Step-by-Step Guide to Start Affiliate Marketing

affiliate marketing STI

Written by Neeraj

Hi! I'm Neeraj, a writer, part-time entrepreneur and a marketing professional.

Last updated Jun 1, 2020

Tired of the usual 9 to 5 work and hoping for a change?

Well, couldn’t blame you!

Nowadays, many people are getting tired of waking up early in the morning, slogging in a small cubicle and going through mind-numbing meetings day after day. That’s when many turn to affiliate marketing.

For all those wondering, ‘What is affiliate marketing?’, here’s a short explanation.

Affiliate marketing is a form of passive income wherein you can keep making money even when you are sleeping! In this process, the affiliate marketer earns a certain percentage of commission for every sale they make for the brand. This method of marketing is a gold mine for both businesses as well as marketers as everyone has their share of profits.

Many companies have already embraced affiliate marketing, with around 81% of brands having their own affiliate marketing programs.

What is Affiliate Marketing, in the true sense?

The textbook definition of affiliate marketing from Wikipedia is,

“Affiliate marketing is a type of performance-based marketing in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought by the affiliate’s own marketing efforts.”

Marketers and companies work together in a revenue-splitting model to increase the sales for the company’s products. The companies get revenue in the form of sales while the marketers get commission for the coustomers they influenced or referred and everyone is happy at the end of it.

Why Go for Affiliate Marketing?

Affiliate marketing works great on both the parts of the company/brand as well as the affiliate.

• Since the affiliate marketing is based on the performance, the brands only need to pay for the conversion and the affiliate is also motivated to make more sales.

• It increases the reputation of both the brand and the marketer and increased brand awareness comes free for the companies acting as merchant even when the affiliate marketer doesn’t make or influence a sale.

• It’s a cost-effective way to make money for the marketers and a simple, affordable strategy to increase the customer base for the brands.

• When done right, affiliate marketing works on for both the brands and the marketers to increase their online traffic for free.

What Options Do You Have in Affiliate Marketing?

In every affiliate marketing strategy, there are three people involved.

The retailer aka the merchant –  who owns the products.
The affiliate marketer – who promotes the product through content marketing tactics such as blogging, ebooks, whitepapers etc.
The consumer – who buys the product owned by the merchant and therefore, influenced by the affiliate marketer.

I just made a handwritten sketch to help explain the “Affiliate Marketing Process” as a concept better below.

Now, If you want to make money through affiliate marketing, then obviously, you have to be either of these two – merchants or the marketers.

Merchant: The merchant is someone who is creating and selling the product. Merchant is the person who earn profits from the sales the affiliate brings in. Anyone who runs the business is the merchant, no matter if it’s the CEO of a multinational software company or a founder of a plumbing company.

Marketer: The marketer, in this case, the affiliate marketer, is the one who promotes the merchant’s products on their behalf through marketing tactics to increase the revenue. The marketer uses various tactics like writing blogs, reviewing or posting on social media. The affiliate marketer can sometimes be an entire business too.

When you want to get into affiliate marketing, you can choose from either of these, being  a merchant or an affiliate marketer. If you already have a business running, then you can start an affiliate marketing program and recruit affiliate marketers to promote your products in exchange for a fair commission.

How to Become a Merchant?

If you want to enter the field of affiliate marketing as a merchant, then you should be in a position to start and manage your own business.

Here is the step-by-step process to become a merchant in the world of affiliate marketing.

Step 1: Identify the Business Niche and Problems to Solve

Simply coming up with some random idea that you think sounds good in your mind is the start of a catastrophe. It’s vital to get down on the ground and do some real research about the various problems and probable solutions in your domain. Understand how that works and choose a niche that is profitable and related to your experience.

After testing, verifying and validating the reliability of the particular niche, move on to researching about the customers who are ready to buy it.

Step 2: Research Your Ideal Buyers

Your product needs a good number of buyers ready to make a purchase. As you are starting a business, you need to know everything that there is about your potential customers. It is also termed as “Buyer Persona” or ideal buyers of your online products and services. Here is a short video explaining steps to get this right:

Step 3: Make Products That Sell Online

Now that you have finalized your niche and have all the necessary information about the buyers let’s get on to creating the products. Products don’t necessarily mean physical products; it can be some services you offer or digital products too.

If you are low on your budget, then offering digital services or products is a good option. If you look at some of the top affiliate marketing programs, many of these are digital products. For example, Kinsta is a WordPress hosting service that provides sign up bonuses and a 10% lifetime commission for affiliate marketers. Similarly, Shopify and BlueHost run successful affiliate programs without any physical products as such.

