There have always been various forms of affiliate marketing, but the Internet has greatly added to the number of affiliate roles that one can play. There are both businesses and full-time jobs devoted to affiliate marketing; it can also be a great side hustle (part-time job – usually done on a more independent basis – that supplements income). Start with this affiliate marketing guide; beginners can quickly find some sort of role to get started.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is the involvement of an otherwise unrelated party to market or advertise something sold by a retailer. The retailer pays the otherwise unrelated person or organization (the affiliate) based on the extent to which the affiliate succeeds in bringing customers to the retailer. This is generally known in marketing as performance-based marketing. In this way, it is similar to a commission. A real perk for the retailer is that there is usually little to no risk: the retailer only has to pay a certain amount for each customer who ends up using the retailer’s services as a result of the affiliate’s promotion. Note that in some instances, the affiliate is called “the publisher,” which is fitting since the affiliate is essentially publishing the desirable nature of the retailer.
E-commerce and search engines have made affiliate marketing a much bigger field with far more opportunities. Many retailers apply SEM (search-engine marketing) by paying the search engine company every time a potential customer clicks on their site – this is an incentive for the search engine to put their sites first. Even SEO (search-engine optimization) is a form of marketing, and, if performed on behalf of a retailer by a third party, a form of affiliate marketing. Some affiliates may perform email marketing campaigns for a retailer. There are also many affiliates who provide content marketing or product reviews. Content marketing is inspiring, informative, or entertaining content that is expected to draw consumers; unlike normal ads, content marketing campaigns benefit the consumer but are still designed to draw them to the intended product or service. Product reviews created by an affiliate could be seen as a specific kind of content ad; they usually inform the reader about a subject of curiosity and help them choose the right product for their needs (all while gently steering them to the intended products).
Affiliate marketing is similar to referral, except that the term referral usually implies expertise, respect, and lack of bias – as when a medical doctor refers a patient to a trusted colleague who is a specialist. Affiliates win when the retailer wins, so there is at least some element of bias. However, as with all marketing, bias that is flagrant, transparent, or overtly ridiculous does not work with most customers. To advertise effectively, an affiliate must provide believable, engaging content that is well-organized and, ideally, has value in and of itself.
Networks need to be mentioned in any affiliate marketing guide; beginners usually do not know anything about this. Networks are entities that display lists of merchants looking for affiliates and lists of possible affiliates so that the two can find one another. The network could be on- or off-line and the retailer-affiliate relationships that occur on the network could be on- or off-line, as well. In today’s time, however, the relationship is almost always at least partially carried out online. Therefore, many networks provide other related services, such as tracking and customer online action reporting, so that the merchant can get an objective measure of the affiliate’s results.
There are a variety of payment approaches a merchant and affiliate can agree to. In some instances, the payment is per exposure to the ad content (cost per impression, known as CPI) or per computer click (cost-per-click, known as CPC). CPC is especially suited for display advertising – the ads that pop up on mobile apps, social media, and websites. In other cases, a merchant pays an affiliate an agreed-upon fraction of the profits that result from the affiliate’s work.
How to Learn More
Even if you are not trained in marketing or website creation, you can immediately get involved in affiliate programs. There are many helpful resources to get you started (or keep you going). In this article you can learn about a great site to look at if you are a total beginner. There are also internet categories: domain registration (getting a desirable web address) and web hosting (helping people have a web presence). The site also has advice articles to give you more information about using social media, blogs, websites, and search engines as platforms for affiliate marketing.
How to Get Started
Use the sites above (or other credible sites you find) to learn how to pick out some companies you would like to advertise for. Consider the ways you could advertise for them (social media, blog, your own website, web ads, etc.) and how much you might make. Look for any sort of guides that are specific to the content you want to create; for example, if you want to create a website that advertises eye-shadow brands, look up instructions/advice/templates for cosmetic websites. Lastly, think about the kind of content that you would want to see; what would pull your attention away from what you were reading and make you click?
Look out for scams – this is arguably one of the most important topics in an affiliate marketing guide. Beginners especially need to realize that there are scammers, but the good news is that there are tell-tale signs. In general, use common sense. First of all, if something seems too good to be true, it might be. Second, if a retailer seems unprofessional or sloppy in any way, consider going elsewhere – if they are not winning, you will not either; furthermore, a bad business is more likely to default or otherwise end up not paying what they owe you.
Third, remember that you are the one providing a service – even if you do not get paid much at the start, the retailer should be the one paying you, not the other way around. Finally, avoid being manipulated into doing more than you bargained for. Gaining skills so that you can better perform your marketing job is great, but you are never obligated to be more than what you agreed to be. Run an internet search on an entity that seems suspect and see if other users report their experiences.
Use Your Skills
Once you get the idea of what affiliate marketing is and what is out there, a great next step is to look at yourself: What skills do you currently have? What skills would you be willing to learn in order to advance yourself as an affiliate marketer? Also, are you particularly interested in a certain niche or cluster of categories.
Perhaps you have worked in retail and have some perspective to bring to the table? Being able to create a blog and/or website is a great way to give yourself a firm standing as an online marketer of any kind. If you have a perspective to share – life hacks, personal stories, technical expertise, or anything else people might relate to and want to read – you can use this as a platform to do some affiliate marketing.
Marketing is not just about getting millions of clicks; there is a subjective and creative component. Perhaps you could parlay your affiliate marketing expertise into a role as a powerful marketing influencer. (Influencer marketing is a relatively new marketing technique in which advertisement is directed at individuals or groups identified as influencers for a certain target population.)
If you already have an online presence in some other way – as a podcaster or YouTube channel – you could integrate a new affiliate marketing role with your original online role. If you think about it, you have probably watched or listened to something where you have been the target customer of this sort of informal online advertising.
More Opportunities Will Likely Arise
Once you are part of the affiliate marketing world, your options should grow exponentially. What seemed overwhelming to you as a beginner should become empowering. This is not an industry that is likely to dwindle. Furthermore, e-commerce is world-wide, and so being an affiliate marketer is a safe job, regardless of how a local or state economy is performing. You could even use affiliate marketing practices to help a local business or non-profit organization thrive. Therefore, this is a great way to avoid poverty and helplessness in a bad economy. You probably already have many of the skills needed to be an affiliate marketer – social media, blogging, writing, and speaking. If you struggle with a skill that you really need to achieve your goal, consider teaming up with a friend who is strong in your area of weakness. You could use affiliate marketing as a way to create or supplement income for your family or to pay for further education.