How to start affiliate marketing in 2023 (7 easy steps)
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How to start affiliate marketing in 2023 (7 easy steps)

Thousands of independent creators, entrepreneurs and online publications use affiliate marketing to generate millions in revenue each month.

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So do respected websites such as the New York Times, Forbes and NerdWallet.

According to Statista, corporate spending on affiliate marketing programs rose to $8.2 billion in the US last year. That's up 76% over the past six years.

But getting a piece of the billion-dollar pie isn't as simple as putting a few affiliate links on your blog.

In fact, most beginners who try affiliate marketing don't see the financial results that countless blogs and videos on the Internet promise them.

Keep reading to avoid common mistakes that hold beginners back, as well as key affiliate marketing tips that will help you succeed sooner.

Here's our guide on how to get started affiliate marketing the right way:

  1. Research your niche
  2. Choose the right platform
  3. Choose profitable affiliate programs
  4. Create optimized affiliate content
  5. Drive traffic to your affiliate site
  6. Build a simple affiliate marketing funnel
  7. Track and increase your partners' sales

But first, some affiliate marketing basics you need to know.

What is affiliate marketing?

Affiliate marketing is a business model in which brands share revenue with publishers and content creators in exchange for leads and sales. It works similar to a salesperson who is paid a commission for successful sales.

The more you sell, the more you earn. Affiliate commissions can range from cents on the dollar to hundreds of dollars per referral. Well-run affiliate marketing can help you earn more than your current job or diversify the revenue of an existing content company.

Here's an overview of how affiliate marketing works:

How affiliate marketing works
  1. You share affiliate link On your website, blog or in a social media post
  2. Customer clicks Your affiliate link
  3. The customer is redirected to the advertiser's website
  4. The customer is tracked as being referred by you via a cake
  5. The customer makes purchase
  6. Affiliate network attributes the purchase to you and issues a commission
  7. Commissions appear on your partner's dashboard
  8. You get paid (!) through an affiliate network

There is no single profile of a successful affiliate marketer. They range from independent entrepreneurs to teams at well-known news outlets and online publications.

And because you are not responsible for the delivery of the product or service, affiliate marketing involves low risk. You don't need a degree in marketing or any special qualifications to be successful in affiliate marketing. With the right resources, almost anyone can generate affiliate revenue.

In today's world, an affiliate's success depends largely on its ability to gain an audience and attract relevant traffic. To do this yourself, you need to create quality content and optimize it for conversions.

And it all starts with understanding and creating affiliate links.

The main way affiliate marketing works is through affiliate links. Affiliate links are trackable links with a unique URL assigned specifically to you. They help advertisers know that you have sent them a specific customer, so they can pay you a commission if that customer makes a purchase.

Here is an example of the structure of a typical affiliate link:

What is an affiliate link

The most important thing to know as a beginner is that in order to earn a commission, the customer makes a conversion requirements Go through your unique affiliate link.

Then there is how you earn commissions. In most cases, there are two main models for earning revenue from affiliate programs:

  • CPA (cost per action): You earn money every time one of your recipients performs an action. Depending on the program, the action could be making a purchase, starting a free trial period or filling out a form with your contact information.
  • CPC (cost per click): You earn money for clicks that the advertiser considers valuable users, even if they don't perform a specific action.

Different affiliate programs offer different payment models, and some may even pay for both leads and conversions. Later in this guide, we will discuss how to choose good affiliate programs.

Now that you're here, here are a few more key affiliate marketing terms you should be familiar with. They will also help you choose affiliate programs with high earning potential:

  • Cookies: Cookies are small files that are stored on a customer's device when they click on an affiliate link. They help companies and affiliate networks remember that you referred a customer to them so they can later award you a commission.
  • Cookie duration: Cookies usually have expiration dates. Affiliate links usually have expiration dates of 15 to 30 days, but can last from as little as 24 hours to a year or more. The duration of the cookie matters to affiliate marketers because customers may return to purchase several days or weeks after a customer first clicks on an affiliate link.
  • Affiliate networks: Brands typically set up their affiliate programs on third-party platforms called affiliate networks. These platforms connect brands and affiliate marketers. There are dozens of affiliate networks, the most popular of which are Impact, Flexoffers, Clickbank, PartnerStack and Rakuten.

