Affiliate Marketing for Beginners - A How To Guide

Affiliate Marketing for Beginners – A How To Guide

Welcome to this affiliate marketing for beginners “how to” guide. I hope that it will teach you everything you need to know to make money with affiliate programs.

I actually started affiliate marketing way back in 1998. So, I’ve got a lot of experience in this field, and I know what works and what doesn’t work.

In this guide, I want to give you the benefit of some of my 20+ years of internet marketing experience.

So, let’s get started…

What is affiliate marketing?

Imagine that you have a great idea for a traditional offline business selling jewellery. Unfortunately though, you don’t have any money to buy any stock. That’s not a very good start.

Now, imagine if a local jewellery maker approached you and said, “I’ll give you some of my jewellery to sell, and then we’ll split whatever money you get for it.”

Wouldn’t that be ideal? You’d suddenly have stock to sell, without having to invest any of your own money in it.

That’s basically what online affiliate marketing is:

Somebody (the vendor) has created a product that they’re selling online.

In order to increase their sales, they’re willing to let other people (affiliates) sell it on their behalf.

In return, the affiliates earn a percentage of any sales that they make.

The main difference between online affiliate marketing and our offline example is that, as an online affiliate, you don’t get involved with the actual mechanics of making the sale. This would be things like taking payment, delivering the product, and, if necessary, issuing refunds.

Instead, you just direct people via your own unique “affiliate link” to the vendor’s site, where the vendor handles these things.

How do I get paid for promoting affiliate products?

Whenever somebody clicks on your unique affiliate link, a cookie is stored on that person’s device that links them to you. Now, if that person buys the vendor’s product, you’ll get credited for referring that sale, and you’ll earn a commission (money).

The best bit is that you’ll often get credit even if it’s a day, a week, or sometimes even a month or more later when the sale actually takes place.

The amount of commission you earn depends on the particular product you’re promoting. This amount is normally preset when you sign up for the affiliate program, so you’ll know what you’re going to get.

It’s not uncommon for vendors of digital products to offer commissions of 50% or more. This means that if you refer a buyer of a $50 product, you make $25 just for that one sale.

Affiliate programs for more mainstream stores, such as the Amazon Associates program, generally pay lower commission rates of about 4% to 10%.

Amazon Associates Program Commissions
Typical Amazon Associates Program Commissions
(subject to change)

However, with a program like Amazon’s, you’ll earn a commission for almost any product they buy off the site, not just the one that you initially linked to. This means that you could actually earn a commission on 2 or 3 different products from just one buyer.

In most cases, your total affiliate earnings are calculated on a monthly basis. However, you may then have to wait a further 30 days to actually receive your money.

It’s very rare to get paid instantly for making an affiliate sale. This is because vendors selling products online have to follow the law (or the terms of the affiliate system they’re using). They often have to offer a 100% money-back guarantee period of around 30 to 60 days from the date of sale.

As an affiliate, you don’t earn commission for any sales where the buyer received a refund. So, the vendor tends to wait until a reasonable amount of time has passed before paying the affiliate.

This system is also to protect the vendor from affiliate fraud. There have been many scams where affiliates or their friends would buy a product via the affiliate’s link to earn the commission. Then, after the affiliate had been paid, they would request a refund.

Depending on the particular affiliate program, your affiliate earnings could be paid either as a direct transfer to your bank account, as a payment to your PayPal account, or as a good old cheque sent to your home.

However, many affiliate program providers don’t like making PayPal payments, as it’s difficult to trace the account owner in the event of fraud. In fact, many of them will actually insist that you either give them your proper bank account details, or that you have a cheque sent to your home or business address. That way, they have a way of tracing you to a physical location.

How do I decide what to promote?

This is a bit of a “chicken and egg” question:

On the one hand, you want to find desirable products that lots of people will want to buy…

But, you need to be able to write enough about that type of product to attract people to your website in the first place.

So, do you find good affiliate products, and then try to create a popular website around them?

Or, do you create a popular website first, and then try to find affiliate products that fit in with the theme (commonly called the “niche”) of the site?

The answer is, “a bit of both.”

What you should do is make a list with two columns: “Affiliate Products” and “Niche Ideas”.

Next, you should just start filling in some ideas in each column.

If, for example, you think that the world of dating might be a good niche to write about, and you think you can produce a decent website about it, write it in the “Niche Ideas” column.

You can then try to find affiliate products that might be desirable to that audience, and write them next to it in the “Affiliate Products” column.

If you go to Google and do a search for “dating affiliate program”, you’ll likely get some ideas for available products.

Results from a Google search for "Dating affiliate program".
Results from a Google search for “Dating affiliate program”.

There are also affiliate network sites such as ShareASale where you can find affiliate programs in many niches.

You can also sign up to an affiliate marketplace like ClickBank, and search for dating products there.

Obviously, you can use these same methods for products on any subject.

If you can’t find many affiliate products that match that niche, it’s better not to waste your time with it. Instead, you should start looking for something different.

To approach it the other way, you might discover that gaming headsets are very popular items that sell well on Amazon. So, you write “gaming headsets” in the “Affiliate Products” column.