Step 4: Join Partners and Affiliate Networks as a Merchant

After creating a product, you don’t have to worry about searching for the right affiliate marketer to promote your product. There are several affiliate networks like ShareASale which you can join as a merchant, list the products you want them to promote and the estimated commission you are ready to pay.

Step 5: Generate Income and Pass Commissions

Once you have some affiliate marketers showing interests in your products, offer them a fair commission in exchange for the sales. Keep in mind that the affiliate marketers will only invest so much of time in marketing your products as the amount of money they stand to earn. Therefore, introduce some attractive commission rates and split the commission regularly with the marketers for their hard work. From my experience, I can also tell you that it is a growing field and lack of transparency and effective tool is a great concern among affiliate marketers!

How Much Money Can You Generate as a Merchant?

According to Statista, the spending on affiliate marketing programs in the US is expected to reach $8.2 billion by 2022.

As a merchant, you can have a steady stream of sales from the affiliate channels if you have the right marketers promoting and talking about your products to the customers. The revenue from the affiliate marketers can be anywhere between 1% to as high as 50% or more based on the attractive affiliate program you have.

Vigilink surveyed 500 affiliates and 100 merchants who are involved in some affiliate marketing program. In this survey conducted in 2017, 73% of merchants said that the revenue generated from the affiliate programs are up to their expectations. 65% of the merchants state that 5% to 20% of their revenue comes from the affiliate marketing channels. Also, 91% of the merchants will be retaining or increasing their budget for affiliate marketing programs from the next year.

With such high rates of satisfaction among the merchants for the affiliate marketing programs, you can make good profits with the right strategy. Find out the proper channels to bag some good affiliate marketers and add great incentive that will motivate the marketers to focus on selling your product.

Best Affiliate Networks for a Merchant

If you are wondering about where to get that start for your affiliate marketing business, then here are some of the top affiliate network channels, to begin with.

Join a few of them, understand how it works and bag some good affiliate marketers for your program.

ShareASale

ShareASale is undisputedly one of the best and well-known affiliate networking platforms in the world. As a merchant, you easily create an account here and make use of the features like affiliate segmentation, real-time tracking, merchant API, program diagnostics and many more.

CJ Affiliate

Commissions Junction, commonly known as CJ Affiliate by Conversant, is used by some of the top brands in the world like Barnes & Noble, GoPro, Office Depot, Lowe’s and many more. It uses cutting-edge technology for affiliate personalization, affiliate customer insights and verticalized integrations. You can find many independent affiliate marketers looking to partner with the brands here.

Partnerstack

You can find a lot of affiliates looking for partnerships in SaaS companies in Partnerstack. There are many such noteworthy SaaS companies on this platform like Ownr. The admin dashboard of Partnerstack is one of its remarkable features that allow to engagement generated by the affiliates.

LinkShare

Linkshare, currently known as Rakuten Marketing, is a popular affiliate networking channels for merchants. It has a global ecosystem of merchants and marketers and a dedicated team of recruiters who recruits marketers for you. Some of the highlighted features of Linkshare are its consumer graph, mobile app tracking, placement marketplace and one-view performance attribution.

Amazon

As Amazon is the number one global marketplace, you can take advantage of their affiliate program. Many large and small affiliate marketers looking to earn some money by promoting products on their websites and social media channels. Listing here is best if you have your products already listed on Amazon. You can increase the ranking of your product sales and increase the conversion rate, which will aid in increasing the organic conversions and visibility on Amazon.

How to Become an Affiliate Marketer?

Becoming an affiliate marketer doesn’t need too much investment. When you have a creative mind and are ready to put in the time, then you can see some good money as an affiliate marketer. Here are the steps to follow if you want to be a successful affiliate marketer.

Step 1: Identify a Blogging Niche and Pick a Specific Topic

If you already have some blogging or social media experience, own a blog or a website and have some decent following, then this becomes easier.

In general, affiliate marketers specialize in a subset of a particular domain about which they have some knowledge. As an affiliate marketer, your ability to convince people matters the most. To get to that position, you should possess high credibility among followers in your domain.

Therefore, please make sure to pick a niche in which you can show your expertise and convince or influencer your followers to buy the product by using your affiliate links.

Step 2: Develop Unique Content around the Niche or Product

Once you have picked out a niche, then comes the hard part – making a sale. This is where your innovative ideas and creativity comes into play. You need to develop exciting content around the product that makes it look compelling.