Is affiliate marketing worth it?

As an affiliate marketer, your earning potential is unlimited. And how many people can say that?

How much money you make depends on you, your chosen niche and your ability to optimize your content and revenue streams. But that doesn't mean that most affiliate marketers become online millionaires.

According to Salary tableThe average Affiliate Marketer earns between $3,000 and $6,000 per month (or $36,000 to $72,000 per year).

Affiliate Marketer Salary

i 1% top earners generate tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of dollars a month. They are usually full-time associate marketers with dedicated teams and several years of experience.

But you don't have to operate at full capacity to create a sustainable business. The best part of affiliate marketing is that it can supplement your income from 9-5 from day one.

And with enough patience and dedication - replace it completely.

7 steps to start affiliate marketing

The biggest secret of affiliate marketing is that your earning potential largely depends on your chosen niche. This means what type of audience you want to serve and what types of products your audience needs to buy. So you need to know what to look for in a niche before starting an affiliate marketing business.

Here are the steps you need to follow from the very beginning:

Step 1 Choose a niche based on research

The rush to catch the latest fads can lead to trouble when those trends end faster than they appear (fidget spinners, anyone?).

Conducting niche research is the best thing you can do to make sure your affiliate business has high earning potential and will be making money for many years to come.

In the process, you will analyze the competitive landscape, learn about the affiliate programs available in your niche and be able to create a sustainable affiliate marketing strategy and content plan.

Here is an overview of the niche research process:

Niche research

If you're looking for niche ideas, there are many free niche research tools to help you get started. Quickly, here are three popular niche research tools:

  • Google trends - popular topics and searches sorted by geography
  • Answer Socrates - find out what questions people type into Google
  • Exploding topics - Google Trends alternative with selected results

That said, if you are starting affiliate marketing with no money or a small budget, I recommend the following by choosing a topic you are passionate about. This way you won't get bored or hate your niche when you write more than 50 articles on the subject.

But a subject you like is not enough - it has to be able to make money.

Again, tools like Google Trends are good for checking the niches you've discovered and making sure they're not just passing trends. Most likely, you'll want to choose an evergreen niche that generates revenue all year, every year.

Finally, it is also important to understand the competition in order to find your entry point into the market.

You may want to start a blog about web hosting (one of the most lucrative affiliate niches), but the amount of capital and content needed to compete may be out of reach for beginners.

Look for niches with medium competition, where there are some established players, but you can better serve a smaller audience, stand out and expand later.

For example, instead of "web hosting" for everyone, you can start with a "salon site builder" and focus on teaching beauty professionals. By starting a niche, you can build a tight-knit community around your brand and even gain a ranking advantage on Google.

Further reading: Niche research: 5 steps to finding profitable affiliate niches

Step 2 Choose the right platform

With a niche in mind, it's time to decide where to host affiliate content and what kind of content you want to create.

There are two main options for early partners: a website or a YouTube channel.

YouTube can be a great place to grow your audience, build your brand and promote your affiliates' products to an audience that trusts your recommendations.

But there are some drawbacks to begin with only YouTube channel:

  1. Creating video takes more time than creating written content. Which limits the amount of content you can create when starting a project.
  2. Movies are more difficult to outsource. Especially if you are the face of the channel, this means you have to be involved in every video.
  3. It's harder to grow an email list. YouTube does not have a built-in way to collect email subscribers. However, email is one of the most effective channels for affiliate marketing.
  4. YouTube channels tend to earn less associate money. Affiliate link clicks from a video are simply more difficult than from a well-optimized blog post.

Ultimately, it's great to have both a website and YouTube. Embedding videos on your affiliate site is also a great way to increase conversions. But if you're a complete beginner, you'll probably find it easier to start affiliate marketing with a blog.

WHEN IS YOUTUBE A BETTER CHOICE?

YouTube is probably a better choice if you are entering a very competitive niche. For example, if you want to promote credit cards or teach your email marketing audience. Because video is a more complex medium to master, it also means less competition and you can rely more on your personality to build trust and stand out.

Step 3 Choose profitable affiliate programs

Signing up for affiliate programs is easy. But spreading yourself too thin is one of the most common mistakes beginners make in affiliate marketing.