You then try to think of a niche for a website that you could use to promote them. You might decide that a whole site dedicated to gaming headsets will be hard to fill with content. So, you decide that “gaming accessories” is a better niche.

Just remember that, whichever niche you choose, you’re going to have to write about it on a regular basis. Don’t pick something that bores you to tears, or something that requires expert knowledge that you don’t have.

Finding a good, profitable niche is an art that could fill an entire guide by itself. Therefore, I’ll go into that in more depth in a separate article.

How do I know if an affiliate product is any good?

There are two reasons why you only want to promote good affiliate products:

Firstly, you want to promote decent products that people will actually want to buy.

Secondly, your reputation, and the reputation of your website is on the line. If you promote trash, people won’t want to buy it. Those who do buy it will be disappointed, and will probably never listen to your advice again.

If you refer people to quality products, they’re more likely to bookmark your site and come back to it next time they want a similar product.

How do you know if an affiliate product is any good though?

If you’re promoting products from a big store such as Amazon, you can look at the product ratings and reviews to get an idea of what previous customers thought of it. You can also look at the current sales ranking (if shown), to see how well it’s been selling.

If you’re looking for products on ClickBank, there’s a rating called “Gravity” that gives you an indication of how many other affiliates have been making sales with that product. It doesn’t necessarily tell you if the product is actually any good, but since lots of refunds would lower the Gravity rating, you can assume it’s pretty good.

Clickbank Dating Guide Gravity Rating
An example of a product Gravity rating on Clickbank

Of course, the only sure way to know if a product is any good is to buy it for yourself and try it out. You can then write about the product from your own experience. This takes money though, so it’s probably not a viable option at the start, unless you choose to promote something that you already buy lots of (clothes, make-up, video games, for example).

Where should I post my affiliate links?

The quickest and easiest place to post your affiliate links is on your social media accounts. However, there are several reasons why this may not be the best idea.

  1. You’ll eventually annoy your friends, fans, or followers.
  2. Facebook will generally suppress “promotional” posts, so practically nobody will see them anyway.
  3. Shortly after you make that post, it’s as good as gone forever, meaning that you’ll have to keep posting your affiliate link regularly, with dire consequences (see 1)

There is a time and a place for social media in affiliate marketing, but that comes a bit later on.

The best place to actually post your affiliate links is on a website dedicated to that type of product. Or, on a website that appeals to people who might be interested in that type of product.

Within that website, the best place to put your affiliate link is in an article that specifically addresses that product. It could be a review, or an article that addresses the problem that the affiliate product will solve for readers.

Amazon Affiliate Link on Website
An Amazon Affiliate Link on a Website

If you wanted to promote a guide to dating, you could either write a straight review about it, or you could write an article about the difficulties of dating in today’s busy world. You could then link to the guide at the end, as a proposed solution.

Once you have the article written, and your affiliate link in place, that’s when social media comes in. By linking to the article, you’re actually giving your followers some useful information that’s more likely to make them happy, and is more likely to make them want to share it.

How do I get people to click on my affiliate links?

By placing an affiliate link to a well-chosen, desirable product in a well-written article, people should be desperate to click on it to check it out.

Unfortunately, in order to get clicks on your affiliate links, you need visitors to your page. These visitors are commonly known as “traffic”.

Getting traffic to a website is a huge topic, and one that has had much written about it. It’s also one of the most tricky topics to master. However, if you get into the habit of writing good quality content about things that people care about, you’ll be off to a good start.

In a future article, I’ll delve into the subject of traffic in more detail.

How do I get people to buy the affiliate product?

Your article is the only chance you get to sell the product to visitors. Once they click on that link, the selling process is out of your hands, and in the hands of the vendor.

Therefore, getting people to actually buy the product comes down to 2 things:

  1. Turning them into eager buyers before they even click on your affiliate link.
  2. Checking out the vendor’s sales page as part of your product selection process, to check that it does a good job of selling.

You don’t want to create eager sellers with your article, only to have them put off by a poor sales page. However, if the sales rank on Amazon is good, or the Gravity on ClickBank is good, that’s a sign that the vendor’s sales page must be working well.

How do I put it all together?

As I said at the start, I’ve been affiliate marketing for over 20 years. For most of those years, I was building all my websites by hand, directly typing the HTML code line by line. It was a very long process. Nowadays, things are much easier, with website creation and management systems.

The most popular website creation and management system is WordPress, which can be used to create blogs and traditional websites. It even allows you to choose from hundreds of custom themes that allow you to get your site looking just how you want it.

Even with systems like WordPress though, getting everything organised can still take time. There is also some technical knowledge required to get WordPress set up properly.

Website creation platforms such as Weebly can make life easier for you with easy drag-and-drop design. Many of them also include search engine optimisation tools to help get more traffic to your site.

Useful Links

Now that you know all about affiliate marketing for beginners, check out these useful links:

Weebly – Create a Website Today

ShareASale – Find affiliate products to sell

Affiliate Marketing for Beginners – Further Reading

Are you ready to take your affiliate marketing to a more advanced level?

If you are then check out these great articles for more tips:

How to Make Money with an Affiliate Marketing Strategy

How Buying Intent Keywords can Increase Conversion Rate