If you've ever wondered how people like Martha Stewart and Guy Kawasaki make their millions of dollars, it's because they know the secret (or at least one part of it). They use affiliate marketing -- a way of making money online by promoting other peoples' products or services. But is it possible to earn enough from affiliate marketing alone to quit my day job? If so, just how many sales does an average affiliate marketer need in order to live off commissions only?
\tThis post originally appeared as "Affiliate Marketing Blogs - Do Affiliates Make Money?" on The Simple Dollar.
\tThe short answer is yes — but not very well. I have made more than $100 US per month from affiliate marketing over the past year, though admittedly that was partly due to luck rather than skill. Still, even when you factor in all expenses, you'll probably be spending most of your time living paycheck-to-paycheck instead of enjoying life. In fact, there are some who argue that working full time while doing affiliate marketing pays better, since you can spend less time chasing down new clients. Even then, however, it will still take quite awhile before you're able to retire comfortably on commission income alone.
For those reasons, we don't recommend using affiliate marketing solely as a means of earning a living online. It would certainly help if you were already successful in any number of different areas, such as writing, design, photography, etc., but none of us have been blessed with two out of three skillsets. As long as you understand that success doesn't come overnight, you should find yourself feeling good about starting an affiliate program today.
Here's everything else you need to know...
\tAbsolutely! Many people claim otherwise, but these folks simply haven't found the right system yet. There are literally thousands upon thousands of ways to generate revenue through affiliate programs, including both direct linking (where links appear within the content of articles) and contextual advertising (such as Google AdSense). You can also choose targeted niche markets, where you focus specifically on certain types of customers. For instance, you might want to sell weight loss supplements to women under age 30. Or perhaps electronics accessories to men over 40 years old. And if you create compelling digital content, you may eventually attract advertisers looking to reach specific audiences without having to pay top dollar for placement.
\tIt takes work, but once you get going, affiliate marketing is truly something worth pursuing. Just remember that you won't see immediate results unless you put in consistent effort.
\tYou absolutely can. When done correctly, affiliate marketing provides opportunities to build residual streams of income far beyond anything available elsewhere. In fact, one study showed that affiliates earned twice as much per customer than regular employees at Fortune 500 companies. This is true whether you promote physical products or digital information. One popular method used by Internet entrepreneurs is to offer premium memberships to sites they feel add value to readers. These can range anywhere from $10-$200/month depending on the service offered.
\tIn addition to helping you save time and provide valuable resources, affiliate marketing can allow you to become an expert in whatever field you wish. That knowledge allows you to speak authoritatively on topics related to your niche, which can translate into higher conversion rates among potential buyers. A simple example would be someone selling vitamins who has personally taken them herself and knows exactly which ones work best.
\tThat depends entirely on the product being promoted. Some affiliate programs operate based on percentages of overall profits, meaning that each sale earns them a set amount regardless of price point. Others operate based on fixed fees for every item sold, usually around 10% of retail prices. So, for instance, if Amazon charged me 1 cent per book downloaded via Kindle promotional codes, and I received 5 cents per download, I'd end up getting paid 25 times as much per sale as if I had gone straight to Amazon.com.
\tOf course, sometimes you may receive nothing for a particular promotion whatsoever (although this is becoming rarer thanks to stricter anti-fraud measures), whereas other promotions may net you a lot of money. Your best bet is to keep track of how often you participate in various promotions and compare apples to oranges until you figure out which offers the best payout for your efforts.
\tAs mentioned earlier, one option is to start offering premium membership subscriptions to high-quality websites you enjoy reading. Another strategy is to write ebooks or audio books relating to your topic of choice and share them with others free of charge. Don't forget to include your own personal recommendations and endorsements throughout your materials, too. Once again, you can either give away access to your material indefinitely or charge monthly subscription fees for exclusive updates. Either way, you never run out of ideas when it comes to generating passive income.