You want to start with a finite number of affiliate programs with good commissions, solid conversions and reliable demand.

Here are three key ways to choose a good affiliate program:

Choose a good affiliate program

First, assess your earning potential

Affiliate programs vary widely in terms of payment scale. Some programs offer several cents per conversion. Others pay hundreds of dollars for a single lead.

Programs with lower payouts are often easier to join and promote, which makes them attractive, but require more sales for the same amount of revenue.

Here are three main ways to make your partner's math "work."

  1. High turnover, low commissions. This includes most Amazon affiliate sites. To earn $5,000 per month from 5% commissions, you must generate $100,000 in revenue for Amazon. If the average customer spends $100, that gives you 1,000 orders to reach earnings of $5,000. To do well here, you usually need a lot of traffic (that is, a lot of content).
  2. Low volume, high commissions. For example, luxury affiliate programs (expensive watches or luxury fashion) and photography affiliate programs (expensive photography equipment). Both are more niche, but require fewer conversions to reach the revenue goal.
  3. High volume, high commissions (...and lots of competition). Dobrymi przykładami Good examples are financial affiliate programs (such as credit cards and bank accounts) or SaaS affiliate programs (such as web hosting and email marketing tools). These programs are so profitable that you may find it difficult to compete.

By the way, check the duration of affiliate cookies. Longer cookie duration (more than 30 days) gives you time to persuade your audience to make a purchase decision.

Shorter cookie durations can still be effective for those customers who have already made a purchase decision. If you choose to work with programs with shorter cookie durations, make sure your content is targeted at people later in the purchase path.

I'll explain in a moment how the buyer's journey fits into affiliate marketing.

Second, evaluate the competition

Some competition can be a good sign. If other people are doing well in a niche, there's a good chance you can too. The easiest way to find competitors is to simply search Google for the types of search terms you want your site to show up for.

Then check which affiliate programs your competitors are most likely to promote on these sites. Find out what terms they offer and how to join the program.

This is one of the most effective ways to verify affiliate programs, as long as your competitors are further along than you are.

ATTENTION TO LACK OF COMPETITION

The lack of competition may sound like a good thing, but it usually means that the niche is not profitable. Or worse, they've already tried, failed and moved on. But if there are clearly other people making money in the niche, it's a signal that you can too.

Third, assess brand compatibility and reputation

You are building your own brand and image while promoting the products and services of other companies. Be selective in choosing who you represent. Working with companies that do not align with your brand leads to a lack of trust from your audience and harms your brand in the long run.

You also want to see if the brand you are promoting is likely to convert. This means reviewing their sales pages, mobile-friendly design and other online reviews. Consider what you would consider when buying a product as a consumer.

Now that you've chosen some affiliate programs in your well-researched niche, it's time to create content.

Step 4 Create optimized affiliate content

None of the previous steps matter if you don't have quality content that converts.

Creating content for affiliate marketing is more than just adding links to an existing blog post. You need to help your audience make a decision about your product or service, right on your website, through strong copywriting and attractive design.

Some examples of affiliate marketing content with high conversion rates include:

Examples of related content
  • Product Reviews: Nearly 97% consumers look at online reviews before making a purchase decision, so product reviews are a staple among affiliate marketers.
  • Product reviews: Reviews based on a specific topic or category direct different readers to relevant products and diversify your revenue away from a single link.
  • Product comparisons They are similar to product reviews, but place similar products side by side to highlight advantages and disadvantages. Product comparisons are extremely helpful in orienting audiences.
  • Resource Pages: Resource pages are compilations of your favorite tools and resources. Resource pages that focus on solving your audience's problems will not be the highest converting pages, but they will help present you to your audience as an expert and gather all your affiliate links in one place.
  • Tutorials: tutorials are an opportunity to show exactly how a product works in an easy step-by-step process. Customers are likely to trust and buy the product when they see exactly how it will work for them.
  • E-books: Topics don't always fit into a nice blog post or email. This is where e-books come in. They provide an opportunity to delve deeply into a topic. As a bonus, you can use an ebook as a lead magnet to build your email list.

