How to Earn Money at Home For Free - The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Affiliate Marketing
Author: Brian Duffy
How to Earn Money with Affiliate Marketing
It may surprise you to learn that you don't need a business, or even a business idea, to earn money online. You can earn extra money online simply by recommending other peoples products and services - it's called affiliate marketing.
So What is Affiliate Marketing?
With Affiliate Marketing you earn an agreed commission each and every time you direct a new customer to another businesses website. Affiliate marketing can give you instant access to third party marketers who will help promote your products through advertising, email, and online links in exchange for a commission.
Affiliate marketing is a marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate's own marketing efforts. ~ Wikipedia
Affiliate marketing is particularly suited to the Internet because consumers can move from one website to another instantly (i.e. instant referrals with no distractions in between) and everything can be tracked and accounted for automatically (i.e. no worrying about dishonest affiliate managers who might deny a new customer was referred by you). Last year, according to InternetRetailing.net, the affiliate marketing sector in the UK alone, generated sales of roughly £5bn. Would you like to learn how to earn money with Affiliate Marketing? The rest of this article will step you through all the things you will need to get started.
The 3 Key Players in Affiliate Marketing
In order for affiliate marketing to work, 3 people are required
- The Merchant- A business that sells a product or service on the Internet that, also runs an affiliate program
- The Customer - a person (the end customer) who ultimately buys 'the Merchants' product or service
- The Affiliate - a person (you) who actively promotes the merchants product(s) and first engages with the customer (often on a website or by email) before referring the customer to the merchant
*please take note of the above terminology as it used throughout the remainder of this article
Affiliate Marketing Basics
The theory behind how the Affiliate Marketing process works is very straightforward. The merchant installs special software on their website that allows affiliates to create an affiliate account. This software then automatically issues the new affiliate with a special affiliate link. The affiliate then creates a webpage or writes an email that promotes the merchants products. This webpage (or email) directs viewers to the merchant website via the affiliate link. The affiliate software running on the merchants website tracks visitors that arrive via these affiliate links. If any of the visitors that arrive on the merchants site via an affiliate link buy a product (i.e. convert) then the affiliate software automatically updates the affiliates account with an agreed commission. The affiliate software can be (and often is) setup to pay out commissions automatically via PayPal.
How You Can Get Started as an Affiliate Marketer
Before you can start to earn money with affiliate marketing, you need to understand the basic steps involved.
Step 1. Identify a Product with an Affiliate Program - Find a business that sells a product or service that you are happy to recommend to people - that also has an affiliate program.
Step 2. Sign Up to the Affiliate Program and Get Your Special "Identifier" Link Signing up to an affiliate program is usually fully online and takes only seconds. Generally; you enter a username, an email address, a password and select how you would like to get paid. That's it. Once signed up you are provided with your special link.
A link, for your information, is the blue underlined text you see on webpages that provides a method of moving between one website page and another. An affiliate link is special because it is unique. This special link allows the "merchant" (using special software) to automatically track "customers" sent from the "affiliate".
Step 3. You post the link on your website (or in an email) and get people to click on it Once someone clicks on your link they are taken to the "merchants" website. If they choose to Buy once they get there then you get paid an agreed commission. If they don't buy then you get nothing. If they don't buy right away, but come back and buy 3 (or 6) months later then you may get paid - it depends on the affiliate program and the terms and conditions you agreed to when you sign up. How you go about getting the visitors in the first place is explained in greater detail below and in even greater detail throughout our online marketing course.
Step 4. Manage Your Payments Most affiliate programs pay out automatically to your PayPal account. Certain, bigger businesses prefer to send out a cheque (a.k.a "a check" for our American readers). The below diagram sums up this process nicely.
Affiliate Marketing Strategies that Work
All affiliate marketing campaigns begin with selecting an affiliate program that a) you believe has a market and b) offers a reasonably generous commission. How to do this generally involves:
- keeping your eyes open for opportunities as you surf the web,
- Searching for programs using Google or Affiliate Program Directories
- Signing up to big Affiliate Management websites such as Commission Junction or Click Bank.
Once you have found an affiliate program you "like the look of" there are three main Affiliate Marketing Strategies that work. We will explain each, starting with the one that is the most time consuming - but has the greatest earning and growth potential.
Strategy 1. Create a large blog or website around a central topic Affiliate marketing is the "reason to be" for many blogs and websites you see on a daily basis. For many other websites, it is a major source of supplementary or secondary income. Many bloggers you will notice, who are considered experts by their readers, often recommend products and services in the articles they write. These articles of course contain affiliate links.
If you read back through the articles written on the ebusinessmatters.com blog, you will also notice book recommendations that contain affiliate links to other businesses (merchants) like Amazon.
