Whenever I publish my income report or share how I earn money with my blog, I often use the term “affiliate marketing”. Bloggers and internet marketers who have been into online marketing for years are familiar with affiliate marketing, and with the fact that it is the most lucrative way to earn money online.
In this article, I will share the basics of affiliate marketing and all the details you need to know in order to understand how affiliate marketing works.
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What is affiliate marketing and how does it work?
Affiliate marketing is one of the oldest forms of marketing wherein you refer someone to any online product and when that person buys the product based on your recommendation, you receive a commission. This commission varies from $1 to $10000, depending on what product you are promoting.
The most common question I hear is related to how companies track the record of who is sending the traffic and making the sales. The simple answer involves a tracking URL, which is a unique link given to you by the affiliate company or product company. This URL is used to keep track of all the traffic and sales you are making via your website or other promotional techniques. Many old-fashioned affiliate programs allow a buyer to add the email or referral details in an effort to account for affiliate sales, but this is certainly not the best way to track progress.
So, in simple words:
Many online companies who sell products such as shoes, webhosting space or any service, offer an affiliate program. You can simply sign up for the program and get your unique tracking link. Now, whenever you are writing about the product, you can simply use this special tracking affiliate link to recommend the company’s site, and if your readers buy anything, you will get a commission.
Every affiliate program has a set TOS. For example, many of them offer a 60-day cookie period, which means that if a visitor uses your special affiliate link to land on the sales page of the site and instead of buying today, he buys at some point within the next 60 days, you will be entitled to the sales commission.
Following are some of the common terms associated with affiliate marketing:
- Affiliates: Publishers like you and me who are using affiliate program links to promote and make sales.
- Affiliate marketplace: There are many marketplaces like Shareasale, CJ and Clickbank, which work as central databases for affiliate programs in different niches.
- Affiliate software: Software used by companies to create an affiliate program for their product, for example: iDevaffiliate.
- Affiliate link: Special tracking link offered by your affiliate program to track the progress of your affiliate promotion.
- Affiliate ID: Similar to the affiliate link, but many affiliate programs offer a unique ID which you can add to any page of the product site.
- Payment mode: Different affiliate programs offer different methods of payment. For example: check, wire transfer, Paypal and many more.
- Affiliate Manager: Many companies have dedicated affiliate managers to help publishers to earn more by giving them optimization tips.
- Commission percentage/amount: The amount or percentage you will be receiving in affiliate income from every sale.
- 2-tier affiliate marketing: This is a great way of making money from an affiliate program. With this method you recommend that others join affiliate programs, and you receive a commission when a sub-affiliate makes a sale, (similar to MLM or multi-level marketing.) This income is popularly known as sub-affiliate commission.
- Landing pages: A unique product sales or demo page used for the purpose of increasing sales. Most of the programs that you will be promoting have many landing pages, and you can run A/B testing to see which pages convert best for you.
- Custom affiliate income/ account: Unlike a generic affiliate account, many companies offer custom affiliate income to people making the most affiliate sales for them.
- Link clocking: Most of the affiliate tracking links are ugly. Using a link clocking technique like URL shorteners, Gocodes plugin, etc., you can turn ugly links into links that can be read and understood by your readers.
- Custom coupons: Many programs allow affiliates to create custom coupons which are also used to track sales. Custom discount coupons help you to increase affiliate sales as well.
For companies offering an affiliate program, this is one of the best ways to receive free promotion, thus saving substantially on advertising. For example, whenever you see coupons or discount links, most of the time these are affiliate links, and when you make a purchase, webmasters make money.
FAQ about affiliate marketing:
At this point you should have a basic understanding of what affiliate marketing is and how it works. If you have any questions regarding any of this, you can always ask it in the comments section below.
Now, let me answer some of the common questions asked by webmasters and marketers where affiliate marketing is concerned:
Is affiliate marketing harmful or illegal?
No, it is neither harmful nor illegal, as you will simply be using the particular link provided to you rather than a direct link to link to any site.
Affiliate marketing and Adsense: Can we use both?
Yes, you can because affiliate marketing does not violate any Adsense TOS. In fact, for me affiliate marketing works better than Adsense, and that is one reason you see fewer AdSense ads here at ShoutMeLoud.
How do I find an affiliate link for any product?
Not all companies offer an affiliate program, of course, but for those that do offer affiliate programs, you can check their website for related information. When searching, be sure to check the company’s FAQ page if they have one.
Another way find this information to do a simple Google search. For example, one could place the following phrase into the Google search engine: “product name + affiliate program“. Replace product name with the name of the product you are promoting, and this should bring you to the landing page. Many companies use an affiliate marketplace like ShareASale, CJ, or Clickbank. These are free to use and allow you to create a free account.
How to find new products to promote?
Affiliate marketplaces such as those mentioned above are the best places to start your affiliate marketing research. You can browse your niche and see the top performing affiliate programs. Alternatively, many niche-based forums are great places to find new products to promote. For example, I often use Warriorforum to find products related to IM and blogging niches.
Is it important to have a blog for affiliate promotion?
Not necessarily, however a blog is really the best promotional tool. With that said, you can always use methods such as PPC or advertising to promote a product as well. This is more like hit-and-run affiliate marketing however. The best way to make the most of your affiliate marketing opportunities is to have a blog and use it for hard and soft promotion.
How much does it cost to join an affiliate program?
There is no charge for joining an affiliate program, however your total cost depends on what promotion technique you are using. For example, a blog post doesn’t cost a dime whereas PPC marketing, email marketing or advertising come with various price tags.
What qualifications do I need to become an affiliate marketer?
There is literally no qualification required to become an affiliate marketer, though having good copywriting skills and marketing skills will be an added advantage.
Are there programs available which automatically converts links into affiliate links?
How much money can one make from affiliate marketing?
As I mentioned above, there is no limit to the amount of money you can earn from affiliate programs. It all depends on which program you’re promoting and how much conversion you are making. I started with $47 as my first affiliate income, and now I make almost $4k-5K/month by promoting products which I use day-to-day.
Alright, I now understand what affiliate marketing is all about. How do I get started?
Here at ShoutMeLoud, I and many guest authors have covered some of the best guides to help you to understand in depth about getting started, and some of the pros and cons. Following is a list from our affiliate marketing archive which will help you to get started:
- How to Make Money with the Amazon Affiliate Program
- Free WordPress Affiliate Plugins
- Become a Dreamhost Affiliate to Earn from Hosting
- How to Start with Webhosting Affiliate Programs
- How to Sign up for the Thesis Affiliate Program
- What to Include in an Affiliate Email Newsletter
I hope this beginner’s guide to affiliate marketing will help you to get started. If you have any additional questions, feel free to ask me in the comments section below.
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