Affiliate content also has other names, such as commercial content. But no matter what you call it, don't forget to include an affiliate disclosure that tells your audience that you may receive a commission if they buy from your links.

Once the content format has been chosen, it's time to optimize the page for conversions.

Conversion 101 for new affiliates

Here are some of the most important ways you can do it without a lot of complicated plug-ins.

Button placement: Good button placement and design is especially important to encourage people to respond to your call to action, whether it's to sign up, subscribe, or get more information. Button placement should be noticeable and calls to action should spark interest, such as "Read more reviews," "Check price" and "See more photos."

Here is an example of a product review with a prominent button above the browser tab:

Example of a partner landing page
Early buttons in the content make it easy for people who are convinced to scroll up and go to the affiliate offer.

explanations: Also called text fields, they visually separate important information from the rest of the blog. You can use them to create compelling offers or statistics that influence a visitor's decision on the purchase path.

Here is an example from the Elementor review by Themeisle:

An example of social proof

Positive reviews and the number of installations provide social proof that this product works great.

Charts, graphs and comparison tables: Just as high-quality written content is essential, visual summaries of information are equally important. Give users a quick overview of key details by including charts and graphs.

Here's an example from a site comparing smart watches for kids:

Example of a partner landing page

Images: People often make purchasing decisions based on emotions. Images that reinforce a particular feeling in your content encourage readers to convert. It's even better if you can include images of the results the product helped you achieve.

For example, in this makeup review, the author shows how she tries each product:

Example of a partner landing page
Photos of the product in use or the results of the products help illustrate the benefits.

Banners: Banners can be eye-catching and stand out, but they are also easily ignored due to "banner blindness," and people tend to ignore banners altogether. You can include them, but make sure you have plenty of tasteful text links and buttons - they will be the main drivers of conversions.

Pop-ups: While pop-ups are controversial because they can be annoying, they are also very effective at converting readers. Each pop-up is an opportunity to win back your audience through strategies such as discount codes and limited-time offers.

Step 5 Attract traffic to your affiliate site

Now is the time to attract traffic to your carefully curated listings. This can be done through social media platforms, SEO blog posts and email lists.

The key is to reach out to people who want to buy, or capture their email address, to educate and inform readers before encouraging them to buy.

Here are some of the best free traffic sources for affiliate marketing:

Free traffic sources for affiliate marketing

Social media sites, such as Twitter, TikTok, Instagram, Pinterest and Reddit, are great free traffic sources for affiliate marketing, but require some time and effort to make them work.

But the most successful affiliates are also investing in growing traffic through SEO.

By targeting ads to keywords related to the buyer's intent, you can reach users who head to Google just before they make a purchase. Using this technique, it's much easier to get clicks on affiliate links and earn commissions than trying to sell to people who aren't ready to buy.

Another free traffic source that we can't recommend enough is affiliate marketing via email.

The direct nature of email means that customized messages are delivered directly to the inbox of potential customers. This helps them learn more about the product and prompts them to make a purchase decision.

Email is ideal for regular product reviews, sharing time-critical offers and reinforcing top recommendations to recipients.

Step 6 Build a simple affiliate marketing funnel

The affiliate marketing funnel is a carefully planned process that takes users from the beginning of their buying journey to the point where they become regular customers.

Pathways are crucial if you want to attract an audience that is not ready to buy (such as most visitors from Pinterest or other "inspiration" based channels), and convince them of your brand and offerings.

Using the funnel, the reader sticks with you Through all stages of the buyer's journey. Even if they joined you for a few weeks or months before they were ready to make a purchase.

Here's how you can visualize the buyer's journey:

Buyer's journey

The buyer's journey consists of four main stages:

  • Awareness: Prospect notices and identifies his problem
  • Thought: Potential customer considers possible solutions to his problem
  • Conversion: Prospect makes a buying decision and thus becomes a customer
  • Loyalty: Positive customer experience leads to trust and repeat purchases

Here's how to practically implement a simple funnel to convert cold traffic into customers.

FUNNEL OR NO FUNNEL?

It is possible to drive customers directly to an affiliate site via individual pieces of content, especially for low-cost offers that have simple value propositions. Funnels are a particularly appropriate strategy for high-ticket affiliate programs that require a longer education period before customers are ready to buy.

