The idea of passive income attracts more and more people to digital marketing. COVID-19 impacted our life in 2021 and 2022 significantly: lockdowns and social distancing, online distant work with online meetings — this was the global trend. Pandemics resulted in more and more people turning to the digital business in search of additional income. Probably, you’ve heard about affiliate marketing and like the idea of earning money online but you don’t know where to start. This is our subject for today.
Affiliate marketing is a huge industry that will continue growing at increased rates in 2022. There is one common misunderstanding though. Passive income doesn’t mean effortless income. It’s not that you wake up in the morning and find your bank account topped up from nowhere. You need to build your own ‘empire’ in a way that will yield a profit. For that, you have to invest time, effort, and finances (ok, it can be less than $100). Your persistence, patience, knowledge, and purposefulness are the key factors on the road to success in this industry.
The idea behind affiliate marketing is promoting (or selling) other people’s products and earning your commission from sales. The best thing is that you can scale up your affiliate business by promoting multiple products and services.
Today we’ll discuss how to become an affiliate marketer (a publisher). The idea seems pretty easy, but when the idea meets reality, some new marketers get frustrated and quit just because they weren’t initially ready to face some difficulties.
Important: Can you become an affiliate marketer without a website or a blog? Yes, sure. There are numerous ways of promoting affiliate offers (see below). However, some brands and affiliate networks have a set of requirements for potential affiliates; one of the requirements can be a personal blog/website. While other networks and lesser-known brands approve applications from marketers without blogs.
Technically, the process looks as follows:
Step 1. When a marketer joins an affiliate program, he receives a unique ID and an URL for the promotion of the product.
Step 2. The marketer uses the affiliate link (or banner, or widget with a unique URL) to promote the product via blog content, visual ads, paid ads, and so on.
Step 3. When a potential customer clicks on the link (or banner), he is automatically redirected to the merchant’s offer; a unique identifying cookie ensures the origin of the customer. Many affiliate offers have a long cookie duration period (1 month, 6 months, 1 year, or even lifelong).
Step 4. When the customer purchases the product, the merchant uses the cookie to identify the source of the referral. If the cookie has an affiliate ID, the merchant reports a sale to the affiliate.
Step 5. All activity is displayed via special reports (oftentimes real-time), so the marketer is informed about the performance of his ads, the number of clicks, and sales.
Step 6. The affiliate receives a commission from sales in accordance with the affiliate agreement (merchants and affiliate networks specify terms of payouts in the affiliate agreement).
Important: Regardless of the traffic source, to become a successful affiliate marketer you need to remember that people buy things anyway. As a marketer, you interfere and introduce them to a new product or a service. To let people follow your ads, you should provide value. Value of the product, value of your expert opinion, value in the market.
Consider the products you want to promote or services you are familiar with. If you own a website or a blog with strong organic/natural traffic or audience, you don’t want to lose your readers. On the contrary, you want to provide additional value to them highlighting some specific services or products that they might consider useful. Think about the products you like using.
Apply to the affiliate program. Whether you selected a specific brand or an affiliate network, the process remains the same. You fill in an application form and provide the required data (usually you provide your personal and business contact information and specify the preferable payout option). Some networks and companies approve new affiliates automatically, while others take a couple of days to approve.
Upon approval, you begin promoting affiliate offers. Merchants provide affiliates with a full array of promotional materials (affiliate links, banners, sidebar graphics, etc.), training materials, and affiliate guides with directives on how to use the platform. Now everything depends on you. Whatever traffic source (or several) you choose, the key principle is that your ads shouldn’t look like ads. No one likes to be forced into shopping. Let people make their choice: attract, arouse curiosity, and invite to act.
Important: All your affiliate activity in the US must comply with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) requirements to provide an affiliate disclaimer (in other words, to inform people that you earn commission). In fact, it is a common practice, so people appreciate transparency, and their decision to purchase or not to purchase a product isn’t influenced by your affiliate commission.
First of all, all recommendations are optional. The choice is up to you and it depends on whether you have a website or not, available traffic sources, and your personal preferences.
As experience shows, some products are purchased easier than others; for example, services and products that can be accessed instantly, like digital downloads, e-books, music and video materials, mobile applications, and software. The downside of digital products is that they are usually inexpensive, so do not expect high earnings.
Another option is to promote online and hosted services, such as hosting providers, web design, business and legal consulting services, and content marketing services with subscription. Online courses are also easy to sell to the targeted audience. Well, gambling and dating are also here; however, not all marketers work with these verticals (probably, due to ethics).
Next, e-commerce. Physical products that require shipping aren’t purchased at once. People are usually influenced by reviews or recommendations from trusted experts (you should become the one) that the promoted item (gadgets, tools, or any kind of cool stuff) will make their life easier or more joyful.
Naturally, you wish to see the actual work and results from fellow affiliate marketers. Remember, installs were mentioned above as one of the easiest products to work with? Here is one ‘fresh’ 2020 case study as a confirmation to that statement. One of the AffiliateFix forum users, Emma, shared a very interesting case on a new VPN multi-GEO (42 countries) affiliate offer. Actually, the results exceeded all expectations.