\tNo doubt about it, affiliate marketing isn't always easy. Unless you're lucky enough to pick a profitable niche market, you'll likely face plenty of competition trying to dominate keywords in search engines. However, if you stick with it, you'll soon discover that building traffic to your site is much easier than you thought it would be. What's more, you'll gain additional experience along the way, allowing you to refine your methods and strategies for future endeavors.
\tThere's no reason why anyone shouldn't consider affiliate marketing. It requires hard work and dedication, but the rewards can be great. Of course, everyone's situation differs, so your mileage may vary. But in general terms, if you follow our suggestions above and stay focused, you should be able to achieve similar levels of success as other bloggers who started out with little training and zero investment.
\t"Affiliate marketing is a fantastic business model," says John Rampton, cofounder of MyBlogGuest and contributing writer at Entrepreneur Magazine. "But it takes patience and persistence." He recommends taking baby steps toward achieving financial stability through affiliate marketing. "Even if you are putting in several hours a week, it’s nowhere near'real' employment level earnings for a typical salary worker… [but] maybe after six months, it gets close to breaking even."
\tJohn Rampton writes freelance copy for his company, MyBlogGuest, and contributes regularly to Entrepreneur Magazine, Business 2 Community, Creative Mornings NY, Huffington Post, Inc., iMedia Connection, Men's Health magazine, Motley Fool, Psychology Today, RealSimple, TechCrunch, TopCultures.
Tina Mailhot-Roberge. Additional photos by Jeff Kubina, Mike Dyer, Peter Kim, and David Goehring.
\tWhat Is Affiliate Marketing? originally appeared on The Simple Dollar. To read further explore the world of technology, finance, and saving, check out the original article here. Image remixed from originals by karimian79 (Flickr), psdGraphics (Flickr), and mike_hummel (Flickr).
Blogging has become an essential part of the internet as more and more people turn to online journals, opinions, and advice rather than traditional magazines or newspapers. When it comes to making money from home, there are many ways to set up shop for your online business. Affiliate marketing is one way to earn some extra income without having to handle all aspects of product creation yourself. This article will help you decide whether starting an affiliate marketing blog makes sense for you.
Affiliate marketing involves selling other peoples' products in exchange for commissions that vary depending upon the program, but most pay between 20% and 75%. Some programs offer higher returns such as Google AdSense, which can give affiliates thousands of dollars per month when they drive traffic to advertisers' sites using their unique link. Other programs are less lucrative, like Commission Junction (CJ) where you get about $2/sale plus fees. The commission may be lower here because CJ takes its cut first, so affiliates have to sell at least 10 items before getting paid. One advantage of working through CJ is that you don't have to worry about shipping anything -- someone else handles that stuff.
In addition to earning money on each sale, affiliate marketers also receive freebies like advertising credits, promotional materials, training and support. They're often able to start out with no upfront costs whatsoever. It's important to note that not everyone who signs up as an affiliate marketer becomes successful. A large percentage never see any profits due to poor planning, lack of persistence, and even fraud. That said, anyone can sign up as an affiliate today and begin promoting others' products for small amounts of cash. If you want to know more about how affiliate marketing works, check out our beginner's guide to affiliate marketing.
You'll find plenty of information about running a regular blog, but do blogs work well for affiliate marketing purposes? Can bloggers use affiliate links successfully? Do you really need a separate site just for affiliate marketing? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about setting up a new affiliate marketing blog.
Starting an affiliate marketing blog does require time and effort, but it doesn't take much technical expertise. You can choose either WordPress or Blogger to host your blog. Most people opt for WordPress since it offers more features, customization options, updates, plug-ins, themes, and plugins. But if you'd prefer something simpler, Blogger lets you create pages quickly by typing HTML codes into simple boxes. Once you've chosen your platform, you simply add text widgets called "banners" to your page. These banners contain links to specific websites.
