There has been explosive growth of affiliate marketing in recent years and it is a popular method of earning an income from a website or blog. Let’s see how to get started.
What are affiliates?
In some ways, affiliate schemes are similar to advertising. With advertising, you put some code in a web page or in a sidebar widget and adverts are then automatically displayed on your website. You earn money from those adverts.
With affiliates you put some code on a web page or in a sidebar widget. However, instead of displaying adverts that you have no control over, you get to choose the goods or service you want to promote/advertise. You earn money if visitors to your site click the affiliate links and go on to buy the products.
For example, if you have a blog about running, you might choose to promote/advertise running shoes. If you have a photography blog you could display an advert for a great camera, lenses, tripods, and other camera accessories.
The idea is that you choose products to promote/advertise that are related to the content of the article or blog post. Visitors read the article and, hopefully, click the affiliate goods or service advertised, and buy it.
Affiliates | Associates | Referrals are different names for the same thing
What does affiliate marketing look like?
Unlike adverts where you have little or no control over what is advertised, with affiliates you choose the products you want to promote/advertise.
You have full control over what is displayed on your website. The only items that appear are ones you put in the web pages.
You can display text links, images, square, horizontal and vertical banners, and so on.
You can create the text links, images and banners yourself or use ready-made ones provided by the seller of the product or service – the affiliate company.
How do I earn money from affiliate marketing?
When visitors to your website click adverts, you earn a little money. The amount you earn depends on the number of clicks on adverts and how much each advert is worth – the amount earned per click varies from ad to ad.
Affiliates are different. Not only must your website visitors click an affiliate link on the page, they must then go on to purchase the product or service. Clicking is not enough to earn any money.
You earn commission on sales, not on clicks to affiliate links, images and ads.
It might seem like a bad deal compared to advertising because people might click affiliate links and then decide not to buy the item after all.
However, you earn more when people do actually purchase something. The amount varies, but it can range from 5% to 50% of the price of the item purchased, and sometimes even more!
If it is a subscription service with recurring fees you might earn recurring commission when the person renews their subscription. You might get 100% commission on the sale, with the company hoping to earn money on renewal fees after signing a customer up. There are many ways money can be earned.
Whereas an advert might earn only a dollar or two if someone clicks the ad, if someone clicks an affiliate link for a $400 product and goes on to purchase it and you get 10% commission, you will receive $40.
So it is harder to make a sale than to get people to click an advert, but the earnings are far greater when you succeed.
Who is responsible for the goods?
The seller is responsible for selling and shipping the goods, returns, faults, and so on. When someone buys something they enter into a contract with the seller, and all your affiliate links do is to send people to the seller of the goods.
You don’t actually sell anything yourself and you have no responsibilities. Well, that’s not quite true. You have a responsibility to your website visitors to link to great products that they will love.
If you can earn their trust, they will buy more products and you will earn more commission.
Some affiliate schemes are run by companies themselves and Amazon is an example of this.
You must apply to join Amazon Associates at the Amazon website (affiliate-program.amazon.com). Amazon will then consider your application and check your website.
If everything is OK and you are accepted, you are granted access to the affiliate area of the Amazon website. This provides everything you need to advertise/promote almost anything on the Amazon website, which is huge!
The affiliate company, Amazon for example, provides you with the links, images and banners to put on your website.
Some companies prefer to let a third party affiliate network handle everything. An example of this is CJ Affiliate.
You must go to the affiliate network website, such as www.cj.com, and apply to join as a publisher (not an advertiser). Your website will be checked and if everything is OK and you are accepted, you can then log in to the affiliate network website.
Affiliate networks, such as CJ Affiliate, handle the affiliate schemes for dozens or even hundreds of companies. Once you have applied and been accepted, you then log in and search for a company you want to work with.
You must apply to be an affiliate. If you are accepted, you can then access affiliate resources like links and banners and put them on your website.