You can generate different content in the forms of blogs, articles, infographics, reviews, guides, videos, tutorials and webinars and add the products you promote in it. Have a mix of different content on the same forum for your followers to come back for more.

Step 3: Promote Blog and Get Traffic

Once you have created good content, the job is only half done. You need to market the content all over the internet to get good traffic. Social media is a great place to start if you don’t have many followers. Else, you can leverage email marketing at no cost and send out emails to your subscribers.

E mail marketing tools you can use:

Even when you have moved on writing the other content, try to keep promoting and updating the old ones too.

Step 4: Refer Suitable Products to Your Followers Based on Your Experience

Many affiliate marketers getting big bucks in their bank accounts every month have started from practically nothing. They built their affiliate business from the ground up due to the variety of authentic content they offer based on their followers’ interests. Hence, the followers believe in their honest words and take a chance on the product they sell.

• Make sure to keep your reviews and opinions honest, to the point and credible.
• Generate content that your readers will like.

Step 5: Get Commission and Generate Income

When you have the great content and good following online, you can create a steady stream of passive income! Try to look for good affiliate programs that offer a decent amount of money for the efforts you put in. Keep including new products as you grow to multiply your income stream. Don’t miss out on promoting your content regularly through various techniques to drive more traffic.

How Much Money Can You Make as an Affiliate Marketer?

There are upper or lower limits to the revenue you can generate from affiliate marketing. You can make from $0/day to $30,000/day or more!

Here are the poll results from affiliate marketers conducted by Finch Sells.

Based on this poll, it is found that the revenue of affiliate marketers in the intermediate section is from $221/day to $328/day. These are affiliate marketers who work full-time solely for this purpose.

So, as an affiliate marketer, your income bracket can vary depending on the number of hours you put in, the type of niche you are in, the content you generate and most importantly, your followers.

Best Affiliate Programs for Affiliate Marketers

There are numerous affiliate marketing programs that you can find online. If you want to partner with a good company that gives fair commission for your efforts, then you need to research and join the specific platforms where you can find many businesses in your niche.
From the various affiliate partner programs you can find online, here are some of the best and high paying affiliate programs.

Elegant Themes

Elegant Themes is behind some of the most popular website themes and plugins. It offers one of the best-paid affiliate programs among most other companies. In this program, you get a whopping 50% of the sale amount when a user signs up with your affiliate link.

AWeber

AWeber is one of the best email marketing tools that many businesses use. They have a very profitable affiliate program for marketers where you get a 30% of the sale not only on the initial payment but also on the recurring payments. Therefore, once a user signs up, you will get a steady stream of income for every time they make a recurring purchase on AWeber.

Bluehost

Bluehost is one of the highly promoted affiliate marketing programs you can find. If you are a tech affiliate marketer, you cannot ignore becoming a part of their program. They have paid over $5 million in commissions in the year 2019 alone, which shows the number of affiliate marketers they have. For every qualified sign up on their platform, you get $65 straight to your account!

SEMrush

SEMrush has a separate affiliate program called the BErush wherein you get 40% of the commission when a new user signs up with your affiliate link or code. Similar to AWeber,  you also get the recurring commission of 40% for the purchases the user makes on their platform.

WP Engine

WP Engine is a web hosting platform with WordPress themes. WP Engine provides one of the highest commissions in this domain. You can earn a minimum of $200 for every person who signs up with your reference for hosting on WP Engine and 35% of the sales you refer for the themes.

Things to be Careful about Affiliate Marketing

There are specific rules and regulations that you should follow in affiliate marketing. There are two main things to take note.

1. Ensure to maintain your website by following the GDPR that came into effect in 2018. This regulation enforces getting permission from the users to obtain user data from them, even if they aren’t in the European Union. Therefore, when you are promoting products, make sure to have pop-ups for the users to permit to collect their data.

2. If you are in the US, then you should abide by the guideline of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Under this guideline, you should disclose to the users that you are getting a commission if they make a purchase or take some action using the affiliate link.

Even if you aren’t from the US, it’s best to be transparent to the users and mention about the commission you will get like how we have mentioned on StepToInbound itself.

Key Takeaways

Here are the key takeaways to become a part of affiliate marketing.

• To become a merchant, you should first have a business and partner with affiliate marketers in the niche. You should attract better affiliate marketers with great incentives that motivate them to drive more sales for your business.

• To become an affiliate marketer, you should choose a particular domain that you’re interested in and something in which there are many options for affiliate marketing programs. You should create regular content and promote them vigorously to get good commissions continually.

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