A banner usually includes a title ("My Favorite Shoes"), a URL address ("http://www.myfavoriteshoes.com") and sometimes additional information about the product you're trying to promote. Banner ads are typically placed next to articles on topics related to the product being advertised. For example, if you run a shoe store, you might place affiliate advertisements for shoes alongside news stories about high heels causing back pain or falling fashion trends that call for wedge sandals instead of pumps. As readers scroll down the page, these banners change position until eventually the reader clicks through to the advertiser's web site. Since visitors spend only a few seconds looking at most web pages, affiliate banners must capture attention quickly.
Some popular banner ad formats include popups, overlays, skyscrapers, skyscraper ads, slideshow presentations, image slideshows, ezines, and video displays. However, you should avoid placing too many different kinds of banners together, since they confuse users and dilute impact. Instead, focus on one or two main types of banners, then experiment with variations within those categories.
The most effective banners tend to fall into certain patterns. Answering questions clearly is helpful. So is keeping paragraphs short and sweet. Using relevant keywords and phrases helps, too. Above all, try not to overwhelm readers with tons of clutter. Remember, an average person looks at web content for three to five seconds before moving on to another subject!
So now you understand why blogging is useful, but do you actually need a blog for affiliate marketing? Read on to discover what kind of blog would work best for you.
One reason why blogger isn't ideal for affiliate marketing is that it doesn't allow for easy tracking. With Wordpress, whenever a visitor reads an advertisement, he or she sees a special code associated with that particular post. With blogger, however, you have no idea if your readers clicked through the link. Some companies provide tracking software that allows them to keep tabs on clickthroughs, but most rely solely on self-reporting.
Choosing the right format for your blog depends largely on what sort of material you plan to publish. Regularly updated posts are considered better suited for affiliate marketing than static articles. Static articles are intended for longform writing, whereas frequently updated posts are meant to entice casual browsers who aren't interested in learning anything new. Many folks think of affiliate marketing as a hobby or side gig, so they're happy to read brief informational pieces written specifically for search engines.
If you enjoy crafting interesting, informative posts, you'll probably fare best with a standard blog setup. On the other hand, if you're more concerned with generating sales leads, you should consider building a squeeze page with a lead form. Squeeze pages are designed exclusively for capturing email addresses. Visitors enter their name and email address into entry fields, after which they immediately receive numerous followup emails from you containing promotions, tips, and tutorials. Your goal with a squeeze page is to convince potential customers to buy whatever it is you're offering, so you must present compelling reasons to join your list.
Now that we've covered what blogs are used for and why, let's talk about how to incorporate affiliate links into your posts. Continue reading to find out whether you can legally display affiliate links on your own blog.
While affiliate marketing requires a lot of creativity, it's possible to build an entire business around one central concept. In fact, some entrepreneurs go so far as to say that affiliate marketing is the easiest path to creating wealth because you don't have to deal directly with clients, inventory, customer service, or delivery issues. Simply refer prospects to merchants willing to compensate you handsomely for bringing them business.
What happens next varies greatly based on the company involved. Some programs send monthly checks straight to affiliates while others charge a flat fee every time a referral joins. Either way, once you sign up, all you have to do is share your unique ID number with businesses whose wares you intend to endorse. Each merchant provides a specially formatted link (known as a trackable link) that contains your unique identifier. Whenever someone uses your link to visit a vendor's web site, you'll automatically get credit for the purchase.
Most affiliate marketing programs operate under federal law known as the Federal Trade Commission Act. Under Section 5 of FTC Rule 4121, you cannot advertise, solicit funds, or otherwise induce someone to act contrary to his or her interests via any means including electronic mail unless explicitly authorized by the consumer. Therefore, if you want to participate in an affiliate network whereby vendors bid against themselves to win your endorsement, you must obtain prior approval from the organization managing that network. Make sure you ask lots of questions before joining any affiliate networking scheme.
Yes, absolutely. There's nothing wrong with linking to other sites from yours, especially if you mention the source of the original link. Readers appreciate thoroughness, so if your blog devotes several paragraphs to discussing a topic, feel free to bring up similar points made elsewhere on the net. To prevent your blog from becoming little more than a catalog of links pointing toward third party retailers, though, stick to quality sources. Don't bother copying and pasting affiliate URLs in block quotes or bulleted lists. Just remember that readers won't care if your blog is full of blatant advertisements, as long as you cover your bases by providing valuable content worth reading.
