What is Affiliate Marketing

Are you taking your first steps into the realm of affiliate marketing? It must be so confusing to wade through tons of information for some modicum of understanding. Don’t worry; you are not alone. There are many newbies, who are working their way up the ladder of affiliate marketing with a little bit of advice, some mentorship and thorough understanding of what is affiliate marketing.

Why Delve into the World of Affiliate Marketing?

With deep smartphone penetration and fast Internet connectivity, more people are using e-commerce sites on the go. This offers you a unique opportunity to turn into a top-level affiliate marketer. You can earn passive income tomorrow with a little bit of effort today. That is why knowing what is affiliate marketing can prove to be a boon to your bank account. Isn’t it wonderful to hear the ka-ching of the cash machine each time an online retailer decides to compensate you for your efforts? Well, here is the skinny on affiliate marketing and how it can turn into a lucrative online enterprise.

Basics of Affiliate Marketing

As you may have realized, affiliate marketing has something to do with marketing online. In simplistic terms, you get rewarded by a business for promoting their physical or virtual products, services or even website online. Usually, you write something positive about a product or service along with a link to the business’ online store or the item you are promoting. When a visitor from your site clicks that link and makes a purchase, the business rewards you. This monetary reward can be a certain percentage of the total sale amount or it can be a fixed amount for each sale. The reward will depend on the business’ affiliate marketing policy.

Then, there are some online businesses that reward affiliate marketers for referring visitors. However, there is a caveat to this reward. Visitors have to necessarily take an action - sign up for a newsletter or complete a survey, for instance - before they leave the website. After the visitor completes the necessary action and fulfills the terms that the business imposes, you get paid a certain percentage that you and the business agree upon at the outset.

Since affiliate marketing involves promoting a product or service online, you may think it is necessary to be tech-savvy. However, a simple WordPress blog will suffice where you write posts about a program or business you are associated with. This is blatant affiliate marketing, and there are affiliate marketers who have adopted this method of marketing successfully. Another way to market a product or service would be to deftly weave the product into your blog post that is about a related topic. In both scenarios, you can include a button, banner ad or even a link that will take your readers directly to the product page where they can place their order based on your recommendation (your blog post).

What Not to Do in Affiliate Marketing

Think back at a time when you were out shopping and the pushy salesperson tried forcing you to purchase something. If you are non-confrontational in nature, you will purchase the item just to get the salesperson off your back. On the other hand, if you don’t like their attitude and style of selling, you will just walk out of the store, never to return. Well, that is exactly what happens even in the World Wide Web, as well. Prospective buyers do not like to be pushed into purchasing something.

Yes, you are selling a product or service, but your blog does not have to turn into a commercial, impersonal blog. The idea is to create a rapport with your readers so that they can identify with you and realize that the product that has fulfilled a need in your life, and could do the same in theirs. So, be sure to recommend products that you have used and can vouch for. Tell the readers how the product or service has helped you. By showing them in an honest and sincere manner that the product is useful, you will create a need that many potential buyers maybe unaware of.

Secondly, be very careful about a product or service you promote or recommend. You want to set a benchmark for your visitors and if you market any and everything, you lose credibility. You come across as a greedy affiliate marketer, who is more interested in making money than caring about the wellbeing and welfare of their visitors. Don’t cultivate such an image, or you could end up failing as an affiliate marketer.

Instead, be selective about the affiliate programs you promote. It is advisable to get familiar with the product or service first. If necessary, purchase and use them. Figure out their pros and cons. Once you know a product is good, your writing will reflect it. Your sincerity will shine through and make you appear as a person who genuine wants to help people.

Use these two approaches and you could turn into a successful affiliate marketer. Honest and genuine affiliate marketing can reap wonderful results and will set you onto the path of success.

The Who’s Who of Affiliate Marketing

Now that you know the basics of affiliate marketing, it is time you also understand the stakeholders in affiliate marketing lifecycle.

  • The Merchant: This is the creator or seller of a product or service. The merchant can be an individual, a business or a corporate enterprise. There is no restriction on who can turn into a merchant. The only criterion is to have a product to sell.
  • The Affiliate: This you or any other publisher. An affiliate can be an individual or even a company. This is the stakeholder, who is responsible for marketing the product by convincing prospective customers that the product is perfect for them.
  • The Customer: These are one of the most important stakeholders of the affiliate marketing system. Without customers, you will not have anyone to sell the product to and you will not earn commissions. You, the affiliate marketer, have to decide whether you want to inform a customer that they are part of the affiliate system. Today, more affiliates are adopting a transparent method of marketing and letting their prospective visitors know that they will benefit financially when customers make a purchase. However, there is no hard and fast rule.

The Choices in Front of You

You can choose to become a merchant or an affiliate. For a merchant, it is necessary to have a product, a physical or virtual one, that you can get affiliates to sell for you, and in lieu, you give them a commission.

Alternatively, you can become an affiliate. Most people prefer becoming affiliates as it is easier than becoming a merchant. The effort, time and money that go into creating a product can be prohibitive. This said, expecting to make a full-time living from just affiliate marketing for a newbie is a far-fetched dream. It requires building massive amount of traffic to your blog or pay-per-click ads to crank up vast volumes of sales that will keep the cash register ringing each month. Of course, there are affiliate marketers, who are earning five- and six-figure incomes monthly, but that is not the rule of thumb.

At the same time, if you play your cards right and manage to create meaningful posts for social media and your blog, you will be able to get visitors who will click on the links to make purchases. Alternatively, you can create an e-mail opt-in list and market the products via newsletters.

The potential of affiliate marketing is tremendous. The results are proportionate to the effort, time and money you are willing to spend on it.

Finding the Right Product

All companies selling online do not necessarily offer affiliate programs. Hence, you may want to conduct a Google search to find companies that do. This can be time consuming, as you will have to browse through websites companies before you can figure out whether they have an affiliate program.

One of the best ways to check out affiliate programs and products is by scouting affiliate marketplaces, such as Clickbank, Commission Junction and ShareASale. These marketplaces allow you to create a free account and once you have done that, you can start researching the products that fall into your niche.

You can also check out other blogs that are popular in your niche to see the products they are promoting. This will give you an idea of the products that are in demand and also help you figure out the methods that competitor blogs are adopting.

To Blog or Not to Blog?

While a blog is not necessary for affiliate marketing, it is undoubtedly one of the best methods to promote and advertise a product. For newbie affiliate marketers, pay-per-click ads are unchartered territory and if they do not know what they are doing, they could end up losing significant amounts of money.

With a blog, you can use subtle and hard marketing tactics to market a product. More importantly, it allows you establish a relationship with your visitors so that they can connect and interact with you. This boosts your credibility, especially if your posts add value and offer solutions to everyday problems and issues that your readers may experience.

Get, Set, Go…

Now that you know what is affiliate marketing and have a basic understanding of how to go about marketing and promoting a product online, it is time to take your first steps into the exciting world of affiliate marketing. While you are taking baby steps, educate yourself further and learn the ropes thoroughly so that you can succeed and earn an enviable online income through affiliate marketing. Until that happens, do not think of leaving your full-time job!

Author: Jojo Joson

Jojo Joson is an Electronics Engineer by education. I came into the world of online business while studying in college (possibly in 2006 - at the age of 19). Initially, I started making money by offering freelance services. I have also started a WordPress blog (in 2006) and started making money from the blog via Google AdSense. So this was my first stint with online business - where I made money online by offering freelance services and from my blog via Adsense. At the age of 19, I was earning in figures equivalent to monthly salaries offered for Software Engineers.