Step 1 Collect leads through affiliate email marketing

Once a user hits your site, it's time to convert him or her to an email list using free offer choices. This could be a downloadable PDF guide, an email course, a resource library or other closed content.

Getting started with email may seem intimidating, but it's an early investment you won't regret.

Read our related post on affiliate marketing via emails to learn how to get started step by step.

Further reading: Email affiliate marketing: how to use emails to increase affiliate revenue

Step 2 Send leads to affiliate landing pages

Once a prospect is on your email list, you have better control over their buyer's journey to guide them as needed and fill in the gaps. This is your opportunity to provide information about where they are.

Emails about yourself, the results you've helped achieve with your product, reviews from other buyers, tutorials and guides can help a potential customer gain enough confidence to make a purchase.

Once they're ready, you can link to your partner's landing page. This is another space where you can connect with your audience, encourage them to move to the buying stage and help build trust before a potential customer lands on the advertiser's sales page.

Step 3 - Optimize the funnel

What makes marketing funnels extremely helpful is that they show you where to adjust and improve your processes. With a funnel, you can pinpoint the exact stage at which someone is abandoning their journey.

Once you know this, adjust it to provide an improved process for the next person through the funnel.

Step 4 Increase sales by regularly emailing your list

Customers who have passed through the funnel still have good prospects for other offers.

Your email list now gives you the opportunity to provide additional email content to guide them through the new buyer's journey and lead them down the path to another product.

Further reading: How to build a high-converting affiliate marketing funnel in 5 steps

Step 7 Track and grow affiliate revenue

Finally, it's time to talk about tracking.

Proper tracking is one of them highlights effective affiliate marketing.

It's the difference between rummaging aimlessly in the dark looking for your keys or taking a step back and turning on the light.

Providing insight into what works and what doesn't in your affiliate marketing strategy helps you make more money, faster and with less content.

And there's no better time than the very beginning of your affiliate site to set up a system that will scale with you. Here are two main ways to improve your affiliate strategy with tracking:

First, get basic partner tracking

There are two types of partner tracking:

  1. Network tracking is for you (attributing sales and telling you which products people have bought through your links)
  2. Tracking you must do for yourself (determining which pages, affiliate links, text and visual elements convert).

To handle the second case, you can use SubID tracking. SubID is the additional data you attach to your affiliate link, which is ultimately recorded alongside each conversion resulting from that particular link.

Typically, SubID is a query parameter that you can add to your existing affiliate links. Here's how SubIDs fit into your affiliate links:

How subordinate identifiers work

If you're familiar with Google Analytics, SubIDs work similarly to utm_campaign parameter.

For more information on SubID, read our guide to tracking SubID for affiliates. It's a bit technical, but you'll be thankful you set it up right from the start.

You can also choose not to do it manually and use an affiliate marketing tool like Affilimate to fully automate the process.

Then start running tests

Now that you have tracking, the first step is to select the blog post on which you want to run tests. Pay attention to posts with high traffic, posts with new traffic, posts with high intent but low RPM (revenue per thousand visitors).

Once you have selected a blog post, conduct tests to evaluate its effectiveness and opportunities for improvement. Here are some ideas for tests you can run on your partner content:

  • Adding comparison tables
  • Toggle text on call-to-action buttons
  • Inserting links to alternative affiliate products
  • Clean up by removing links that don't bring any conversions
  • Testing different link texts

You can see which techniques are converting by using unique SubIDs. You want to evaluate not only whether new items are generating more clicks and revenue, but also how much a piece of content is generating relative to the number of viewers.

Again, you can use a tool like ours to automate this process without resorting to piecing together data from multiple sources in complex spreadsheets:

Automate SubID tracking

Running successful tests is also one of the most effective ways to invest in websites and flip them once you get the hang of it.

Master these two strategies right from the start, and you'll be several steps ahead of most affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing mistakes to avoid

Once you know the general overview of affiliate marketing, make sure you don't miss the details.