Using affiliate links properly requires a bit of foresight. You can afford to lose a couple bucks if your efforts fail, but losing hundreds of dollars overnight seems unfair. Also, it goes without saying that you shouldn't trick readers into clicking through links leading to deceptive web pages. If you suspect a given link has questionable value, contact the merchant listed on the link and report it. Even better, write your own reviews and recommendations. Not only will this expose readers to your personality, but it gives you a chance to show off your expertise. After all, you wouldn't expect to hire a plumber who was afraid of heights, would you?
For further information about incorporating affiliate marketing into your blog, please consult an attorney specializing in Internet legal matters.
Blogs are all the rage these days, and it's no surprise -- they're one of the most cost-effective ways to start an online business or website (or even just share something personal). Whether you want to write about music, cooking, travel, fashion, fitness, technology, pets...the list goes on and on. You can create a unique voice that speaks directly to your audience, which is why so many people turn their passions into successful businesses.
But how does someone go from hobbyist blogger to making money off his or her own site? It starts by getting involved in affiliate marketing, but before we dive in there are some important things you should know.
Yes! But like any other type of internet marketing, there are caveats. First, while anyone can set up a free WordPress account, not everyone has the technical skills or time to run a high traffic site. If you don't have those two qualifications, consider using a platform like Wix, Weebly, or Tumblr instead. These sites offer templates designed specifically for newbie bloggers who simply need somewhere to post content, without having to worry about SEO strategies, plugins, etc. Once your posts gain traction, you can always migrate them over to your domain name and build out your brand as you grow.
Second, since affiliate programs pay based on commission, you'll be earning commissions whether you personally promote a product yourself or refer users through your blog. As such, you may find that affiliate marketing pays better than running adsense on your own site -- at least initially. This will depend entirely on your target market though, and where you live. In general, you won't see big checks unless your readership grows significantly larger than others.
Finally, remember that creating good content doesn't necessarily mean creating great sales copy. You must also learn how to craft compelling calls-to-action, otherwise your visitors might click away before ever reading anything else you've written. Luckily, there are plenty of tools available to help teach you how to sell effectively without being pushy. One popular method involves teaching others how to become "copywriters" themselves, which means writing persuasive advertising copy for both websites and physical objects.
With all of that said, let's talk more about how to choose an appropriate program to join and how to actually generate revenue from your efforts.
Affiliates are essentially advertisers who receive compensation when you send potential customers to their merchants' websites. The easiest way to sign up is usually via email links, although sometimes companies provide banners or text links too. Affiliate marketers often work within pre-defined categories, like health & wellness, electronics, home goods, tech gadgets, books, makeup, software, clothing, toys/games and lots more. Companies typically send emails periodically throughout the month letting members know about promotions and what percentage of purchases were made using that particular link.
To maximize earnings, however, you should try to secure deals with multiple vendors per category. That way, rather than sending your reader to Amazon once, you can send him or her to several different retailers simultaneously. Some platforms allow you to group similar items together under separate labels, called groups, to further simplify navigation. For example, here's how a typical promotion looks on ClickBank:
And here's how it would look grouped together under a single label:
This makes finding specific products much easier for shoppers, especially for first timers. Of course, the best affiliate opportunities aren't limited to just Clickbank either. Be sure to explore other reputable places like Commission Junction (CJ) and Skimlinks as well. They each serve slightly different purposes, so be sure to read reviews before joining any given program.
Once you've signed up, keep track of everything going on with your chosen company. Make notes whenever you hear about special offers or promo codes. Take advantage of every opportunity you come across because chances are, it won't last long. Most companies only give affiliates 90 days notice before cutting ties completely. Keep tabs on forums, social media pages and message boards around relevant topics. Also, don't forget to check back regularly to stay updated on current offerings.