If you want to promote or advertise a company’s products, go to the website and look for affiliate information. If an affiliate scheme is available, there will be details of how to join, whether it is company-run or part of an affiliate network.
Requirements to join affiliate schemes
There are certain requirements and not everyone is accepted into affiliate schemes. You need to have a professional looking website and the requirements are similar to getting accepted by Google AdSense.
Rather than repeat everything, read 16 things you must do to get accepted by AdSense.
Here is a brief summary: Create About, Contact and Privacy pages. Create lots of valuable content and use attractive images. Use a quality website design and easy-to-use navigation.
Avoid prohibited content like gambling, adult content and so on. There are actually affiliates for such things, but we won’t go into that here.
Get your own domain name and build visitor numbers before applying. Try and offer something unique to visitors.
How do you get paid?
Commission is earned on sales that come from people clicking affiliate links on your website. The commission varies from affiliate to affiliate and sometimes it varies with the category of goods or the volume you sell.
For example, you might get 5% on electronics sales and 8% on gardening implements.
You might get 4% for sales are under $1,000 in a month, but 6% if sales are over $1,000.
There are endless variations and commission rules can be quite complicated.
You need to earn a certain amount of commission before you are paid. For example, there might be a threshold level of $100, for example. Your commission accumulates with each sale and when the total passes $100, or whatever the threshold is, you will be paid on the next scheduled payment date.
The payment frequency varies and may be once a week, every two weeks or once a month. You may be paid directly into your bank account (US affiliates often pay to US banks), by cheque, or through PayPal.
Affiliate payments from Amazon Associates
There may be a preferred method and if bank transfer is prefered, there may be a charge for alternative methods, such as by cheque. Check the rules, terms and conditions before you apply to join an affiliate scheme or network and make sure you are OK with the payment methods.
Popular affiliates and networks
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest and most popular affiliate companies and networks. Remember to join as a publisher and not an advertiser.
Amazon: Amazon needs no introduction and you probably shop there already. The store sells millions of items across many areas and is huge! The commission is low, but many people earn a lot of money from niche markets and products.
CJ Affiliate: Many of the top internet companies use CJ Affiliate and there is a lot of choice once you join. There are hundreds of advertisers to choose from.
Rakuten Marketing: The company was voted #1 Affiliate Marketing Network six years in a row by mThink.
ClickBank: ClickBank is a top 100 online retailer with 200 million customers and it specialises in selling digital products. Commissions are up to 75% for some items and you can choose to get paid weekly.
Avangate: There are 22,000 software products to choose from at Avangate, and some items are subscriptions which earn even more money every time the subscriber renews.
eBay: eBay is well known as an auction site as you no doubt know and have probably used, but you might not realise that there is an affiliate scheme, or Partner Network as eBay calls it. All you do is find great eBay listings and then drive people to them.
There are many more affiliate networks, but these are among the biggest.
Beware of the rules
There are strict rules for affiliates, so whichever network or company you join, go out of your way to find them and read them.
Some of the rules are surprising and can catch you out. You might be banned without warning or a second chance if you break the rules.
For example, you may not be allowed to share affiliate links on social networks like Facebook. Instead you share a link to a page on your site that has the affiliate links.
You might not be able to use affiliate links in emails. Instead, link to a page on your site where there are affiliate links.
You might not be allow to use certain words or phrases in adverts and usually this is so that you don’t compete with the company’s own advertising.
- Get your website in good shape with About, Privacy, Contacts and so on
- Create great content that people will love
- Attract lots of visitors to your site
- Find a company you want to work with, look for affiliate information on the website and follow the instructions to join. It may be company-run or an affiliate network
- Get affiliate links, banners or images and insert them into web pages on your site
Give it some time, but then log in to the affiliate scheme and check how many clicks and sales you are getting, and how much commission you have earned.
It is harder than you think and you must work at it. Don’t give up if you don’t get any sales in the first week.