There are several small, seemingly insignificant decisions that make or break your success. Here are some of the most common affiliate marketing mistakes to avoid:

  • Your introduction is too long. Whether you write content or produce videos, you have a few seconds to grab your audience's attention. Try to keep introductions short and to the point, and make sure you clearly let them know what they will gain if they stay with you.
  • Targeting the wrong part of the buying cycle. If your audience doesn't understand the offer, they won't convert, no matter how hard you try to sell. Your content should fit where your audience is in the buying cycle, providing education where it is needed.
  • Without a clear top recommendation. Product reviews and comparisons are content that convert a lot, but consumers are looking for a clear recommendation. Make it easy for them to make a decision by letting them know their preferences.
  • Not suggesting or linking to alternative affiliate products. Consumers are increasingly skeptical. Emphasizing a product as a cure-all will raise red flags. Instead, make honest assessments and appreciate the benefits of alternatives. It's even better if you can generate revenue through affiliate links to competing products.
  • No tracking of affiliates' indicators. The most successful marketers treat their marketing as a business. Tracking allows them to optimize revenue based on data-driven insights rather than instinct or guesswork.

Avoid these mistakes and you'll get better results than 90% new affiliate marketers who lose readers before the first click.

What you need to know about affiliate marketing in 2023

Consumer behavior has changed dramatically over the past year. Affiliate marketing must keep up with new technical and legal requirements to remain relevant, accurate and privacy compliant.

The beginning is the hardest step, but don't let your efforts go to waste. Keep these affiliate marketing trends in mind to build a sustainable business model and secure your revenue for the future.

1. brands want partners, not just affiliates

Affiliate marketing hasn't always had the best reputation, but after a refresh, the win-win business model is still full of promise for brands and publishers alike.

This change comes in the form of a rebranding from affiliate marketing to "affiliate marketing."

Brands and companies are moving toward qualitative partnerships instead of quantitative relationships. Previously, companies were promoted by thousands of influencers and content creators. Today, more selectivity is being used to choose the right people to represent and promote them.

Creators who have an authentic connection with their audience will be favored by brands to promote their image in a meaningful way. Brands are looking for creators who will leverage their audience's trust to represent them in an authentic and honest way.

You can show this to brands through engagement metrics, such as an email list with solid click-through rates or a social media account with an active comments section. This also gives you an advantage in negotiating higher commissions.

2. diversification is more important than ever

Success in the affiliate space is rarely tied to a single source of income. A solid income as an affiliate means diversifying your streams and being part of different programs. If you stick to just one program, rate cuts and program adjustments are a huge blow to your expected earnings.

This is exactly what happened to Amazon affiliates both in the early stages of the pandemic and again in early 2021.

Amazon affiliate rate cuts

Programs that rarely work with their affiliates on a one-to-one basis also offer very little recourse for affiliates when something goes wrong. While programs like Amazon can be convenient and lucrative, putting alternatives in place protects you from a dramatic loss of income, and also increases your current earning potential.

3. multichannel is your moat

The multi-channel approach supersedes any results that can be achieved with a single platform.

Combining both "owned" platforms, such as your website, blog and email lists, with "borrowed" platforms, such as Instagram, YouTube and Pinterest, provides you with the best of both worlds.

Social media is a key part of increasing reach and attracting new audiences. YouTube alone is the second most popular search engine in the world. Content that is successful on social media platforms drives targeted audiences to your "own" online space, namely your website.

Reaching your target audience and engaging with them directly as an affiliate marketer requires a multi-channel approach to achieve the desired result of increasing revenue and creating repeat buyers. Rented platforms are a great way to acquire audiences, but driving traffic to owned media is essential if your business is to be future-proof on social media platforms.

Ready for action?

Diversification and a multi-channel approach play a big role in future-proofing your affiliate marketing business.

This means that the most successful partners are juggling multiple logins and platforms to get the most out of their business.

Instead of logging into a million difficult-to-use dashboards, you can use Affilimate to access one central location for all information related to your affiliate programs.

Affiliate network integrations

The Affilimate dashboard also provides quick insights into the effectiveness of affiliate marketing content. Track your revenue, identify the most effective content, and get optimization insights in one place.

Partner panel

Check out Affilimate's free 15-day trial to gather all your affiliate networks in one dashboard and attribute conversions back to your site's content.

Or sign up for our email list below to receive free content to help you improve your site and increase affiliate revenue from the ground up.

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