For reference, here are some notable affiliate networks currently active today:
Clickbank - A large payment processor with hundreds of thousands of merchants offering downloadable digital downloads, merchandise and services. Great selection, easy tracking and tons of training materials.
ShareASale - Has been around longer than Clickbank, but less competitive due to lack of major brands. Still works well for smaller ecommerce stores looking to expand beyond eBay.
Commission Junction - Offers access to millions of products, including retail giants like Walmart, Target, Best Buy and JCPenney. CJ provides extensive resources and training as well as customer service support.
Skimlinks - Gives you instant access to dozens of partner merchant accounts, plus promotional tools like coupons, discount codes, shopping carts, popups and widgets.
You've probably noticed that none of those examples mentioned above included any sort of monetary incentive. This is because affiliate marketing isn't really meant to benefit bloggers directly. Instead, it exists to bring in additional income from sources other than regular ad clicks. And yes, there are legitimate reasons why you'd want to earn extra cash from your page besides cold hard pennies.
Perhaps you enjoy traveling frequently and you haven't had enough vacation yet. Or maybe you're a student struggling to cover tuition payments while working fulltime. Whatever your reason, you shouldn't feel bad for wanting to supplement your income. After all, we all deserve to spend our money on whatever we please regardless of circumstance.
So, what exactly can you do to earn a little bit extra? Well, selling other peoples' stuff definitely falls into that department. Remember earlier when we talked about signing up with multiple vendors per category? Now is the perfect time to take advantage of that strategy. Find a few trustworthy merchants within your niche and stick to promoting their wares exclusively. Then, focus on building relationships with loyal followers. Letting them know when new products arrive or sales occur helps establish trust and increases engagement. When you combine this approach with effective call-to-actions, you can quickly increase profits.
Additionally, leveraging existing audiences on Facebook and Twitter is another excellent option. Simply reposting original articles you wrote elsewhere gives viewers a chance to catch up on your latest updates and news feeds, thus increasing exposure. However, keep in mind that this tactic takes a lot of effort compared to simple banner advertisements. Banner ads are cheaper to produce, but they require more maintenance attention. Plus, depending on your location, you may not be eligible for certain types of ads. Fortunately, there are still plenty of options open to you. Just search Google Ads, YouTube AdSense and Microsoft Advertising to get started.
If you're interested in learning more about how to optimize your blog for maximum profit, be sure to check out our affiliate marketing tips article for more helpful information.
Now that you understand how affiliate marketing works, let's talk about how to convert visitors into actual buyers.
One thing worth mentioning right upfront is that you cannot force conversions. Even after receiving countless leads, the odds of converting someone into a paying client remain low until he or she decides to buy something. Therefore, patience is key. Don't expect to rake in massive amounts overnight. Rather, treat affiliate marketing as a marathon race rather than a sprint. Build slowly and steadily until you hit your stride. By then, you'll realize that it wasn't nearly as difficult as you thought it was going to be.
In addition to generating income, affiliate marketing allows you to test various approaches to see what brings in results. Think of it like playing a giant version of Whack-a-Mole. Sometimes a visitor lands on your site and buys nothing, but other times they purchase an item immediately upon clicking through. Since you didn't charge anything for the lead, you can attribute this success to testing. To improve conversion rates, experiment with adding videos, changing prices, altering descriptions, tweaking headlines and incorporating graphics. All of these factors influence user behavior. Try mixing up your tactics to see what gets the best response.
Of course, there are also many useful paid methods. Pay Per Click advertising is one common solution used by many companies. Like banner ads, PPC ads appear alongside relevant search terms. There are plenty of providers out there, but Google AdWords remains one of the industry leaders thanks to its huge user base and relatively affordable expense. With AdWords, you merely bid on keywords related to your niche and wait for clients to show interest. While this may seem daunting at first, it's fairly straightforward once you familiarize yourself with the process. Additionally, PPC campaigns can yield higher returns than organic listings, so it's wise to put aside a budget for this kind of advertising.
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