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How to Start Affiliate Marketing: A Beginners’ Guide

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Ever wondered how to start affiliate marketing for your blog or website? Ever been afraid it’s too complex, or maybe just not for you?

There are many benefits, and few drawbacks, to getting involved in affiliate programs, but first of all it’s crucial to understand what exactly it is. In our step-by-step guide for beginners, we’ll introduce you to this fast-growing business and show you how you can get involved and make some extra money off of your website.

Related: Content Writing Service for Affiliate Marketers

So, what is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is quickly becoming one of the online world’s most booming industries. According to consumer data reporting company Statista, spending on affiliate programs is due to rise to $8.2 billion in 2022, compared to $5.4 billion just five years before. That’s a big leap, and it’s been aided in part by Tim Ferris and his bestselling book The 4-Hour Workweek. In that, he introduced us to the idea of “passive income” – and now it seems that everyone wants a slice of the pie.

Of course, you can’t really make money by doing nothing, but affiliate programs are about as close as you can get these days. And how they work is essentially very simple.

An affiliate is someone who promotes someone else’s product or service through their own personal platform (such as a blog or a website), perhaps in the form of a product review or write-up. They earn a commission each time a consumer purchases that product or service after clicking on the link from their website. It’s not a lot, commissions are a fraction of the retail price, but successful affiliate marketers can make serious money. Pat Flynn and Ryan Robinson, two of the best-known experts, have reported monthly incomes of five, six, or even seven figures thanks to affiliate programs.

It sounds great – but where’s the catch? The good news is there isn’t one. Sure, you might not make money right away (or not much, at any rate), but anyone can learn how to start affiliate marketing and give it a try. Follow our step-by-step guide, and there’s a chance you could soon start reaping some big rewards.

Step by step to affiliate marketing success

1. Find your niche

Affiliate programs rely on influencer marketing. In essence, affiliates are trustworthy people with authority, whose product recommendations other internet users will follow. You can’t be a successful affiliate marketer if you don’t genuinely love the products you’re promoting, which means you need to start in a field you know and care about. Love fashion? Have a particular thing for sneakers? The more niche you can be, the better.

2. Grow your audience

Ah, yes. You knew there would be a catch somewhere. This is probably the only one, but it is quite important: affiliate marketing is not for absolute beginners. To reach people and inspire them to make purchases, you first need to have a blog or website with a decent following. If you don’t have that yet, no problem – there’s still time. Pick your niche, set up your site, then create honest, valuable, and consistent content. When you have a loyal audience established, you can take it to the next stage.

3. Select an affiliate program

There are loads of affiliate programs out there, so it pays to do a bit of research. Some of the biggest and best known are Amazon Associates, ShareASale Affiliates, eBay Partners, Clickbank, and the Shopify Affiliate Program. These aren’t necessarily the best paying, however, so shop around (excuse the pun) to see what will work best for you. It’s usually free to sign up, but certain effective promotion strategies might involve costs. As with most things, the more time and money you invest, the better the outcome is likely to be.

4. Create readable, natural content

Also known as quality content. Because the thing is, affiliate marketing works through product recommendations, not direct sales. You, as an expert in your field, are making good, trustworthy suggestions to your audience – not actively trying to make money from them. Include your product reviews naturally, and only promote products or services you can get behind. Many members of affiliate programs are transparent about the affiliate links included in their content, which readers are thought to appreciate as well. Again, though, this is up to you. Make sure to know your audience and tailor your approach accordingly.

5. Get clicks… and sales

Of course, you can’t control what your users actually do, but once you’ve got them reading your content, there are a few things you can do to help improve the likelihood of them clicking your affiliate link. Here are a few tips to consider:

  • Place your links carefully – near the top of the page is good, well-spaced within other content (you don’t want your post looking spammy).
  • Use boxes to highlight products – this can help readers skimming your content, who are more likely to stop for a short description and click on a button.
  • Be transparent, if applicable – most users are fine with affiliate links, but a disclaimer at the start of your post can seem honest and therefore trustworthy.
  • Check links regularly – one broken link can have a disastrous effect on your performance in affiliate programs. Do a regular audit of your product placements and update content wherever necessary.

When it comes to the consumer actually making the purchase, there’s little you can do – after all, they’ve left your website. What might convince them is the greatness of your content, of course, but you can also play it safe by joining affiliate programs that have a good conversion rate. Ask around, check public income reports, and if you find a program isn’t working, you can always start over with another.

There are many more tips out there to get you from a newbie to an expert level, but beginners can safely follow this guide on how to start affiliate marketing. Once you have your foot in the door, the world of passive income is your oyster – but always remember the cardinal rules: be authentic, be honest, and know your audience. With those three top tips in mind, you’re primed for affiliate marketing success.

Gonzalo Suárez
Gonzalo Suárez
Co-founder and COO @ Key Content
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