Affiliate marketing is booming, with predictions that by 2021 the industry will be worth $6.8 billion.
More and more brands are using affiliate programs to market their products, leading to greater and more varied opportunities for affiliates. The potential for affiliates to make a good income is growing, but like all business models, the basics need to be understood before diving in feet first.
However, now is a great time for new affiliates to get started and, with some guidance coupled with hard work and dedication, it can be a rewarding and exciting career. Read our guide to find out how you can start a successful affiliate business and take your share of the billions of dollars it generates.
What is affiliate marketing?
Affiliate marketing is a method of earning money by recommending and promoting somebody else’s products or service. For every sale that is made directly from your promotions, you will receive a commission payment. How much you earn depends on the commission levels set by the advertiser and how many products you sell.
The process of affiliate marketing is straightforward:
- Potential customer lands on the website of the publisher (the affiliate)
- Customer clicks an affiliate link that takes them to a landing page detailing the advertiser’s product
- Customer buys product
- The publisher earns a percentage of the sale as a commission
The affiliate link the customer clicks on has a unique code recognized as belonging to the publisher. The advertiser (the merchant whose product is being promoted by the publisher) tracks the code and pays out accordingly.
Affiliate marketing starts with the advertiser and ends with the customer. The publisher acts as the middleman, selling the advertiser’s product or service to the customer.
Terminology used in affiliate marketing
Although there are only four parties involved in affiliate marketing each goes by several different names, which can be confusing. To clarify, here are some of the names you may come across:
- Advertiser: The person or company who owns the product. Other names include merchant, owner, seller, brand, retailer, creator, vendor.
- Publisher: The person or company who promotes and sells the advertiser’s product. Other names include affiliate, marketer and affiliate marketer. This can be an individual who promotes through a website/blog, email, social media or YouTube, or it could be a large company who runs several different websites or businesses.
- Affiliate network: A company that acts as the middle man between advertisers and publishers, providing a platform for publishers to sign up to affiliate programs of their choice. You may also hear them referred to as an affiliate marketplace.
- Customer: The person who ultimately buys the product. Other names include buyer, consumer, shopper or client.
Other terminology you will come across includes:
- Affiliate program: Also known as an associate program or partner referral program. The advertiser sets the program, which the publisher then promotes.
- Affiliate tracking: The unique coding that tells the advertiser who to pay the commission to.
How do I start an affiliate marketing business?
There are basically two ways to start an affiliate marketing business:
- Start from scratch
- Incorporate it into an existing and established business
Start from scratch
If you’re starting from scratch without an existing business in place, you need to complete a few background steps before looking at affiliate programs. You need to decide on a niche you are interested in that has the potential to make money. Then you will need a website or blog populated with content to help build an audience.
When you have built an audience, start researching affiliate programs that fit in your niche and sign up to those your audience will benefit from. Create content around your programs and promote to your followers, making sure to include the affiliate link.
If you already have an existing business, then it is mainly a matter of choosing an affiliate program to promote and publicize to your followers.
A website or blog is not compulsory to run an affiliate marketing business. You can use landing pages and drive traffic to them through email marketing, pay-per-click or other forms of advertising, but a blog will help build a relationship with your followers and make them more eager to purchase from you.
Finding your niche
The importance of choosing your niche (the subject or industry you want to focus on) cannot be underestimated. It’s one of the most important decisions to make, yet can be the most challenging. When deciding, consider these points:
- What do you know about?
- What areas are you passionate about?
- Are other people equally interested?
- Is it evergreen? (i.e., it is not an overnight wonder)
- Are there affiliate programs for this subject?
- Does the niche have a good track record of product/service sales?
- Is it profitable?
To answer these, you will need to do detailed research rather than relying on gut instinct.
A subject you are interested in is always a good place to start as you are more likely to be able to write content week in, week out. However, just because it fascinates you does not mean that others are equally interested.
Demand from customers
Demand from potential buyers is the most important aspect, and you can’t rely on guesswork to gauge this. You should have some ideas about the type of niche you want to develop, but how do you know if there is demand from potential buyers? Running through a few steps can help you discover if it is worth pursuing.
- Check out the search volume. You can do this by using Google keyword search or similar software to get an idea of how many people are searching for your niche.
- Look for products for sale in the niche. If there are lots that is a good sign.
- Search for affiliate programs. If there are many to choose from it not only shows that it is a popular, in-demand niche, but there will also be plenty of products and services to offer for sale. When you join a network, such as Awin, you can also find out additional information about the products regarding sales to date and how many affiliates are selling each product.
- Use the search term “[your niche] + affiliate program. This will show all the results for companies in your niche who offer affiliate programs.
- Check out other websites and blogs in your niche, as well as social media pages. Is there plenty of online activity such as comments, shares, large audience?
- Do a shopping display search to see how many products there are in the Google shopping feed.
Positive results from these searches demonstrate a healthy demand for products in your chosen niche, with many affiliate programs to choose from. All of this indicates you can make money as an affiliate marketer in your preferred niche.
With your niche decided, it is time to become an affiliate marketer.
How do I become an affiliate marketer?
To become an affiliate marketer, you need to sign up to affiliate programs in your niche. Your research should have exposed several that fit your audience and have the potential to make money. After your account has been approved, start marketing and promoting your offers. To be able to call yourself an affiliate marketer you simply need to make at least one sale through an affiliate link that you have promoted. As soon as you have made that first commission you are officially an affiliate marketer.
How much money can you make from affiliate marketing?
All new affiliate marketers want to know how much money they can make pursuing this career. As with all entrepreneurial business, there are no definitive answers as the amount you earn depends on a variety of factors. These include how experienced you are at marketing, the nicheyou are in, how much your products retail for, the level of commission set for each product, how many hours you can spend a week working your affiliate marketing business, how consistent your working methods are, how much your overheads are and how determined you are to make your business a success, etc.
Affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme, but it does have the potential for an excellent full-time income. Turnover can be as high as $5 – 10million, although these type of figures often have a lot of costs involved to achieve them, according to Business.com. However, the average annual income for an affiliate marketer is $62,327.
What makes affiliate marketing so exciting is there is no cap on the potential earnings you can make. So although there are no guarantees, it is possible to make a comfortable living or create an extra income stream.
How to choose the best affiliate network for you
With many affiliate networks to choose from, some new publishers find choosing the right one to work with daunting. At this stage in your affiliate marketing business, it is important to work with an experienced network who not only has a good range of programs, but can support and guide you through the process.
Founded in 2000, ShareASale has established partnerships and connections and we understand the needs of both affiliates and retailers. Over the years we have worked tirelessly to provide a platform that delivers an innovative approach to affiliate marketing, concentrated on a duty of care and security for all of its clients. Many new publishers entering the marketplace choose ShareASale or Awin, as their experience and attention to detail provides the right guidance and support needed to make a success of your business.
This stage of your affiliate marketing career can be challenging and confusing, but with the right understanding of how to progress, and good support systems in place, it should also be exciting and stimulating. Most of all, enjoy the journey. We look forward to being there beside you.