- Affiliate marketing is the promotion of other peoples’ products in exchange for commission
- Anyone with a website can easily easily start their own affiliate business without needing to create their own products to sell. However, this means that affiliate marketing is highly competitive
- An affiliate marketer is just a middleman – you need to establish trust with your audience and add value. People need a reason to click on your affiliate links
- You have to keep track of your earnings from every affiliate program you join. This can be tedious and time consuming
- The terms and conditions of affiliate programs can change suddenly or an affiliate program can removed altogether. You have no control over this
- If you are based in the US, make sure you follow the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines on disclosing affiliate links
Imagine owning an online business without needing to create your own products. Instead, you promote other peoples’ products and earn a commission every time someone uses your affiliate link to buy. Essentially you become a salesperson and your ability to make money will depend on how persuasive you are in convincing people to buy the affiliated products. It is simple to set up and you don’t need to worry about:
- Creating products to sell
- Inventory management
- Setting up an e-store with payment processing
- Delivery of goods
- Customer support
All you need to do is:
- Find a product online that you want to promote and that offers an affiliate program
- Make sure you understand the terms and conditions of the program
- Sign up and wait to be approved by the merchant
- Insert the provided affiliate links/banners into your website
Now, every time someone clicks on your link and makes a purchase, you will be earning commission. This is simple, but don’t make the mistake of thinking it is easy to make money using affiliate links.
Firstly, the ease with which anyone can set up a website with affiliate links means that there are already many affiliate marketers out there competing with you. If they are ranked higher than you in search engine results (such as Google), then they will attract a bigger target audience than you.
Secondly you need to give your target audience a reason to click on your affiliate links. You are just a middleman – why should people use your links instead of going directly to the source? Inserting links everywhere on your website and hoping for the best is a strategy doomed to failure. Instead, focus on creating high quality content on your website and work to build trust with your audience. People are far more likely to use your affiliate links if you add value in some way. For example by reviewing an affiliated product, comparing it to other products and describing the features and potential benefits it offers.
The image below is a partial screenshot of an Amazon affiliate website promoting faucets. It offers a detailed review outlining the advantages and disadvantages of this particular faucet model, helping the reader to make a purchasing decision. This is an example of a good affiliate website.
However, I have come across some websites that promote too many affiliate products without really adding any value. This does not inspire trust and makes it doubtful whether they have personal experience of the product they are trying to sell.
The image below is a partial screenshot of another Amazon affiliate website promoting faucets. It offers no information at all and uses horrible broken English; it completely fails to help the reader. This is an example of a poor affiliate website.
It is important to be organised if you are planning on joining many affiliate programs – set up a spreadsheet to keep track of them all. Important details might include: login IDs/passwords, terms and conditions, minimum cashout levels, monthly income etc. The more affiliate programs you join, the more tedious and time consuming this becomes but the rewards should be worth the hassle provided you approach affiliate marketing in the right way.
Perhaps the biggest problem with affiliate programs is that you have no control over the terms and conditions, which are subject to change at any time. The rate of commission you receive could be suddenly reduced, or even worse, the affiliate program cancelled, if the affiliate company decides that they are generating enough business on their own. This lack of control is one of the key differences between promoting your own product and promoting someone else’s product.
Finally, if you are based in the US, you are required to adhere to the FTC’s (Federal Trade Commission) guidelines on clearly disclosing affiliate links. Disclosure needs to be clear and conspicuous, not deceptive and not at the end of blog posts, but near to, or before the actual affiliate links. You can download these guidelines (“.com disclosures – how to make effective disclosures in digital advertising“) here