The secret to affiliate marketing success with one large website is to find a niche where your opinions are relevant and will help you to connect with other like-minded people. The below points explain the things you need to do in order to succeed in Affiliate Marketing with Strategy 1 (and also link to lessons that explain each)
- Develop a professional quality website (using WordPress which is free and easy)
- Get a first class web design (you can buy a WordPress theme for less than $50)and hire a graphic designer on elance to update the images for less than $100
- Write interesting articles that people enjoy so you can develop a loyal following over time
- Optimize your website and articles so that they get found on search engines
- Promote your site for free using a variety of technologies and online resources
- Encourage visitors to buy products or services that are related to the central topic of the website.
- Finally, analyse your sites stats on a regular basis to make sure you are getting the most from your marketing efforts and to make web design improvements that will lead to more visitors and more affiliate revenue.
Doing these things yourself is not difficult, or expensive. Learn how at the ebusinessmatters.com online marketing course.
Things to Consider About Strategy One Creating and maintaining a blog on a subject that you are passionate about is an excellent way to get started with affiliate marketing. A blog like this will grow over time and the overall success of the site is not based on the strength of a single campaign (as you will see in strategy 2). As well as affiliate revenue, this type of website also gives you other opportunities to earn money. Often other businesses who target a similar niche will recognise your influence in their market and approach you with lucrative proposals to help promote their businesses. Many businesses will be preared to lease advertising space or offer you free stuff in return for a review or exposure on your blog. This type of website should be undertaken as a long term project and you can expect there to be a steady stream of user comments and emails that will need to be serviced on a fairly regular basis. The key benefit however is that this type of website will grow and evolve over time. This means that the success of your site is not all or nothing and you can expect revenue to rise continually. Ideas for this type of site might include
- a travel blog where you rate and review places you stay and eat
- a fashion or style blog - especially if you are into something off-beat or slightly different
- a hobby or passtime you are passionate about - where you use the site to reach out to others who share your passion
Strategy 2. Create Small, Super-Optimized Websites, Quickly and Often Another common strategy with affiliate marketers is to identify a "search phrase" that they believe they can create a website to rank highly for. This new, super-optimized website should then deliver a steady flow of traffic to the merchant website.
What is a Search Phrase? Users search the web by entering keywords (a.k.a "search phrases") into Search Engines that they feel will give them the best chance of finding what they are looking for. For example: if I was searching for a plumber in Dublin city I would run a search on Google.ie for something like "plumber dublin". "plumber dublin" is therefore a search phrase made up of the keywords 'plumber' and 'dublin'
These types of website effectively cost nothing to develop or maintain - and (once you know what you are doing) can be put together in a few hours. The lines separating failure and success in this form of affiliate marketing are more clearly defined. In order to succeed you must:
- Understand search engine marketing - and how to identify search phrases that are popular with web users
- Evaluate the level of competition for specific search phrases and accurately judge your chances for ranking highly for that search phrase
- Develop a website that is designed to quickly and effectively refer visitors on to the merchant website
- Successfully Implement Search Engine Optimization on your site so that it ranks highly for your chosen search phrase(s)
Things to Consider About Strategy Two The turn-around time for 'Strategy Two' is considerably shorter than the other two affiliate marketing strategies. In other words, the "time investment" on your part is minimal. If you want to learn the art of search engine marketing quickly then 'Strategy two' is for you. Once you have chosen an affiliate program and done your online market research - then developing the site from scratch will only really take a few hours work. If you have done your homework correctly then you will have
- Done your search engine marketing research and identified "hot" keywords
- Done your competition research and confirmed that you can rank in the first page of search results for your desired keyword
- Optimized your website correctly for the search engines
- and Designed a simple website effectively so that it encourages people to click on your affiliate link
Once you have done all that you should be able to sit back and watch the money roll in (or go hunting down your next affiliate program and start over). The great thing about strategy two is that there is no customer service and no upkeep of the websites. You simply "set it and forget it". As you build a backlog of these small, super-optimized affiliate sites - your affiliate revenue will grow and grow.
Strategy 3. Encourage People to Sign Up to an Automated Mailing List and Email them New Affiliate Offers over time The "mailing list" affiliate model is very popular because all you're hard work in getting a visitor is not lost once they click on the link and go to the merchants website. With the mailing list model you generally persuade people to give you their name and email address - often in return for a free gift of some sort. Many affiliate marketers who employ this tactic use what's called a 'squeeze page' that corrals visitors towards a sign up form - as seen in the image below.
Their email address is then added to a mailing list which is managed by mailing list software. Mailing list software allows you to drip-feed personalized emails at pre-set intervals to your subscribers - and email large volumes of people without worrying about your emails ending up in junk mail folders. Making this work involves following the same rules as in strategy 2 - only now you must also learn how to use mailing list software.
