methods turn into sales and which just generate the online equivalent of tire kickers.

Of course, there are lots of nuances with all of this – you should expect that as affiliate marketing is a real business.

The trick is to narrow down your focus as much as possible.

You can’t master everything involved in the process – it’s just not possible.

Start by picking a niche

This is an area that affiliate marketing beginners often stumble on. It’s maybe their first hurdle.

A niche is a subset of the products available. Large niches are things like finance, self help, weight loss and so on.

They’re way too big for you to tackle so you need to drill down.

For instance, in self help (a market I personally like) you might decide to promote law of attraction products or even a subset of that.

If there’s only one or two products available in your chosen niche, you’ve drilled down too far. You’re at the mercy of too many factors to create a sustainable business.

If there are tens or hundreds of available products, that’s a good sign.

If there are thousands, that could be a sign to narrow down your options.

Some people prefer to actually like the niches they promote. Others just like the money they make and don’t care about the niche.

Personally, I prefer to promote niches I like as I find it much easier to create content in them than in niches I could care less about.

It’s your choice but I’d suggest that, as a beginner, you will probably be better off going with a niche you know and like – it’s one less hurdle.

Decide how you’re going to promote

There are lots of different ways you can use to promote as an affiliate:

  • Your own website – a “must have” as far as I’m concerned (maybe I’m too much of a control freak) but there are plenty of affiliates who put this to the back of the queue. WordPress makes it easy to create sites and domain names and hosting are cheap. Start with a basic design (you’re the only person seeing the site initially) and concentrate on regularly adding content.
  • YouTube marketing – videos are incredibly popular, relatively easy to create if you use the right tools and you can create different “channels” for different niches so your subscribers don’t get confused. Subscribers are YouTube’s equivalent of an email list and they can get notified when you add a new video.
  • Social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. They all have a different dynamic and each one needs a slightly different approach because of that. Which is another way of saying don’t expect to use all these channels, especially when you’re starting out. Most of them at least tolerate affiliate marketing so long as you’re not too brash about it.
  • Print media – in this digital age, it’s easy to forget about this but you could stand out from the crowd. I know someone who got a very nice return dropping leaflets through doors promoting a fairly generic digital Clickbank product and that’s something you could test with a cheap print run,
  • Other digital media – this covers a multitude of different options. A Kindle book is easy to create and can be used as a lead generation tool as well as a sales tool. An app is rather more difficult to create so you’d probably need to be techie to go down that route. Banner ads, pop-unders, pop-overs, etc. all still work to an extent but they can be tricky to make pay so are probably worth ignoring initially. Webinars can work as a “bridge” between your advert and the products you’re promoting – they work better for more expensive products but you can do lower-tech webinars using things like Facebook Live or YouTube Live and these have the advantage of offering recordings as well as not requiring your potential audience to download extra software.

Those are the main methods you can use to promote your affiliate marketing efforts and, like everything else I’ve suggested here, it’s best to concentrate on one or two of them rather than try to be a jack of all trades.

If you’d like some free training on becoming an affiliate, click this link to get free access to some really top quality training.