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The affiliate marketing industry is booming. According to a report from the Performance Marketing Association, affiliate marketing delivers a 12:1 return on ad spend. In fact, over 80% of publishers and advertisers use this form of marketing to increase profits and engagement.
This infographic from Hosting Tribunal breaks down more helpful affiliate marketing stats:
Ready to reap the benefits of affiliate marketing for your brand? We’re providing the ultimate beginner’s guide for starting a successful affiliate marketing business in just four steps:
- Choose your niche
- Find affiliate programs to join
- Create great content (get the content marketing basics here)
- Drive traffic to your affiliate site
To start an affiliate program, check out this short video outlining the basics of affiliate marketing:
Now, read on for a deep dive into how affiliate marketing works and how you can use it to drive revenue.
What Is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate marketing is the process by which advertisers commission partners (or affiliates) to promote their products and drive referrals on their behalf. A publisher might write a blog post that includes a link to an advertiser’s site, for example. Every time a reader clicks the link or makes a purchase from that referral, the publisher makes money.
How Does Affiliate Marketing Work?
There are four parties involved in affiliate marketing:
- Advertiser: The person or company that sells a product
- Publisher: The person or company that promotes the product on the advertiser’s behalf
- Platform: The service that connects the advertiser and publisher, optimizing ad placement and revenue
- Consumer: The person who purchases the product
The New York Times‘ Wirecutter site, for example, provides reviews of tools and gadgets, and includes this disclaimer on its articles: “When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission.” Take this piece on the best business laptops, which is filled with links that may be from advertising partners.
To better understand how affiliate marketing works, check out this helpful infographic from Bengu:
How Much Money Can You Make with Affiliate Marketing?
Back in 2016, Business Insider reported that affiliate marketing was responsible for 16% of ecommerce sales. That number has only grown since then, as Forrester predicted affiliate marketing to have a compound annual growth rate of 10% through 2020.
Consider this business example of affiliate marketing. Western Digital wants to promote their 6-terabyte cloud storage device, but they don’t have a huge Internet presence. They hire affiliate partner BuzzFeed Reviews to include the product in an article, “The Best External Hard Drives.” Western Digital has now tapped into BuzzFeed’s audience of over 650 million readers, increasing awareness, engagement, and income.
For more guidance, check out Neil Patel’s video on how advertisers can make money with affiliate marketing:
How to Get Started with Affiliate Marketing
Use this step-by-step guide to start building your own affiliate marketing program.
1. Choose Your Niche
It’s important to carve out a profitable niche for your affiliate marketing campaigns. This niche should be small enough that you can directly target interested customers, but large enough to ensure you’ll make an impact with your affiliate marketing ads. Your niche should also have crossover with your affiliate partners’ audiences, so you can both drive revenue from the partnership.
Say your company is in real estate, for example. Drill that down further into a specific niche, such as single family home buyers, investment property owners, or short-term renters.
Consider this example from the finance industry. USAA Credit Cards runs an affiliate program for companies that want to tap into their niche of financial products for active or retired military members. According to AuthorityHacker, their commission rate is $25 per lead with average earnings per click of $60.72.
The dating industry even offers a range of affiliate programs and sites for reaching customers across different niches. The CougarLife program, for instance, is geared towards older women seeking younger men. Meanwhile SilverSingles promises “a fresh take on 50+ dating.” Each affiliate program also has its own commission rate, so you can choose the one that makes most sense for your budget while ensuring you engage the right targeted audience.
2. Find Affiliate Programs to Join
Affiliate networks can help new affiliate marketers connect with the right partner companies and reach new audiences with effective affiliate links. Be on the lookout for high ticket affiliate programs with competitive conversion rates, reliable payout processes, and customizing linking capabilities.
In fact, we’ll get you started. The best affiliate programs for beginners include:
3. Create Great Content
This one is simple but easy to overlook amid the technicalities and logistics of affiliate marketing. No matter how great your affiliate partner’s blog or audience is, you still need high-quality content to back up your ads and offers.
One of the best ways to do this is to create a landing page or microsite on a platform like WordPress for your affiliate links. This way, once new customers click on your link or ad, they’ll be taken directly to an informative and easy-to-navigate website where they can engage with your brand and drive conversions.
Consider this affiliate link for the Joshu + Vela small duffle bag on Gear Patrol’s article, “10 Weekender Bags for Your Next Getaway.”
The call-to-action button leads readers right to the relevant product page for a breakdown of features and high-resolution photos, so they can learn more and decide to purchase.
4. Drive Traffic to Your Affiliate Site
The right affiliate marketing platform will do the leg work for you, so you can start driving traffic to your affiliate site.
Since Taboola Advertising has exclusive agreements with the world’s premium digital properties, we help advertisers expand their reach to an audience of 1.4 billion. We also help them reach the right people at just the right time with in-feed content recommendations—when readers are ready to discover something new.
Use any creative assets you want to share your latest promotions and maximize your affiliate advertising efforts across each stage of the customer journey.
Affiliate Marketing Tips for Beginners
Affiliate marketing doesn’t have to be scary. It may take some time to get started and there may be some speed bumps along the way, but the increased revenue will be worth the effort. And you can use these tips for beginners to get started:
Before launching an affiliate marketing campaign, making sure your ads grab the attention of your target audience.
As Linda Anderson wrote for Stanford University: “This is extremely important, especially for beginners in the field of affiliate marketing. Do a trial run of your advertisement on a small test group before launching it for the public. Take their opinions into consideration and work out all the kinks before the public sees it.”
Try Amazon’s Product Advertising API
If you’re interested in digging deeper into Amazon’s affiliate offerings, you can try using their advertising API and targeting more specific audiences. To see your available locales, visit the Anatomy of a REST Request website and find the Product Advertising API Endpoints section.
As explained in this step-by-step affiliate marketing guide from the New York Institute of Technology, “Note that you can only make a request to endpoints where you registered. For example, if you registered as an affiliate on the US website, you’ll only be able to make a request to the http://webservices.amazon.com/onca/xmlendpoint.”
Adopt the Right Mindset
When trying any new strategy, consistency can be tough. You might get bogged down in the details or frustrated with any obstacles that get in your way. That’s why it’s important to adopt the right mindset and keep your eye on the prize: increased revenue and success for your business.
As Agostino Marengo wrote in his paper on affiliate marketing:
“You have to set up your goals and the time to reach them. Once you have your goals you will work hard and consistently … Find your real passion, think about what you need and set up your mindset to start your new job as a great affiliate marketer!”