Things to Consider About Strategy Three With Strategy Three you get to decide whether or not you want your website to be Large and Personal (like a site from "Strategy 1") or small and super-optimized (like a site from "Strategy 2") Either way, the ultimate objective is to get peoples email address. For this to happen you normally need to give away something, of value, for free. Generally these free gifts take the form of e-books or access to video lessons of some description. This tends to work well if you are already established as an expert in some particular niche - but for ordinary people this is problematic. Many affiliate marketers will swear adamantly that the "mailing list" model is the best - but I imagine that many make more money from training other 'would-be' affiliate marketers than they do from affiliate marketing itself. Why else would they do it? The big problem is that many of these "mailing list affiliate marketers" go in for a very "hard sell" in order to get people to sign up. To me, this is often ugly and off-putting. I have signed up for a few to see what would happen and in every case all I ever got was an inbox cluttered with rubbish. However, it must be said that you do benefit from having an email address to which you get to send repeat affiliate links. If sales is a numbers game (and at one level I suppose it is) then the bigger your list the more money you stand to make.
Reasons to Start Earning Money with Affiliate Marketing
Affiliate Marketing is a great way to make extra money online for a number of reasons.
- Affiliate Commissions are generous (more generous than you think) - For example, with affiliate programs that sell services (like web hosting), your commission is as much as the cost of the merchants service for the first year. Most affiliate marketers don't bother promoting products or services that pay out less than USD$50.
- As a website owner you are not restricted to any one locality. You can promote products or businesses located anywhere in the world.
- You don't need any capital whatsoever to get started - Although it is generally recommended that you pay a little extra for premium web hosting - you could in fact setup a website for free, register a free domain, and start your affiliate business without spending a single cent. How to do this is explained in the lesson "Setting up your Online Business". What web hosting is and how it works is also explained in that article.
- You often here affiliate marketers say "set it and forget it". This means that once you created your affiliate site (i.e. "set it") there is no need to do any more work; no maintenance, no customer service, nothing. Set it, forget it and it will continue to bring in revenue - even while you sleep.
If you have been wondering how you can make extra money online then affiliate marketing is the answer you have been looking for. Affiliate Marketing is without question the best way of making extra money online for free.
Advice for Anyone Interested in Affiliate Marketing
1. Don't waste your money on promises of Instant Success There are a lot of affiliate marketers out who claim to be earning $35,000 a month from affiliate marketing, and for a small monthly payment they will share with you their secrets. If you were earning that sort of money, would you be sharing your secrets? Forget about it.
2. Learn Your Trade, and Be Patient Gaining the skills required to earn any real money from affiliate marketing takes time (measured in months, not years) - and no matter how you go about learning it - you can expect failures along the way. Learning the tools, techniques and salesmanship that this business requires is enjoyable and yes, it can make you a wealthier person - but it take a little bit of time. Be patient. The subtle improvements that make the difference between small and large returns on your affiliate marketing campaigns can only be brought about by experience. The core knowledge and skills required to run a successful Affiliate Marketing campaign are always the same - regardless of which of the above 3 affiliate marketing strategies you employ. Core skills required to earn money in Affiliate Marketing are:
- You will need to be able to take care of the technical aspects of running an online business - such as setting up domains, hosting accounts, content management systems, etc. That's easy!
- You will need to understand the elements that make up a well designed website that pleases visitors and funnels them towards completing a specific goal. You can learn the theory, but true understanding comes with time.
- You will need to get a web design that "sells effectively" at a reasonable price - this is also easy
- You will need to understand how to assess the level of demand and supply in a potential market - and be able to accurately gauge your chances of success. This is straightforward, and you will get better at it quickly
- You will need to understand Search Engine Optimization along with the various other techniques of attracting visitors to a website. You can start strong with this, but experience always helps.
3. Do it for the Challenge, Not Just the Money - and Stick with it If affiliate marketing was easy-money then everyone would be doing it. In reality, the average "per hour" wage for affiliate marketers in their first year generally works out to be a lot less than the pay at McDonald's. Competing for visitors and sales online is no joke. The web has matured and people simply don't fluke it anymore. If you are in it for the short-term, easy money then you would probably be better off collecting golf balls at the driving range or selling your clothes on ebay. Those that take on affiliate marketing as a hobby (or a personal project) generally have the resolve to continue to battle through the hard-times at the beginning. Those that stick with it, and keep trying, end up with a steady, passive and very cushy online income as their reward. Anyone who has gained the knowledge required to succeed in affiliate marketing will also be much more employable - having greatly expanded their skill-set in an area that is important to every business - Internet Marketing.
Are You Ready to Start Earning Money With Affiliate Marketing?
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