Initially, the offer seemed quite attractive: multi-GEO, policy-compliant prelanders for all countries, no need to design own creatives, and effective rates for all GEOs.
The marketer selected the pop-under as the main ad format; the traffic was purchased via three ad networks (Ad-Maven, AdOperator, and SelfAdvertiser).
Below you see the stats from the affiliate account for campaigns in the US and Mexico:
And in more details:
Finally, 359 conversions resulted in $296.
If you don’t have a website, you can start a new blog. You won’t spend much money if you do it yourself. There are many free but indeed helpful tutorials on how to build a blog from scratch.
Facebook Ads Manager provides numerous options for campaign objectives, audience targeting, image and video combinations, budget scheduling, and more.
Affiliate networks provide a database of numerous products to promote. This is great for those marketers who have industry-oriented websites or blogs. As an example: you are a travel blogger with a loyal audience who decided to earn some extra money through affiliate marketing, in other words, by promoting some products. What products should you promote? If you decide on pet products or diet products, your audience is unlikely to react to the ads. But if you recommend suitcases, booking apps, car rentals, and other products or services related to traveling, your readers will consider your advice or get curious about the new product and service. So, the chances that they’ll click on your ad are much higher.
The list of affiliate networks widens continuously. There are market veterans and new platforms. As of now, ShareASale, ClickBank, Rakuten, CJ Affiliate, and Amazon Associates are among the leading platforms, but the list is incomplete. Beginners may start affiliate journey with Amazon Associates, ClickBank, or ShareASale. Ease-of-use, dedicated customer support, and scheduled payouts with low threshold are important factors for novices. With more experience you may join networks like Rakuten or CJ, which are quite picky for affiliates.
This topic requires a separate dedicated post. Many networks assign a personal affiliate manager to guide you through multiple offers, which is very advantageous for beginners.
The discomfort of being new to the industry can disappear if you join several marketing forums. Marketers and webmasters of all levels from all over the world ask and answer questions, discuss new trends and technologies, share their experience, and simply chat with other people who speak the same language of digital marketing. Some insights might be very useful, particularly at the beginning of your affiliate journey. AffiliateFix (the most active and friendliest affiliate marketing community online), Warrior Forum, and BlackHatWorld are among the most crowded and popular industry-oriented platforms.
When you are new to affiliate marketing you can get overwhelmed with numerous acronyms used to describe commissions and payouts. Apparently, you’ve seen terms like PPL, CPA, CPL, and CPC that make you confused. Let’s clarify. These terms are used to describe the ad campaign and commission types.
CPC (Cost per Click). You get paid whenever someone clicks on your affiliate link. It stands to reason that the CPC rate is pretty low compared to CPL and CPA. CPC campaigns are focused on generating more web traffic to the merchant’s platform.
CPL (Cost per Lead) and PPL (Pay per Lead). Sometimes these terms are used interchangeably. In this case, you are paid for every converted lead you sent to an affiliate offer. The good thing is that even if your visitors don’t buy anything you still get paid. However, there might be other requirements. You receive your affiliate commission when your referral performs a specific action, for example, fills in a form, subscribes to a newsletter, or signs up for a trial.
CPA (Cost per Action) or PPA (Pay per Action). This is the most common type of campaign and commission. The CPA model means that you get your commission if your referral makes a required action. The required action can be an app install, a subscription, or a purchase. That is why the CPA model is often mixed with CPL. CPA often stands for CPS (cost per sale). The vast majority of CPA affiliate programs require a purchase.
Revenue share (aka revshare). This is an upgraded version of the CPA model. Revshare model means that you’re paid lower CPA and receive a percentage from the future payments of your referrals. Revshare is widely used for gaming and gambling affiliate offers. Note that gambling affiliate offers have their own, industry-specific sticking points (casinos lose money sometimes, while you earn only when casinos win). Revshare commission rates vary from 5% up to 30% (in some cases, up to 40-50%).
As Neil Patel, one of the top marketers globally, says, ‘a decent affiliate can make anywhere from $10 000 a year to $400 000. A super affiliate can make upwards of $1 500 000 a year.’ Pat Flynn (‘Smart Passive Income’) reported more than $100 000 in affiliate commissions in December 2017.
Blogger Ryan Robinson showed his results for October 2019:
The results are impressive, but these bloggers emphasize that they were building their brands (blogs) step-by-step: gaining knowledge, building trust, and providing value to their audience.
Low-quality traffic will not facilitate your affiliate earnings. You should target your ads, referring products to potentially interested people.
Expand your traffic sources ‘toolbox’. Reddit, Pinterest, and Quora are underappreciated traffic resources. Used correctly, they generate high-quality traffic to the affiliate offers.
As you see, earning money with affiliate marketing is an achievable reality. It is not as easy as some marketers try to show. There is no magic tool that will top up the bank account overnight. Affiliate marketing requires knowledge, patience, and persistence. Elaborate strategy, tune it on the way and keep going. This is the road to success. Your investments (time, effort, and money) will pay you back with affiliate commissions. Do your thorough research, develop your strategy and act smart.